One of my current bartending obsessions is Simple Syrup. Simple Syrup is made from dissolving sugar into water, typically by heating the two together. Simple Syrups are usually made with a ratio of equal parts, or 1:1, sugar and water though I do use a 2:1 for certain things.
The method I use at home, regardless of ratio, in a saucepan I add the two together on medium heat and whisk occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Simmering is safe, do not boil – the water will begin to evaporate and change your ratio.
Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and let cool. I base whether its dissolved or not purely on site, once you can’t see it in there anymore, its gone. Then store in a sterilized glass vessel for up to two weeks.
Why not just add sugar? Because sugar doesn’t dissolve into water very well, let alone cold water, and it doesn’t dissolve into alcohol at all. Simple syrup is a way to add a sweetening agent that doesn’t conflict texturally with your beverage’s mouthfeel experience.
Now, where my actual obsession enters in: Compound Syrups. Compound Syrups are Simple Syrup with an added level of flavor by way of additional ingredients, such as fruits, spices or herbs.
These last few months at the brewery I’ve had a bigger hand in on the Cocktail of the Month program, and it has inspired to play around with some ideas I’ve had on the backburner for some time now. I’ve always enjoyed making different syrups for my home bartending – Ginger Syrup and Peach Syrup are two of my favorites – but it’s been some time since I’ve tinkered professionally.
For the January Cocktail, I wanted to create something warming and somewhat festive, so I chose a Spiced Simple Syrup. It’s made with Cinnamon, Cardamom, Nutmeg, and Whole Cloves and I used the product in an Old Fashioned.
Many sources will encourage you to use fresh herbs and spices where you can, but with this particular combination of ingredients I learned that the dried and powdered versions produced a similar result. If you are going to use fresh herbs, blanch them first, it stops the browning effect thereby keeping your product looking good.
The Spiced Old Fashioned
- ½ oz. Spiced Simple Syrup
- 1 ½ oz. Bourbon
- *Stir the two together, add ice
- Splash of Soda
- Lemon Twist
- Spiced Simple Syrup
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
*Occasionally whisk the two on medium heat in a saucepan under sugar dissolves.
- ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Cardamom
- 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon Whole Cloves
*Simmer 5 more minutes
*Remove from heat, cool
I have added herbs and spices at different times of compound syrup creation. Adding everything at the beginning with add color and change the texture slightly versus at the tail end of the simmering time. I prefer the late addition.
Grenadine. Let me guess what you think of – Bright Red “Cherry” Juice used to make Cherry Colas, right? All wrong. It isn’t juice; it’s a Compound Syrup. And it isn’t made with cherries, or fruit at all, but High Fructose Corn Syrup, colored with Pomegranate juice. Can you believe it?! I couldn’t at first, so I decided to make my own and see how it turned out.
Working with pomegranates isn’t easy, they are messy and the nodules that contain the juice are quite small. My first attempt at deseeding one was a nightmare. However, once I got the hang of it that was my preferred method of production. I also used to Pomegranate juice – POM 100% pure – and while it tasted about the same, I didn’t get the more radiant red color I desired.
Below were the two ways I settled on how to make the Grenadine I liked. At the brewery we added it to a whiskey sour that was not only a great way to balance the sour mix, but was also a very pretty pink.
Grenadine Recipe #1:
- Seeds of 1 Pomegranate
- 1 Cup of Sugar
- 1 Cup of Water
Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes or until sugar is dissolved
Grenadine Recipe #2:
- 4 Cups of 100% Pomegranate juice – POM is my preference
- 1/2 Cup of Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
Simmer on medium heat until sugar dissolves
Simmer on medium low heat for 50 minutes or until desired consistency of syrup is achieved
Pineapple Simple Syrup
Recently my Pineapple Simple Syrup has become a source of pride for me. I’ve spent a lot of time reading about how to do this, taken recommendations from so many different sources and bartenders, and finally come down to one of the best things I’ve ever made.
At the brewery we add this to Jalapeno infused tequila, shaken and strained over fresh ice with a lime twist. The Radical Matador is a fantastic cocktail to stay warm with in the remaining chills of an ending winter all the while providing zest that greatly pairs with the excitement of a looming spring.
Pineapple Simple Syrup Recipe:
- Peel and cube 1 Pineapple
- Coat with granulated sugar
- Store in refrigerator, covered, for 24 hours
- Blend fruit and liquid
- Make and Blend in a 2:1 simple syrup with 1 Cup of Water, 1/2 C. Sugar
- Strain through cheesecloth (I used hop socks which I recommend, you can get them at the homebrew supply store. Or ask your favorite brewer for one, that’s what I did.)
There are a lot of ways that you can add sweetness and complexity of flavor to your cocktails as well as all beverages. I love adding my Peach Simple Syrup to an iced tea on a hot summer day, enjoyed my Ginger Simple Syrup with hot apple cider over this past winter, and Lemonade with Thai Basil Simple Syrup adds a kick to your BBQ you didn’t know you were missing. It is fun and festive.
While this is a fairly long post already, keep checking back if your curiosity is peaked…I’m going to keep adding on to this one, because my syrup days are just beginning. Please send me your favorite compound syrup recipes or hit me up with any questions you may have.