Whether you have a sweet tooth or just need to cut a little bitterness in your favorite cocktails, simple syrups deserve a place in your home bar. If you don’t know your whisky from your whiskey and want to look like you know what you’re doing (even if it’s just over Zoom), pouring a mysterious elixir into your drink will inspire awe.
Friends have clamored for my simple syrup recipes this year, and there’s really nothing to it. Simple syrups have great PR; they’re exactly as easy as described. Regular simple syrup just requires equal parts water and sugar, a saucepan, and a little patience.
Just stir the water and sugar over medium to medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. This should only take a few minutes, but exactly how long will depend on factors like the temperature of the water and your elevation. Patience comes into play if you like your syrup thicccc -- just leave the heat on for a couple more minutes to help it reduce without stirring. If you forget about the simple syrup for about 10 minutes, you might end up with caramel. Not really a loss, but definitely not what you’re looking for.
Once the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to reduce, stirring could cause crystallization, so stop at this point. Crystals can also form if you cool the syrup too quickly via an ice bath or just throwing it in the fridge too quickly. There are tons of tricks to save the syrup in the short term, but I’ve found that the crystals come back within a couple of days.
Let the syrup cool in the pot or pan you used, transfer it to the mason/used pasta sauce jar of your choosing, and let it cool even more before refrigerating. Simple syrup should last about a month in the fridge, but you can add about half a shot of vodka per cup of syrup to extend this to about three months.
If you infuse homemade simple syrups, you can make complex drinks with only a few components. In most cases, it only adds a couple of extra steps and can impart worlds of flavor.