Lilacs have many uses in the kitchen and bar. It's common to use the tiny flowers for homemade jelly, but have you tried lilac simple syrup? It's absolutely delicious, easy to make at home, and a fantastic way to integrate the unique taste of lilacs into drinks.
The flavor of the syrup is a dark floral—almost lavender-like but distinctly lilac. It's lovely to mix into lemonade and other light beverages, offering a fragrant taste of spring from your backyard. While the syrup looks brown in the bottle, it creates drinks that have a soft purple color.
This lilac syrup is just as easy as any other simple syrup. It takes extra time to prepare the florets and steep the syrup, so this recipe is for a double batch that creates 2 cups of syrup. Since lilacs are only around for a short time each year, it's best to take advantage of the moment!
- 4 cups lilac florets (fresh)
- 2 cups sugar (white granulated)
- 2 cups water
Note: while there are many steps in this recipe, it is broken into workable categories to help you better plan and prepare.
Prepare the Florets
The first step is to gather the flower bunches and remove the florets. This is foraging at its most fragrant, and the best-smelling task in the kitchen.
Each lilac variety will have a slightly different taste. If you have options available, give the flowers a quick nibble to see which you enjoy best. Often, you'll find the purple varieties are more flavorful than white lilacs.
Once you have chosen the lilac bush, look for flowers that are fresh and in full bloom. Cut a few bunches, moving around the plant so you don't take too many flowers from one spot. Gather more blooms than you think you'll need; three large branches of flowers will yield around 4 cups of florets.
Remove the tiny florets from each bunch: Grab the flower (or a small bunch) and pull it from the stem. Make sure to only save the purple floret as the tiny green stems can make the syrup bitter.
Place the florets in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse under cold water to remove dust and debris.
Make Lilac Syrup
Gather the ingredients.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium heat. Bring to a boil while stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved.
Add the lilac florets, stir gently, and cover. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, keep it covered, and wait. As it cools and rests, the lilacs will add their sweet flavor to the syrup. The time it takes to steep will depend on the variety of lilacs and how intense you want the flavor. Since it is a delicate flower, it will take 3 to 8 hours to fully infuse.
Pour the syrup into a fine-mesh strainer resting on a large bowl. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and shake it occasionally so more of the syrup filters through the flowers and drips into the bowl.
After straining, pour the finished lilac syrup into a glass container with a tight-sealing lid. Store it in the refrigerator, where it should keep for a week or two.
Use the lilac syrup in your favorite drinks and enjoy!
- Taste test your syrup regularly. After three hours, it will develop a soft flavor; if you let it steep for eight hours, it will be perfect. The syrup should have a floral intensity that will become balanced once it's added to drinks, neither overpowering or disappearing against the other ingredients.
- Lilac flowers are tiny, and the heat creates even smaller particles. You may need to strain it twice to remove every bit of lilac. While cheesecloth is often a good alternative, it's a messy, sticky endeavor with syrup, so you may want to avoid using it.
Using Lilac Syrup
Lilac syrup works wonders in lightly flavored beverages and pairs particularly well with lemon and strawberry. The drinks can be as simple as adding 1 or 2 ounces to ginger ale or tonic water or even sparkling wine.
A favorite recipe is a simple lilac lemonade: Use this flavored syrup in a basic homemade lemonade recipe (1 part each syrup and lemon juice to 2 parts water). Enjoy the lemonade as is or use it to make a lilac shandy with your favorite beer. You can also use it to mix up a lilac lemon drop martini.
Take it a step further and use the syrup to make a fantastic crème de lilac liqueur: Use vodka as the base and sweeten it with the syrup to suit your taste, similar to homemade amaretto. A lilac cordial can be made in the same manner as lime cordial, by adding citric and tartaric acids as well as a little more water to the syrup.
Whatever you mix up with the lilac syrup, it's best when enjoyed while relaxing on the patio or in the garden. Be sure to share it with friends (especially if you foraged their lilacs)!