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Liquor reviews, cocktail recipes, mixology trends, and seasonal ingredients. Includes cocktail tips and info on local whiskey, gin, vodka, beer, and liqueur.

Filtering by Tag: simple syrup recipe

The Encyclopedia of Cocktail Syrup Recipes

Devin Kidner

Syrups are easy to make and an indispensable part of cocktail-making. Nearly every recipe calls for sugar of some kind, and with the science of temperature, it’s no wonder:

The perception of sweetness decreases as product temperatures lower. The short and long of it: If a cocktail tastes juuuust sweet enough at room temperature, it will not taste sweet enough once you’ve shaken it with ice.


I always tell class-goers of mine to taste their cocktail BEFORE adding ice, and then tweaking the sugar as they see fit. It’s not about if I like the amount of sweetness, but do they? 9 times out of 10 in class, when someone asks me to see if there’s something missing, I can “diagnose” it as a lack of sugar.

sugar

Since so many recipes call for sugar in one form or another, I decided to compile a comprehensive list of sugar syrup recipes. They aren’t hard (some are fine to add as-is), but this is a handy list to refer to if you’re scratching your head as to how to make a certain syrup!

I’ve also included some science or notes along with the recipe, and I also indicate if I wouldn’t particularly mix with a certain syrup (and why!).

Simple Syrup

The easiest and blandest of syrups, this is just white sugar and water, making a clear syrup. NOTE FOR VEGANS: Not all sugar is vegan! Look for options labelled organic, as some non-organic brands use bone char (commonly used to refine cane sugar).

You can either use the volume method (cups, Tbsp, etc.), or if you want to be as precise as possible, use the weight method (use a scale)!

Recipe: One part sugar to one part water (ex. if you’re adding one cup sugar, you need one cup water). Add into a small pot and slowly heat the water (stir every now and again) until the sugar dissolves, and the liquid looks clear. Let cool. Can be stored in a container (like a Ball Jar) for about a month in the fridge.

Modified Simple Syrup

Oftentimes, a recipe might call for something to be infused into your simple syrup, like fresh herbs. This will make your syrup have a lovely aromatic note and flavour.

Recipe: The above recipe but also add… 1/4 - 1 cup of fresh herbs or spices (think black peppercorns); 2 Tbs. dry herbs/spices; OR 1/4 - 1/2 cup of fresh fruits/roots (think ginger). Once cool, strain (regular strainer or for smaller particles, cheesecloth) into a Ball Jar. Will keep for a month in the fridge. These recipes are a range of measurements so you can really make your syrups lighter in flavour to more intense.

NOTE: Spices DO NOT dissolve in the syrup, so if you’re lazy and want to use spices, use whole (not powdered).

herbed simple syrup

Rich Simple Syrup

More common in the UK, this is a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. Richer in flavour and more viscous (read: thicker) and can keep longer in the fridge (about 6 months). I normally would use this in an Old Fashioned, or in any cocktail that feels a little thin (like a mojito).

Recipe: Two (2) parts sugar to one (1) part water. Directions for cooking/cooling/storing are the same as simple syrup above.

Agave Syrup

Often called agave nectar. The DARKER the colour, the less refined. Fine as-is from the bottle. If I use agave, I use in small amounts, and I don’t use often.

NOTE: There was a lot of buzz back in the early 2000s about agave being a relatively “healthy” sweetener, esp. for diabetics, since it ranks pretty low on the glycemic index. Instead, agave can be high in fructose. Now, science has shown that the high amount of fructose in agave actually can promote obesity and harm liver function - oops.

That being said, certain agave syrups have less fructose than others. Avoid blue agave nectars, as they have more inulin, which contains fructose.

Maple Syrup

Fine right out of the bottle, maple syrup is made from boiling the sap of the sugar maple tree. It’s brown colour is actually a product of the Maillard reaction - or the browning effect that occurs when the sap is being boiled with high heat.

