Burnt Sugar Syrup adds a dark, moody and complex flavor to your cocktails. Made from real burnt sugar, this syrup is easy to make.
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Burnt Sugar Syrup recipe
Happy accidents are something I believe in. But usually happy accidents don’t start with something burning, do they?
I’d say no. But I was trying for what seemed like the billionth time to develop my recipe for caramel simple syrup and I kept burning the sugar.
I’d tried burnt sugar syrup in cocktails before, and wondered, “What would happen if I made this burnt sugar into a simple syrup?”
The result is what you see before you — a dark simple syrup with layers of flavor. It has an intense burnt sugar taste and a bittersweet complexity. And I did, in fact, perfect the caramel syrup!
But it’s good to know that if you mess up, you can still wind up with a lovely, dark, flavorful syrup that’s still usable. Definitely a happy accident in my book!
Why you’ll love this recipe
Burnt sugar syrup adds so much flavor to cocktails — you are going to love it!
- It’s incredibly easy to make! And since we’re intentionally burning the sugar? You can’t really mess it up! Win win.
- Burnt sugar adds a bitter, toasty, molasses-like flavor to cocktails and desserts. If you like your toast a little burnt, then you will probably love this syrup!
- It’s much cheaper to make your own simple syrups than to buy them. Plus, you can control exactly what goes into them.
Did you know? Burnt sugar is common in Caribbean recipes such as stews and desserts. It is usually called browning.
What is simple syrup?
Simple syrup is the perfect liquid sweetener for cocktails, drinks and desserts. Made with real sugar and water, it’s super simple to make and it mixes in to drinks so easily. Hence the name “simple” syrup!
You might have seen it at coffee shops for sweetening iced coffee. It works just as well in iced tea, too.
Also known as sugar syrup, it can also be drizzled over French toast, pancakes and waffles. Bakers sometimes use it to add moisture to cake layers before icing them.
Simple syrup can be flavored with all kinds of things:
- Spices like cinnamon or vanilla
- Herbs such as basil or mint
- Fruits like blackberries, prickly pear or cherries
- Vegetables like jalapeño peppers
- Sugars such as brown sugar, sugar-free substitutes or even soda.
This burnt sugar simple syrup recipe is made just like regular simple syrup, with regular sugar and water. The difference is… we’re going to intentionally burn the sugar first, then turn it into a syrup.
Brown sugar will have more of a butterscotch undertone and white sugar will have more caramel and molasses notes.
Demerara sugar can also be used, which is best for making Caribbean browning.
Since we will be caramelizing and burning the sugar, it will turn a deep, dark brown color and it doesn’t really matter which type you use.
However, if it’s your first time making caramelized sugar syrup, I recommend using white sugar because it’s easier to tell when the color has changed (meaning the sugar has reached the caramelization stage) and is burning.
While burnt sugar is the star of this recipe, the type of water you use will make a 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.
How to make Burnt Sugar Syrup
While you can purchase burnt sugar syrup at the store, it’s actually so easy to make.
And really, since we’re intentionally burning the syrup, it’s going to be really hard to mess up!
However, I do want to warn you that burning the sugar happens very quickly, so don’t be distracted and make sure all your attention is on this syrup while you cook it. Make sure to keep an oven mitt nearby.
Here’s how to burn sugar and make the syrup:
- Combine ¼ cup water and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved, about 5 minutes or so.
- Cover and boil, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir consistently until the melted sugar becomes a light amber color.
- Keep stirring and watching the color as it turns a darker, reddish brown color. Remove from heat immediately, then stir in ¼ cup warm water. (Don’t use cold water.)
- Let cool completely to room temperature before using. If desired, add a pinch of salt or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Store in an airtight container, such as a mason jar of glass bottle, in the fridge for up to 1 month.
If your burnt sugar hardens and crystallizes like candy, it is not lost. You can still stir hot water into it to dissolve it back into a syrup.
Variations and substitutions
Use burnt sugar syrup as a base for other syrup infusions (see list below).
Vanilla burnt sugar syrup: Stir in a little bit of vanilla extract to sweeten up this syrup but keep that burnt flavor strong.
Sugar-free burnt sugar syrup: Coconut sugar bakes similarly to regular sugar, so you can try using that for a refined sugar-free option. I have not tested this, but let me know how it goes if you try it!
Uses for burnt sugar syrup
This syrup goes especially with dark, aged spirits like whiskey and rum, but you can use it in just about anything. Here are a few cocktails to try:
- Burnt Sugar Old Fashioned: Use it in the classic old-fashioned recipe for a dark flavor profile.
- Black, Maybe: The good folks at one of my favorite local restaurants, Leah & Louise, had this recipe published in Imbibe magazine.
- Burnt Sugar Whiskey Smash: Try it in a classic whiskey smash with lemon and your favorite bourbon.
- Toasted Marshmallow White Russian: Add ½ teaspoon to add some burnt flavor to this S’mores White Russian recipe made with homemade marshmallow vodka.
- Burnt Whiskey Sour: Try it in a whiskey sour for some more layers of flavor.
Feel free to stir it into an iced coffee or tea for a little bit of smoky flavor.
You can also bake with this syrup. My friend Tanya has an amazing recipe for Jamaican Black Cake that calls for burnt sugar syrup. It also works as a molasses substitution.
Of course, you can always pour it over ice cream or over your morning pancakes!
More simple syrup recipes
- ¼ cup cold water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup hot water
- Combine ¼ cup water and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until dissolved, about 5 minutes or so.
- Cover and boil, about 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir consistently until the mixture is a light amber color.
- Keep stirring and watching the color as it turns a darker, reddish brown color. Remove from heat immediately, then stir in ¼ cup hot water. (Don’t use cold water.)
- Let cool completely before using. If desired, add a pinch of salt or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Store in an airtight, food-safe container such as a mason jar in the fridge for up to 1 month.
If your burnt sugar hardens and crystallizes like candy, it is not lost. You can still stir hot water into it to dissolve it back int a syrup.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 ounce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 65Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 0gSugar: 17gProtein: 0g