What is simple syrup? As the name states, simple syrup is pretty simple. However, it is a crucial part of cocktails and without a standard syrup, many cocktails can become cloyingly sweet or unbalanced. In the Mixologist: The Journal of the American Cocktail, I wrote an in-depth article on how to make a simple syrup and some background information on the types of sugar you can use to make it. In this post, I’m going to provide you with a couple of recipes to get you started, but if you would like more information, please feel free to pick up a copy of Mixologist.
The basics formulas for simple syrup are ratios of 1:1 and 2:1 sugar to water. The most common syrup is the 2:1 formula, which is pretty much standard for most cocktails. At soda fountains in the 1800s a 3:2 simple syrup ratio was standard. To make 2:1, just add 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup water to a pot and gently heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. There is no need to boil the mixture, it will readily dissolve when slightly hot to the touch. If you boil your syrup with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice it will convert to become a solution of glucose and fructose and will not crystallize as readily but will have a slightly different flavour than sucrose, though hard to detect in a cocktail. Pour the syrup into a clean bottle and it’s ready to use.
A couple of suggestions that will make your simple syrup better include adding ¼ cup of corn syrup to the mixture. This will help prevent crystallization of the sugar since it is a supersaturated solution.The other suggestion is to add one or two ounces of vodka or neutral grain spirit to the simple syrup after it has been bottled. This will help prevent mould or bacteria from growing in the neck of the bottle during storage.
If you want to try something different, you can try adding a portion of fructose (available at your local health food store) to your simple syrup recipe. Fructose is a fruit sugar and is the most common sugar found in fruits like peaches, pears, berries, etc. Or you can make straight fructose syrup for a different flavour profile.
My personal favourite simple syrup is one that makes 1 teaspoon of simple syrup equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. That way I know how much sugar is going into each drink, and if a recipe calls for sugar, I can pour the exact amount. The rough ratio for this solution is four parts sugar to three parts water (4:3).
- 3½ cups Sugar
- 2 cups (plus) Water
- ½ cup Corn Syrup
- 1 Tbsp Gum Arabic (optional)
- In a pot add two cups of water and heat to approximately 60°C (140°F)
- Add the corn syrup to the water and stir until dissolved
- Mix the dry sugar and gum Arabic until uniformly combined
- Add the sugar and gum mixture to the pot
- Stir until dissolved. There is no need to heat or process the syrup beyond the point where the sugar is completely dissolved
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Pour syrup into a 1 L (quart) bottle and add water until the bottle is full.
Combining the dry sugar with the gum arabic and mixing is the easiest way to dissolve the gum. At first, you may find the solution cloudy but it will clear in a few hours.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 16 Total Fat: 0g Carbohydrates: 4g Sugar: 4g
5 Comments on Simple Syrup for Cocktails
Nice site. Just found it.
One thing you might want to check out is Sonoma Syrup from California. They bottle the simple syrup and flavored syrups. I use the simple type in my Margaritas.
Adding fructose or corn syrup is a bit pointless IF you add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the mixture and boil it longer. That little bit of acidity breaks the molecular bond in sucrose, and you get glucose and fructose as products. The resulting syrup keeps much longer even without refrigeration, won’t crystallize, and is about 20% sweeter.
I just made some simple syrup with turbinado (raw) sugar, using the 4:3 ratio and the cream of tartar trick, just bringing it to a boil. It came out a pale golden color, like weak maple syrup. Raw sugar has a little of molasses left in it, so it has a slightly rich taste. Not sure of the effect in drinks yet. I’ll try it in a Cosmo this evening…
Thanks for the extra information on the simple syrup. I’ve been using your recipe from Mixologist to make a simple syrup and also as a base for some flavored syrups. Just read the subsequent article on the sour mix which got me thinking…How about putting some maltodextrin into the simple syrup mix to enhance the mouthfeel? I have some Arabic gum I’m going to play with, but the maltodextrin sounds easier to work with.
Have just found this website and am experimenting with some ideas for a frozen cocktail machine for home but don’t want the commercially bought mixes and would like to do some of my own does anyone know the correct sugar and water ratio for frozen cocktails.
Writer, author of Fix the Pumps, chemist, beekeper and general do-er-of-things, Darcy can generally be found looking for new and interesting things to do, usually over a cocktail. Currently working on more soda fountain history.
Last modified: November 15, 2018