Simple syrup is a staple when it comes to making cocktails. Essentially sugar water, the syrup is used to sweeten drinks and can even do double duty as an easy way to sweeten your morning coffee.
While you can certainly purchase a bottle of the stuff, it’s actually super easy to make at home. Making it at home also has an added bonus: you can get adventurous with it and create your own unique spins on classic cocktails.
One of my favorite drinks to make at home is a jalapeño margarita—something I always make with a special homemade jalapeno-infused simple syrup. It gives my cocktail an extra kick, and I can make a whole bottle of the stuff for less than a buck.
Never made simple syrup? It’s simple (ha, ha).
1 part sugar
1 part water
Directions: Heat your water to a boil, then turn it down to a medium heat. Slowly start adding in your sugar, stirring the mixture on the stove so the sugar dissolves. Once the liquid starts to look completely clear, remove it from the heat. You’ve made simple syrup!
You can literally make this in any quantity you want. Two cups of water and two cups of sugar typically yield about the right amount to fill a traditional mason jar. If you’re making syrup you plan to use over time (not just tonight for a party), then I’d recommend hitting the container store and buying a more traditional bottle. They sell glass bottles for a few bucks that look more like a traditional simple syrup container, have a smaller opening than a mason jar, and can be resealed as you use the bottle. If you go that route, make sure to grab a funnel as well (they’re less than a buck) to fill your bottle. You’ll definitely want one.
But what if you want to make flavored simple syrup?
Making flavored syrup is SUPER easy. Once you’ve made your syrup, just add in whatever you want to infuse it with while the mixture is still hot. The heat will extract flavors from whatever you’ve added, and by the time it cools you’ll have infused syrup.
For my jalapeno syrup, I add the peppers during the last few minutes the syrup is on the stove. For things like basil and rosemary you’ll be fine adding it once you’ve taken it off the stove and the mixture is cooling. For fruit, you’ll want to use the rind. So peel that orange/lemon/grapefruit and throw that in.
Once the mixture is cool, go ahead and pull whatever you’ve infused it with out. Sure, it may look cool to have that basil leaf in the bottle, but a basil leaf in water will in fact go bad, as will your syrup with the leaf inside. Save that basil garnish for when you’ve completed your cocktail later.
What can you try?
Anything. The cool thing about simple syrup is it’s super cheap and easy to make. That means if you make something and it’s a dud, it isn’t a huge loss if you opt to dump it and try again.
My personal staples are jalapeno, cinnamon, and ginger. You can also try out things like rose pedals, vanilla beans, lavender, strawberry, pomegranate, or mint.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, spice things up by combining together a few different flavors. Orange ring with chili peppers is pretty fantastic. Peppers also pair well with ginger.
Here are a few awesome (and unique) recipies that are out there:
Jalapeno Brown Sugar Syrup
Black Peppercorn Simple Syrup
Sencha Green Tea Simple Syrup