In cocktails, as in life, a little sweetness goes a long way. Yet unlike in life, cocktails require that sweetness to be added in a way that will easily blend, not only with the alcohol, but also any other ingredients used. In other words, sweetness is more often than not, found in the form of a Syrup.
A well made syrup can raise the profile of a cocktail: it can bring out flavours in base spirits, add flavours of its own and generally create a sense of balance.
While we might spend hours debating our choice of Gin, or looking for that certain special liqueur, the workhorse of the cocktail bar, the syrups, can often end up as an after thought. As such, we often feel that it is easier to buy commercial syrups but really, nothing could be easier than making them yourself. Making your own syrups is not only quick and fun but can also spark a little flavour creativity, as there really is no fruit, spice or herb that you can’t infuse.
Before we get ahead of ourselves though and dive down the rabbit hole of flavour possibilities, we believe there are four basic syrups that every home bar should have. None of these recipes will take you more than 15 minutes to prepare and most contain items already in your pantry.
So why not invite some friends over, heat up the stove and make these basic syrups that you can then try them out in some of the cocktails suggested.
Simple Syrup is the mother of all syrups and allows an even distribution of sweetness, without any gritty sugar crystals at the bottom of the glass. And while you can easily buy Simple Syrup (or Sugar Syrup), why not save yourself a few bob and make it yourself. It is, as the name implies, really simple to make. Basically, if you can boil water you can make Simple Syrup – it is, after all, just sugar water … literally.
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 cup Water
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, then let simmer for a few minutes. When cool, transfer to a sealable bottle or jar. Will last for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Honey Syrup is a great way to add the sweetness you need but also the flavour you crave to your favourite cocktails. Now Honey on it’s own is too thick to mix well with other ingredient (unless they are hot), so making it into a Syrup allows you to get all that honey goodness. Be aware that different honey’s will impart a slightly different flavour (depending on where the honey is from) so experiment with different types.
- 1 cup of honey
- 1 cup of water
Combine honey and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature and transfer to a clean glass jar. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.
If the mention of Grenadine makes you think of super-sweet Syrup that would even Shirley Temple blush, then throw these memories away. Homemade Grenadine is a complete different animal, that actually adds to you cocktails (rather than just giving your guests a sugar rush). Trust us when we say that the homemade version of Grenadine will show you a new side to this Pomegranate Syrup.
- 2 cups 100% unsweetened pomegranate juice (such as Pom Wonderful)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- the juice of 1/2 a Lemon
Add Pomegranate juice to a saucepans, then add sugar and stir until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a lidded bottle or other sealable container and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Especially in winter, when depth of flavour is important, Ginger Syrup can be a great alternative to plain Simple Syrup. It will not only add that sweetness, but also a warm, spicy flavour that can make your cocktails. It’s a little more complicated than some Syrups, as the Ginger pieces needs to steep in the sugar and water mixture for an hour, but it’s definitely one of the syrups that’s worth the time.
- 1 cup of sliced Ginger
- 1 cup of sugar
- 3/4 cup of water
Place sugar and water into a saucepan on medium heat, stirring until dissolved. Add ginger and bring mixture to a light boil. Cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep in covered pan for an hour. Strain out the Ginger and pour into a clean glass bottle and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.