I love maple in cocktails and think it’s a perfect substitute in autumn/winter cocktails!

maple

Honey Syrup

I love bees and I love honey. It is much more aromatic and has a distinctive flavour in cocktails. There are so many different kinds of honey with slightly different flavours, so you can really play with this one. Go grab local honey from the farmers market!

Recipe: One (1) part honey to one (1) part water. Directions for cooking/cooling/storing are the same as simple syrup above.

NOTE: I only use weight measurement for this, as honey is denser than granulated sugar. I place my small pot directly on my scale, tare it, and then add the honey and water in equal measures.

Light Brown/Dark Brown Syrup

Whether you’re using light brown, dark brown, or even granulated sugars like Demerara, Muscovado, Turbinado, these sugars can add depth and flavour to your drink, thanks to the varied molasses content.

NOTE: Light Brown and Dark Brown sugars have nearly the same amount of molasses content (~10%), and many times the only reason Dark Brown sugar is darker, is because they add colour to it!

ALWAYS use the weight method (use a scale) for this syrup.

Recipe: One (1) part sugar to one (1) part water. Directions for cooking/cooling/storing are the same as simple syrup above.

Sorghum Syrup

Sorghum is a plant from the grass family, and it has a really lovely depth as well as a brightness to its sweetness. I adore it in cocktails, and think it’s exceptionally good in those that use rye whiskeys.

ALWAYS use the weight method (use a scale) for this syrup.

Recipe: One (1) part sorghum to one (1) part water. Directions for cooking/cooling/storing are the same as simple syrup above.

Lyle’s Golden Syrup

I’m a citizen of the UK, and as an Englishwoman, Lyle’s Golden Syrup is in my pantry at all times. Used in baking, it can also be used in cocktails to give them a unique taste (and a quintessentially British one).

This is an inverted sugar, meaning that it is made by adding acid to to sugar syrup, however it is not highly refined. It has a light caramelised flavour that is hard to describe…but soooo good!

Fine right out of the bottle, but make sure you do a DRY shake (a shake of your wet ingredients BEFORE you add ice), to make sure it is dissolved into your other ingredients.

lyle's

Treacle or Molasses Syrup

Treacle is a dark cane syrup that is also popular in the UK. It’s a lot like molasses but I think it tastes just a bit different. I like to use Black Treacle in cocktails. GREAT for holiday cocktails and when you’re using intense spices (like clove, cinnamon, star anise, and black pepper) in your concoctions.

Molasses is concentrated sugarcane juice, and out of all the sugars, contains the most essential minerals and B vitamins. It can come in many “grades,” but I’ve found that lower grade is more robust and can really make your cocktails pop. That being said, look for unsulfured brands!

Fine right out of the bottle, but make sure you do a DRY shake (a shake of your wet ingredients BEFORE you add ice), to make sure it is dissolved into your other ingredients.

Corn Syrup

Normally used in baking, and derived from corn starch, I wouldn’t recommend using corn syrup in your cocktails. There are several liqueurs that have corn syrup (homemade Kahlua for one). Just use simple syrup.

Have a great corn syrup cocktail recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Liqueurs

Liqueurs are awesome! Flavoured, low in alcoholic volume, and sugars added, they can be added instead of, or in addition to, the syrups above. Really, it’s all to taste.

Some common liqueurs are Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, St-Germain, and Cointreau, but the world of liqueurs is changing. Check out Apologue for a fresh take on liqueurs!

It will add a trigeminal sting of alcohol into your drink, but can be used right out of the bottle!

apologue.jpeg

Rice Syrup

Made from rice starch, rice syrup has a lovely lightness to it (kind of like sticky rice). Brown rice syrup is less refined and can usually be found in health stores.

Fine right out of the bottle, but make sure you do a DRY shake (a shake of your wet ingredients BEFORE you add ice), to make sure it is dissolved into your other ingredients.

