How to Make Simple Syrup

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From iced tea to cocktails, simple syrup is a great refrigerator staple to have on hand for cold drinks, especially in summer.

Simple Syrup pouring from a glass pitcher.

Making simple syrup from scratch takes about 1 minute of hands-on time and 5 minutes of cooking, and if you can boil water, you can make simple syrup. Literally.

It’s a great refrigerator staple to have on hand, especially during the summer when cold drinks are everything, and you don’t have time to waste waiting for the sugar to dissolve in your iced tea or lemonade. And it’s a bartender’s staple for making cocktails, like the Espresso Martini.

Glass pitcher of Simple Syrup.

Simple Syrup: The perfect way to add sweetness to chilled drinks and cocktails.

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What Is Simple Syrup?

Simple syrup is simply sugar dissolved in water and then cooled. Because the sugar dissolves in the heating process, the result is a liquid suspension. This allows you to add sweetness to drinks, desserts, and other dishes without the crunch of undissolved sugar. It blends in right away, so you don’t have to worry about stirring and stirring and stirring and hoping the sugar will dissolve in a cold drink.

Simple syrup, as the name suggests, has a slightly syrupy texture. It is most often used in cocktails, mocktails, and other beverages like iced tea, iced coffee, or lemonade.

Homemade Simple Syrup being poured into a pitcher of lemonade.

Simple Syrup Ratio

The most common ratio is 1:1 (1 part sugar to 1 part water). However, you can increase or reduce the amount of sugar, depending on how sweet you want the syrup.

If you are making something where you want to add sweetness but not a whole lot of additional liquid, then you would add more sugar to the simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water is called rich simple syrup). This allows you to achieve a higher, more concentrated level of sweetness without adding a lot of water. You’ll likely want to add a bit less syrup than what the recipe calls for, then adjust to taste.

Better to start with a smaller amount and add more as needed because your drink or dish can go from sweet to SWEET in a heartbeat.

Flavored Simple Syrups

You can add ingredients to the sugar and water mixture as you heat it. Some common add-ins are citrus zests, herbs, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, and sliced fresh ginger. For more delicate add-ins, such as fresh mint or thyme, you can add the herbs to the mixture once it has been brought to a boil. With any of these options, cover the pan and let it steep in the syrup as it cools. Try the simple syrup infused with rosemary, lemongrass, and chile pepper in this Lemongrass Cocktail! Then, go with the basil-ginger simple syrup in a Lemon Saketini.

Taste the syrup, and if you prefer a stronger infused flavor, you can leave the additional ingredients in the syrup when you store it in the fridge for up to 1 day; just make sure the ingredients don’t start to darken or look past their prime.

Strain out the added ingredients before using the syrup. A fine-mesh strainer is perfect for this task.

FAQs

How long does simple syrup last?

Make sure the glass or plastic container you store simple syrup in is completely clean and dry. This will allow the mixture to keep longer. Pour the syrup into the container, seal it tightly, and label it. Your simple syrup should last for about 2 weeks in the fridge. Toss it when it starts to become cloudy.

What kind of sugar is used in simple syrup?

You can use pretty much any type of sugar you like, though white granulated sugar is the most common. Once the sugar dissolves, the liquid remains fairly clear, so it won’t affect the color of your drink.

Demerara sugar is another popular sugar used to make simple syrup. However, it has a slightly tan hue, so the final sryup will be slightly brown in color. Another “raw” sugar option is turbinado, which is very similar to demerara, but it’s processed in a way that retains a bit of molasses.

Yet another option is brown sugar. This creates a nice, richer base when making spiced syrups flavored with things like cinnamon, anise, cloves, and other warming spices. You could even two types and use equal parts of white and brown sugar.

Simple Syrup Substitute

If you don’t have time to make simple syrup, you can sub in agave, maple syrup, or honey. Start by mixing one part of water with one part of any of these sweeteners until dissolved. If a recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of simple syrup, try 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, honey, or agave and 1 tablespoon of water. Substitute this mixture in for the simple syrup on a 1:1 ratio. Then, taste your drink or dish to see if you need to add more sweetener.

Another shortcut is to simply vigorously shake the sugar with the water until the sugar is dissolved. This will not yield quite as rich a syrup, but it’s very quick. If you use half the amount of warm water, it’s even quicker, and then add the rest of the water, but make sure it’s very cold and throw in a couple of ice cubes to cool it down even faster and more completely.

How to Make Simple Syrup

  1. Combine the water and sugar: Place the water in a saucepan and add the sugar.
Adding water and sugar to saucepan for simple syrup.
  1. Cook: Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. 
Wooden spoon in a bubbling pan of water and syrup.
  1. Cool: Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
  2. Refrigerate: Transfer to a clean glass or plastic container and store in the fridge. Use as directed in a recipe, or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Container of homemade simple syrup and woman pouring syrup into pitcher of lemonade.

Recipes That Call for Simple Syrup

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How to Make Simple Syrup

From iced tea to cocktails, simple syrup is a great refrigerator staple to have on hand for cold drinks, especially in summer.
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 6 minutes
Servings: 20 People (makes 1 1/4 cups)
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Ingredients 

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Instructions 

  • Place the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a clean glass or plastic container and store in the fridge.
  • Use as directed in a recipe, or store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

  • Make rich simple syrup with 2 parts sugar and 1 part water.
  • Try “raw” sugars like demerara or turbinado instead of regular white sugar. 
  • Create a flavored simple syrup by adding citrus zest, herbs, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, fresh ginger, or other ingredients to the boiling syrup. Let the flavoring ingredient steep in the syrup while it cools, taste for flavor, and steep longer if desired before straining, bottling, and refrigerating. Try the simple syrup infused with rosemary, lemongrass, and chile pepper in this Lemongrass Cocktail!

Nutrition

Calories: 39kcal, Carbohydrates: 10g, Sodium: 1mg, Potassium: 1mg, Sugar: 10g, Calcium: 1mg, Iron: 1mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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2 Comments

  1. Marilyn says:

    A question: You say to put the syrup in a glass container to store it but the picture is of a plastic container, is it not?

    1. Katie Workman says:

      yes, you are right, it can go into a glass or plastic container, thanks for pointing that out!