Simple syrup is an important component to many cocktails because it adds sweetness without the grit of sugar. Also great for making homemade sodas.
The basic recipe for simple syrup — also known as “sugar syrup” — is 1 part sugar to 1 part water. You can increase the sugar to 2 parts for a “rich” (sweeter) syrup.
To make simple syrup, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat until sugar dissolves. If using herbs, add them to the boiling syrup.
Then, take it off the heat to steep until cool. Strain.
Store the syrup in the refrigerator; it keeps for about a week. For longer storage, you can add vodka as a preservative — about 1 ounce per quart of syrup.
Use simple syrup in cocktails that call for it, such as Whisky sours and mojitos. If you create flavored syrups, try them in punches and homemade sodas – or make your own version of classic cocktails.
Here’s what’s growing in our cocktail garden:
Golden Jubilee agastache, also called anise hyssop, imparts a licorice flavor to simple syrup and drinks. Using a wooden muddler or a wooden spoon, crush a few leaves in the bottom of a glass before building a drink or, infuse the leaves (1/2 to 1 cup) in simple syrup.
Alpine strawberries make a sweet and dainty garnish for fruity drinks. Drop into the glass or thread a few onto a decorative pick.
French tarragon plays well with gin or vodka and needs little else for flavor. Add tarragon syrup (1 part each sugar and water to a few tablespoons of fresh leaves) and a twist of citrus. Yum!
Rosemary syrup adds a surprising and subtle flavor to ginger ale, fruit punches and cocktails. Boil a tablespoon of rosemary needles in 1 cup each of water and sugar. Strain. Rosemary sprigs and muddled fresh leaves are also dynamite in tomato-based drinks.
Mint is the classic simple syrup ingredient (1/2 to 1 cup leaves); muddles well, too. Lime mint adds a citrus hint to mojitos and juleps, lemonade and iced tea.
Thai basil makes a killer addition to bloody Marys. To make basil-infused vodka, pack a jar with clean, fresh leaves and cover with vodka. Steep for a day or two until it reaches the desired intensity, then strain. Make a basil simple syrup (1 part each water and packed leaves to 2 parts sugar) and add to iced tea and fruit drinks.
Lavender flower buds and blooms will add a lovely color to champagne, vodka, gin or club soda drinks. Add a few tablespoons of the buds and young flowers to 1 cup of water and 2 cups of sugar, boil and steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain.
Pineapple sage syrup combines earthy and fruity flavors, perfect for summer drinks. Use about 1/4 cup leaves in simple syrup.The plant is lovely in the garden, too, and attracts hummingbirds.