Malt Syrup

Normally used in baking, like in breads and crackers, malt syrups are made from sprouting grain, then concentrating a water-malt mixture with water, making a syrup. It can have a flavour similar to molasses, but I think it has a yeastier aroma and a more distinctive flavour.

Fine right out of the bottle, but make sure you do a DRY shake (a shake of your wet ingredients BEFORE you add ice), to make sure it is dissolved into your other ingredients. You might find this syrup very heavy in flavour and possibly want to mix it with a simple syrup to start, or add small amounts to taste!

Have another sugar you like to use in cocktails? Let me know!

5 Easy Cocktail Gifts that Impress

Devin Kidner

Tis the season to be busy, and we're in holiday crunch time! So when it comes time to gift-giving, take it easy on yourself and give a simple gift that will delight any cocktail lover (or anyone, really!).

The following gifts are easy to create and customise:

1. Rosemary-Honey Simple Syrup. A staple in cocktails, but also great in tea, drizzled over ice cream, or added into club soda for a naturally sweet and herbal taste, this syrup is luxe without putting a dent in your wallet.

What you'll need: 

  • 8 oz. Ball Jar
  • 1/2 cup raw honey (raw and local are ideal - check out Chicago Honey Co-Op)
  • just over 1/2 cup water
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary (dried or fresh)
honeyrosemaryingredients

How to make it: Combine the raw honey and water into a pan. Heat slowly, allowing honey and water to combine, and then increase to a boil.

Once boiling add rosemary and reduce to a low simmer for 10 minutes.

At boil: Notice the foam!

At boil: Notice the foam!

At simmer.

At simmer.

Remove from heat and let cool for 2-3 minutes, transfer into Ball Jar.

Make it pretty: Suspend a sprig of rosemary inside the Ball Jar (just be aware that the rosemary will infuse more, intensifying the taste). Use twine to wrap around where the bottom of the metal lid and the top of the glass bottle meet. Tie simple short bows (I tied two on top of each other), and call it a day. 

You can make the top pretty by following the below pics:

After you tie the twine bows around the jar, then work on the top. This will make designing the top easier. Fill in any gaps by wrapping more twine around the jar and knot.

After you tie the twine bows around the jar, then work on the top. This will make designing the top easier. Fill in any gaps by wrapping more twine around the jar and knot.

3. Apply more hot glue to the top of the cap, and proceed to step 4 quickly!

3. Apply more hot glue to the top of the cap, and proceed to step 4 quickly!

1. Spiral the twine.  Leave space in the middle and don't use glue yet. Just spiral and secure with your fingers until you cover the whole lid.

1. Spiral the twine.  Leave space in the middle and don't use glue yet. Just spiral and secure with your fingers until you cover the whole lid.

4. Secure the spiral onto the glue. 

4. Secure the spiral onto the glue. 

2. Use a touch of glue from a hot glue gun to secure the loose end over top of the spiral. Carefully remove spiral off of top and place aside until step 4.

2. Use a touch of glue from a hot glue gun to secure the loose end over top of the spiral. Carefully remove spiral off of top and place aside until step 4.

5. Tie a double knotted bow and secure to the middle with glue. If you'd like to get precise, attach one of the bow tails to the spiral tail and secure with glue. It will look like th 

5. Tie a double knotted bow and secure to the middle with glue. If you'd like to get precise, attach one of the bow tails to the spiral tail and secure with glue. It will look like th 

Final product:

Pretty, rustic, and delicious!

Pretty, rustic, and delicious!

2. Quick Cherry Bitters. It’s no secret that bitters add complexity and flavour that is unrivaled. The biggest problem is that in a time crunch, they’re hard to create. Some bitters take up to three weeks to cure! Since we’re already elbow deep in the holidays, here’s a quick way to get great bitters into the hands of friends and family (and let’s face it: your own).

