Simple syrup can also be used to sweeten foods, such as fruits and baked goods. It is usually drizzled over these foods or used to glaze them.
Although you can buy simple syrup from specialty grocery stores and some liquor stores, it is much more economical to make your own simple syrup at home. As its other name, sugar syrup, hints, simple syrup is sugar that has been made into a syrup; this is achieved by boiling it with water.
Typically, the ratio of sugar to water is between 1:1 to 2:1. The mixture is simmered for around ten minutes, usually until the liquid has reduced to about half its original volume (so if you used one cup water and one cup sugar, or two cups total, you would simmer the mixture down to about one cup).
When stored in a sanitized, tightly sealed container (such as a bottle or a Mason jar) in a cool environment, simple syrup will usually keep for six months or more. To prolong its shelf life, you can add a small quantity of vodka (about one shot of vodka per two cups of simple syrup).
Variations on Simple Syrup
The most common variation on simple syrup is flavored simple syrup. Flavored simple syrup is prepared by adding flavorful ingredients to the sugar-water mixture as you boil it or as it is cooling and then (if they are solid) straining the ingredients out.
Flavored simple syrups are commonly used to make specialty cocktails, quick lemonade, flavored iced teas, flavored hot or iced coffees and milk steamers. Since they are used in most flavored coffee drinks and in milk steamers, flavored simple syrups are a staple ingredient in most coffee shops in the United States.
Flavored simple syrups are also sometimes used as a topping on sliced fresh fruit, pancakes, cakes, other baked goods and ice creams.
Common flavors for flavored simple syrups include vanilla, ginger, mint, cinnamon and lemon. For more information on flavored syrups for coffee drinks, see this list of top flavored syrups for coffee.
Demerara syrup or rich simple syrup is a simple syrup variation made with a type of light brown, raw sugar called Demerara sugar. Some prefer it because it has a richer flavor than traditional simple syrup. However, it has a brownish color, so it will alter the color of clear / light drinks (such as vodka-based cocktails or milk steamers). Similar variations on simple syrup are made with brown sugar or turbinado sugar.
In more experimental bars in North America, in coffee bars in Japan and in parts of Europe, another variation on simple syrup is commonly used. It's called gomme syrup or gum syrup. ("Gomme" is French for "gum.") It differs from regular simple syrup in that it contains gum arabic, a sub-Saharan tree sap which emulsifies the mixture and allows for a higher ratio of sugar to water without crystallization (which would give the syrup a chunky or rough texture). Since it contains gum arabic, gomme syrup adds not only sweetness, but a slight change in mouthfeel in drinks. The texture of gomme syrup is often described as "smooth" or "silky."
On the other end of the bar spectrum of simple syrups is an easy variation called bar simple syrup. This variation is made without boiling the mixture. To prepare it, you simple shake a bottle containing equal parts sugar and water until the sugar has fully dissolved. Although this preparation method is easy, it does not make as thick or flavorful of a syrup.
In the culinary world, another common variation on simple syrup is simple syrup gel. Simple syrup gel is made by adding pectin to the mixture. Plain and flavored simple syrup gels are commonly used as bases for fruit sauces, fruit preserves and topping for fruits and baked goods.
Basic Simple Syrup Recipes
There are slight differences in the batch size, recommended cooking times and temperatures, etc. in these recipes, but the basic principle remains the same.
- Basic Simple Syrup and Bar Syrup Recipes from About.com Cocktails
- Large-Batch Basic Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Gourmet Food
- Recipe for Simple Syrup With Lemon Juice from About.com Middle Eastern Food
- Sugar-Free Simple Syrup Recipe (made with Splenda Granulated)
Common flavoring agents for simple syrup include fruit, herbs and spices. To make flavored simple syrup at home, you can use this basic fruit simple syrup recipe to create your own flavored simple syrups, or use the more detailed recipes below.
- Bay Leaf Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Latin Food
- Brown Sugar & Ginger Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Coffee & Tea
- Cardamom Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Cocktails
- Cinnamon Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Cocktails
- Eucalyptus Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Cocktails
- Ginger Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Local Foods
- Lavender Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Cocktails
- Lemon Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Local Foods
- Lemon-Ginger Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Coffee / Tea
- Lemon-Rosemary Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Local Foods
- Mint Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Local Foods
- Pomegranate Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Middle Eastern Food
- Rose Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Cocktails
- Simple Syrup With Lemon & Orange Juices from About.com Culinary Arts
- Strawberry Simple Syrup Recipe (with variations) from About.com Coffee / Tea
- Vanilla Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Cocktails
- Vanilla-Ginger Simple Syrup Recipe from About.com Cocktails
Aside from the simple syrup variations listed above, you can also use agave nectar, honey or molasses. Unless you want a deeper flavor, a light honey variety is the best option, as it will alter the flavor of your food or drink less than a dark honey, agave nectar or molasses.