Every cocktail maker needs to know how to make simple syrup. It’s always a good idea to have a jar on hand to mix into cocktails, to sweeten iced tea or coffee, and to bake into desserts. You can flavor sugar syrup with herbs and spices, try out different sugars or just keep it plain. Store it in a jar until you need it!
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Learning how to make simple syrup is incredibly easy! Every coffee drinker, cocktail (and mocktail) maker and baker needs to memorize this almost effortless recipe, then try its many variations. It’s an excellent way to improve all your drinks, from cocktails to coffee.
Homemade simple syrup recipe
Also known as sugar syrup, simple syrup is a key ingredient in many favorite cocktails. Depending on the recipe, it’s as essential as booze and bitters!
It’s fantastic for beverages because the sugar is already dissolved, so the sweetener just mixes right in.
And it’s called “simple” for a reason. Anyone could make it. Seriously — it is one of the easiest recipes ever.
Even though you can buy it pre-made at the store, it is most certainly not worth the $14+ to buy it!
If you own a measuring cup, a spoon, a pot and sugar and have running water, you can easily learn how to make simple syrup.
Why you’ll love this recipe
Making your own simple syrup is totally game-changing. Once you know how, your whole world opens up. It is one of the easiest things you can learn when it comes to making cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks at home.
- Simple syrup is easy to make with just two ingredients.
- It can be easily customized with herbs, fruits, spices and other types of sweeteners.
- Not only is it cheap to make, but you can control the ingredients. No corn syrup or preservatives here!
However, if you need a bunch of syrup (say, for a party), store-bought simple syrup can be super helpful.
What is simple syrup?
Simple syrup is a liquid sugar mixture that is most often used to sweeten tea, coffee, cocktails, mocktails and other types of drinks.
The basic recipe consists of sugar and water, but it can be flavored with different types of sugar, fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices.
It can be used in place of other liquid sweeteners, such as pure maple syrup on pancakes or agave nectar in cocktails.
Beyond drinks, it even has a place in the baking world. It’s not uncommon for bakers to use it to keep cakes moist.
Simple syrup comes together with just two simple ingredients you probably already have at home. No need to buy it ever again!
Sugar is the most essential ingredient for homemade syrups. You can use any type of sugar for simple syrup: white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar — even honey will work!
The sugar you use makes a difference in the final color. For a clear version, stick to granulated sugar or cane sugar.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but any kind of sugar with some color to it (such as brown sugar) will have a darker color.
Water is the second ingredient. Just as with sugar, the water you use can make a big difference.
If your tap water is safe to drink, tap water will work fine. However, filtered or distilled water will yield even better, purer results.
If you are adding any kind of infusion, such as fresh fruit or spices, both distilled and filtered water will help your syrup last longer in the fridge.
Methods for making sugar syrup
There are a few ways to make this easy cocktail sweetener. It can be made on the stove, in the blender or by shaking it.
1. On the stove
Making this easy sweetener on the stove is an excellent choice, especially for infusing other flavors.
Throw the sugar and water into a pot, dissolve the sugar and bring to a low boil, then remove from the heat. It really is that easy. (You also do not have to let it boil at all, if you prefer. Simply dissolve the sugar and you’re done.)
Once cooled, transfer the mixture to a mason jar. You can keep it in the fridge for up to one month in a sealed container.
2. In the blender
If you don’t want to wait for a hot mixture to cool down, you can use a blender to agitate the sugar and water, which forces the sugar crystals to dissolve faster.
- Place water and sugar into a blender.
- With the lid on tightly, blend well.
- Store in a covered jar or dish.
3. By shaking
Similar to the blender method, you can agitate the sugar and water mixture by hand, by shaking it in a jar.
- Place water and sugar into a jar.
- Put the lid on tightly.
- Shake hard until the sugar has dissolved. Voila!
- Store in an airtight container.
How to use it
This liquid sweetener can be used in a number of ways. It works really well in cold drinks, so you don’t have to stir sugar around until it dissolves.
- Use it to sweeten coffee, especially iced coffee.
- Mix it into iced tea to make sweet tea.
- Stir it into cocktails (and mocktails) like the classic old-fashioned cocktail.
You can even use it in baked goods. In fact, bakers often use it to moisten cake layers before decorating it.
Simple syrup, especially flavored ones like strawberry syrup, can also be drizzled over pancakes, waffles, French toast, ice cream and desserts.
The ideal ratio
When it comes to simple syrup, you can have a lot of fun with ratios, which affects the consistency and therefore the sweetness.
I usually make a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. It’s a similar consistency to water, so a little bit goes a long way in sweetening your drink without diluting it.
Also, if you boil a 1:1 ratio, some of the water will evaporate, resulting in a thicker consistency. But you technically don’t have to boil water.
Rich simple syrup
You can make a thicker, sweeter consistency of this recipe called, “rich syrup.”
