One of the most essential bar ingredients a home bar needs—outside of the liquor cabinet—is simple syrup. Many cocktails benefit from a little added sugar to counteract bitterness and acid. Because granulated sugar is tough, if not impossible, to dissolve in cold liquids (especially alcohol), simple syrup becomes the perfect way to add sweetness to a drink.
As the name implies, simple syrup is incredibly easy to make. Combine one part sugar with one part warm or hot water, shake it up to dissolve the sugar, and there you have it! Simple syrup!
Once you’ve mastered this incredibly easy process, try substituting white granulated sugar for another type—like brown sugar or honey (any type of sugar can be used to make simple syrup).
Adding additional flavors will result in a compound syrup. Do you have extra herbs from last night’s dinner recipe? What about a few extra berries that need to be used up before they perish? Utilizing these types of ingredients is the perfect way to stay out ahead of food waste.
Simple syrups can be used for more than cocktails. Add to club soda or iced tea for a refreshing alcohol-free drink. Spoon it over ice cream, yogurt or a fruit bowl for a sweet, flavorful topping. Shake it into a salad dressing, or sweep it between layers of sheet cake to moisten and add additional flavor.
Although the “simple” in simple syrup is due to its easy-to-remember 1:1 volume ratio, using weight measurements for your wet and dry ingredients will yield a more accurate balance of flavor, liquidity and sweetness. If you have yet to invest in a food scale, consider doing so. Aside from its accuracy, it will reduce your dirty dishes at the end of the day!
Secondly, unless the directions tell you to do so, you do not need to bring your water or syrup to a boil in order to infuse flavor or dissolve sugar. On the contrary, boiling your water will throw off your water-to-sugar ratio.
Many sugar syrups—both simple and compound—will keep for 3-4 weeks if stored in sterilized glass jars or bottles in the refrigerator. Just keep your tools and equipment very clean throughout the process. If you don’t think you’ll use up your syrup within a month, add one ounce of vodka to the syrup. This will help extend it's life a bit longer.
Lastly, once you get the hand of making syrups, your fridge may start to acquire several jars of varying flavors. For sanity’s sake, label them! You—and your housemates—will thank you later!