This is a HOLLOW LEG original quick bitters recipe for ya bad self:

What you'll need: 

  • 1 oz bitter bottle with dropper (can be found at The Container Store or in bulk online)

    For the cherry base:
  • 1/2 cup packed dried cherries - I use Montmorency cherries from Michigan
  • just over 1 cup water

    For the bitters base:
  • 2 oz above 50% ABV liquor (i.e. vodka or Everclear or whiskey that is ABOVE 100 proof!)
  • 2 oz water
  • A combination of bittering agents (see below).
Almost all of the above can be sourced locally. In the bowls, from top, clockwise: black fennel seed, coriander seed, black walnut leaves, and chicory root. On the board, from top, star anise and dehydrated ginger.

Almost all of the above can be sourced locally. In the bowls, from top, clockwise: black fennel seed, coriander seed, black walnut leaves, and chicory root. On the board, from top, star anise and dehydrated ginger.

Now, here's the thing. You can use any of the combination above to create some amazing bitters. For this particular recipe, which strives to be as local as possible, I used a few teaspoons of black fennel, a heaping teaspoon of coriander, a big chunk of ginger, and a teaspoon of chicory root. I like the earthiness/smokiness of the chicory, the pungency of the ginger, the licorice flavour of the fennel, and the bright, floral notes of the coriander.

Montmorency Cherries

Montmorency Cherries

How to make the cherry base: Combine the cherries and water into a pan. Heat slowly, stirring several times, and then increase to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Using a sieve, strain off the cherry juice and let cool while making the bitters.

Bitters in the pot!

Bitters in the pot!

How to make the bitters base: Combine the alcohol, water, and bittering agents into the same pan you cooked the cherries in. Toss in cooked cherries you just separated from the juice. Again, bring the pot to a boil while stirring often.

Cut the heat, place a cover on top and let the spices steep in the liquid. for 20 minutes, or for several hours, just depending on how much time you have.

Strain the liquid into a separate bowl.

How to create the final product: It's simple. How do you like your bitters? I like to add 3/4 oz of cherry juice in with 1/4 oz of bitters, but it's up to you! Play around by doing a 1:1 ratio, then taste a little. Too bitter? Add more cherry juice. Not bitter enough? Add more bittering solution. Once you've got it the way you like it, use a funnel to put it in the amber bottle.

I made it pretty by writing with permanent marker on a mini ornament!

3. Local Booze. It's as simple as simple can be, Local distillers work hard to create craft spirits that are different from the mass-produced stuff on the market.  

Brews from: 5 Rabbit, Pipeworks, Forbidden Root, Upland, and Chicago Distilling Company's Ceres vodka

Brews from: 5 Rabbit, Pipeworks, Forbidden Root, Upland, and Chicago Distilling Company's Ceres vodka

Surprise and delight your alcohol-loving friends and family by presenting them with craft beer and spirits. You can discover all of the local Midwest Micro Breweries here! The two spirits below are new releases from Rhine Hall Distillery and KOVAL Distillery.

Rhine Hall Distillery's Plum Brandy

Rhine Hall Distillery's Plum Brandy

KOVAL Distillery's Dry Gin

KOVAL Distillery's Dry Gin

4. Customised Cocktails. It's not as hard as it sounds. Creating a cocktail that speaks to the unique taste buds of someone on your list is fun and easy. All you need is to know their favourite poison, and then play around with flavour combos.

I suggest that you present this gift in person, and pair it with homemade dinner. It's great to work together to create something delicious, and laugh if you create something horrible. Whether it's a smashing success the very first time or not, you're sure to impress someone with your Julia Child-like conviction!

5. Teach them how to drink for life. Buy your friends a gift that will keep on giving and send them to a cocktail class! Keep checking out HOLLOW LEG's Upcoming Events page for classes, or secure one through KOVAL or Rhine Hall!

See?! Gift giving for the cocktail lovers in your life can be as easy as 1...2...drink! (I had to do it.)

Happy Holidays, y'all!

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