The benefits are that it won’t cause as much dilution. In other words, when mixing drinks, you can use a little less because it is so much sweeter.
Either a 1.5:1 ratio or a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water will make a more viscous mixture.
The thicker consistency helps it to keep longer than a month because the sugar acts as a preservative.
Flavored simple syrup
This basic simple syrup recipe is very customizable and works well as a blank canvas for hundreds, if not thousands, of flavor combinations. For example, grenadine is a common variation that shows up in lots of cocktail recipes.
Experimenting with infusions is one of my favorite ways to mix different flavors into my drinks. You can use most fruits, herbs and spices as infusions.
Here are a few quick ideas:
- Cinnamon syrup uses cinnamon sticks. You can also use other whole spices like star anise, nutmeg or peppercorns.
- Pumpkin syrup brings in pumpkin puree and spices. You can also use this recipe to make similar mixtures with other fruit purees.
- Mint syrup gets infused with fresh mint leaves and is perfect for mint juleps. You can also make it with other fresh herbs like basil, rosemary or thyme.
- Cherry syrup is made with fresh cherries, but you can also try it with other fresh berries, peppers or any type of fruit.
- Vanilla syrup uses vanilla bean or vanilla extract to make this recipe sweet and spiced.
- Sour mix is essentially a concentrated lemon-lime simple syrup that can be used in cocktails like margaritas, whiskey sours and more.
- Chocolate syrup is also made with a simple syrup base, then mixed with cocoa powder and vanilla. It’s so good on ice cream or mixed into coffee!
Simple syrups with other types of sugar
Another way to change up your syrup is to try different kinds of sugar. I typically go for white sugar or brown sugar, but you can also try turbinado, muscovado or demerara for a richer taste.
Honey syrup is made with honey instead of sugar. It’s a delicious switch-up for regular sugar.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even use a soda to make a cocktail sweetener. This Cheerwine version is delicious in cocktails.
You can even make sugar-free simple syrup if you need an option with less sugar. This recipe uses stevia.
Once you learn how to make this cocktail syrup, you’ll be on your way to making amazing cocktails at home! Life will definitely be sweeter.
How to make simple syrup
Here are the step-by-step instructions for making this essential cocktail ingredient:
Place a pot over medium heat.
Add 1 cup water.
Add 1 cup sugar.
Stir together sugar and water.
After a couple minutes of stirring, the sugar will dissolve.
For a slightly thicker consistency, bring the mixture to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
If you’re adding an infusion, like cinnamon sticks or fresh herbs, add them while the mixture cools down so the heat can release the oils. If you add them while it is on the heat, the raw ingredients may cook too much.
Once cooled, pour into a mason jar. Seal the jar and refrigerate up to one month.
Simple syrup will keep the longest in an airtight, food-safe container, such as a jar or bottle.
A mason jar is perfect for this because you can easily dip in a spoon to measure or pour it out into a jigger. I love using these pour-spout lids for mason jars when I plan to make a lot of cocktails.
Store it, sealed, in the fridge for up to one month.
Simple syrup substitutes
You can use a number of pantry staples as a substitute. Honey, maple and agave nectar are all liquid sweeteners you can use instead.
Maple syrup brings in the pure, sweet flavor that we love on our pancakes. Try it in a maple old-fashioned cocktail.
Agave nectar is also an easy liquid sweetener. It pairs well with tequila, which also comes from the agave plant. Use it in a classic margarita.
Frequently asked questions
What is simple syrup made of?
Typically it is made with equal parts sugar and water. The sugar is dissolved in the water to make a liquid sweetener.
Does simple syrup need to boil?
No, it doesn’t. You simply need to dissolve the sugar in water, which can be done with or without heat.
If you’re making it on the stove, boiling will evaporate some of the liquid, making it thicker.
How long does simple syrup last?
You can keep it in the fridge for up to one month in a sealed container. If it’s an infusion with fresh fruit or herbs, it will keep for about two weeks.
Once it begins to look cloudy, then it is time to toss it.
Does simple syrup go bad?
Unfortunately, yes, because it is made with water, which naturally has impurities. Sugar acts a preservative, but even still, it shouldn’t be kept longer than a month.
Infusions can get moldy if left too long, and will likely only last about two weeks. If you see any settling or cloudiness, toss it and make a new batch. Thankfully it’s easy to make again!
Simple syrup recipes
The best part about simple syrup is that you can flavor it in so many ways. Here are a few of the simple syrup recipes you can find on my website.
Herb simple syrups
Spiced simple syrups
- Cinnamon syrup
- Pumpkin spice syrup
- Vanilla syrup
- Ginger syrup
- Chocolate syrup
- Jalapeño syrup
- Irish cream syrup
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together sugar and water until dissolved.
- Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Let cool completely.
- Transfer to a glass jar and seal tightly with a lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
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Video by Chris Henry Co.