Make a Simple Syrup for Cocktails, Coffee, and Other Drinks

How to Make Simple Syrup
The Spruce
  • Total: 18 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 1 1/2 cups (16 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
1 Calories
0g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 1/2 cups (16 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 1
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 0mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Protein 0g
Calcium 1mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Simple syrup is, as the name implies, very simple to make from scratch. It's also the most budget-friendly drink sweetener you'll find, costing just pennies per batch. The only ingredients you need are sugar and water, so anyone can do it!

Once you learn how easy it is, you'll discover just how essential it is to keep simple syrup in stock in your bar and kitchen. It's found in many mixed drink recipes, including the mojito, daiquiri, and hurricane. You can also use it to sweeten your coffee, tea, and homemade lemonades and sodas.

Also called sugar syrup, the sweetener is primarily used as a substitute for granulated sugar. Since the sugar is already dissolved into the syrup, it's much easier to add to cold beverages, and it works just as well for hot drinks. There are a few methods for making simple syrup and lots of options to customize it to fit your needs. For instance, you can make it richer, use various sugars and sugar substitutes, or infuse it with flavor.

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There are two primary simple syrup ratios. Rich simple syrup simply means that you're using more sugar than water to create a richer syrup. It is a 2:1 ratio and, depending on your taste, you can often use a little less syrup than a drink recipe calls for.

You can also make simple syrup with equal parts (1:1) of sugar and water. It will be a little thinner and it will add just a touch of sweetness to your drinks. This is a nice option for flavored syrups.

With either option, the standard "1 cup" recipe will yield between 1 cup and 1 1/2 cups of syrup. You can make as small or as large a batch as you wish, just keep the ingredients in proportion. Once done, store it in the refrigerator in a well-sealed bottle where it will keep for a few weeks.

Ingredients

  • 1–2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Simple Syrup Recipe
    The Spruce 
  2. Bring the water to a boil. Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, stirring constantly.

    Simple Syrup Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Once the sugar is dissolved completely, reduce the heat, cover, and allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (the more sugar, the less simmering time).

    Simple Syrup Recipe
    The Spruce 
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Allow to cool completely and thicken, then bottle.

    Simple Syrup Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. Use in your favorite drink recipes and enjoy!

Tips

  • Don't expect the syrup at either ratio to be as thick as maple syrup or honey. Instead, it will be thin and very easy to pour—more of a consistency similar to a liqueur.
  • Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or the syrup will be too thick once it cools.
  • To prolong the shelf life, add a little vodka. Usually between a tablespoon and an ounce is enough, depending on how large the batch of syrup is.

Recipe Variations

  • The easiest way to make simple syrup does not require a stove and it can be made in minutes. It's called "bar simple syrup" because it's a quick way for bartenders to make the sweetener. Simply combine equal parts (1:1) sugar and water in a bottle and shake it until the sugar is completely dissolved. The result is a thinner syrup (almost water-like) than a syrup that has been reduced by heat.
  • Replacing white sugar with demerara sugar (a raw sugar) is a popular alternative because it has an even richer flavor. The drawback to using this light brown sugar is that it will alter the color of your cocktails slightly, but the taste makes up for it.
  • You can also use turbinado sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, or palm sugar.
  • If you are a fan of stevia or other alternatives to sugar, feel free to use those to make a simple syrup. They work just as well though there is a bit of a flavor difference which you're probably used to if you use them regularly. Begin with a small batch of 1:1 simple syrup and see how you like it and make any adjustments from there.
  • To modify a sugar substitute like Sweet n' Low syrup for a sugar-loving palate, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. It reduces the bitter aftertaste and this trick may work well with other sugar substitutes as well.

Simple Syrup Substitutes

There are a few alternatives to using simple syrup. The most popular in the bar are gomme (gum) syrup and agave nectar. Molasses and honey (or honey syrup) are other options, though they should be used selectively in cocktails.

If you're substituting simple syrup for granulated sugar in a drink recipe, the general rule is to use 1/4 ounce syrup for 1 teaspoon of sugar. You may need up to 1/2 ounce syrup. 

With any substitutes, be sure to adjust the sweetener to taste.

Flavored Simple Syrups

Simple syrup can also be infused with flavor and used in a variety of drinks to add a unique twist. From herbs and spices to fruits and fun flavor combinations, the flavor possibilities with syrup are endless.

The basic method for making flavored syrups is to add the flavoring ingredient while simmering the syrup. Once the pan is off the heat, keep it covered until the syrup cools to let the flavor develop, then strain out the solid ingredients.

  • The most popular flavored syrup in the bar is grenadine. That's right, the key ingredient to a Shirley Temple and tequila sunrise is little more than a pomegranate-flavored simple syrup and it is easy to make grenadine from scratch.
  • Sour mix (aka bar mix or sweet and sour) is also used in the bar, often for tropical cocktails. It is a lemon- and/or lime-flavored syrup that replaces the individual sweet and sour ingredients (e.g., simple syrup and lemon or lime juice).
  • Lime cordial is, essentially, a fancy simple syrup. Make this up for a lime rickey and gimlet or simplify it by skipping the acids and you'll have a lime syrup.
  • Spiced syrups like cardamom can add an interesting twist to a variety of beverages.
  • Cinnamon simple syrup is an excellent sweetener for coffee as well as classic and modern cocktails. The cinnamon can be combined with other flavors like apple, cherry, thyme, and vanilla.
  • Ginger simple syrup offers a subtle spice that is very versatile. It can be added to tea or mixed into cocktails where you might use ginger ale or ginger beer and it's a good substitute for a ginger liqueur. Ginger can be combined with other flavors; vanilla or habanero are just two very fun possibilities.
  • Chile peppers in simple syrup give the sweetener a nice heat that's an excellent way to spice up your cocktails. Any pepper will work, so you can customize the spiciness to suit your needs.
  • Lavender simple syrup and other herbal syrups make it very easy to add flavor to cocktails. These are used all the time in modern drink recipes and the basic recipe works for nearly any herb, including basil, parsley, and rosemary.
  • Mint simple syrup deserves its own category because this herb is used all the time in the bar. If you want a shortcut to the mint julep, use a mint syrup. You can also combine mint with citrus or spicy peppers.
  • Fruit simple syrups take advantage of fresh fruits and they're just as easy. Favorites include raspberry and strawberry, though you can also make banana or lychee syrups, or any flavor you like.
  • Vanilla simple syrup is not the same as a plain syrup (that's like calling vanilla ice cream "plain"). It is a fantastic sweetener for almost any beverage. You can build on the sweet flavor with a little ginger or try almond extract instead of vanilla using the same recipe.