Most of your favorite sweetened beverages — be it a refreshing soda, your preferred coffee drink, or a delicious cocktail — utilize some form of syrup to impart that tasty flavor. In most cases, that sweetener is a rather simple solution called simple syrup.
In its most basic form, simple syrup is sugar dissolved in water at a 1:1 ratio. It replaces the need to dissolve or muddle sugar right in the vessel; in most bars, for instance, an Old Fashioned is nowadays made with simple syrup rather than a muddled sugar cube. In fact, most modern cocktail recipes utilize simple syrup. (If you encounter an older recipe that calls for a spoonful of sugar, just use one ounce of simple syrup instead.)
Simple syrup is also an easy way to infuse other flavors into whatever you’re drinking, whether that’s a cocktail, homemade soda, tea, or even cold brew coffee. You can easily add vanilla, caramel, coconut, fruit, jalapeno, chai flavoring, and more to your simple syrup, and in turn, to your favorite beverage.
And the best part is just how ridiculously easy it is to make at home.
At any given time, you’ll find at least one simple syrup in my fridge, and often two or three, which get used multiple times per week. While I have numerous flavorings and combinations I employ, here are five of my favorites, each with an accompanying drink recipe (two of which are non-alcoholic) in which to try them.
All of these syrups are easily scaled up or down and can be stored in any sealed container in the fridge.
1. The Original
“Plain” simple syrup can be used in just about anything that has a strong flavor to start with and just needs a touch of sweetness: an Old Fashioned, your favorite strong tea, cold brew coffee, etc.
In a small pot on the stove, mix 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, let the mixture come to a boil, and then remove from heat. Let it cool, then store in the fridge in a sealed container.
Believe it or not, the classic daiquiri isn’t the fruity, smoothie-like concoction you’re likely familiar with. It’s actually a rather simple cocktail that utilizes just three ingredients:
- 2 oz white rum
- 3/4 oz simple syrup
- 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake until a frost forms on the outside. Pour the mixture into a coupe or martini glass.
2. Vanilla Syrup
This one is probably my favorite on the list, and tastes great in a number of drinks. Its best uses are with any brown spirit (it can overpower clear spirits) or in coffee (especially cold brew). It does okay in homemade sodas, but the flavor never carries through quite like I hope.
In a small pot on the stove, mix 1 cup water with 1 cup brown sugar over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, let the mixture come to a boil, and then remove from heat. Immediately add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and stir well. Let it cool, then store in the fridge in a sealed container.
Vanilla Old Fashioned
This has become one of my go-to drinks of choice on a weekend evening. It takes the classic Old Fashioned up a notch or two and is sure to impress if you’re serving up for more than just yourself.
- 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz vanilla syrup
- 3 dashes orange bitters (or angostura)
- Orange peel, for garnish
- Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Add the first three ingredients to a glass with ice. Stir well. Add a strip of orange peel and a maraschino cherry for garnish, and enjoy.
3. Coconut Syrup
For a pure summery flavor, look no further than this delicious coconut simple syrup. It can be utilized in a number of cocktails, but the best use, in my opinion, is in coffee. The recipe deviates from the 1:1 ratio since you’re using sweetened coconut.
In a small pot on the stove, mix 1 ½ cups water with 1 tablespoon sugar over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and let the mixture come to a boil. Once it does, remove from heat, add ¾-1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, cover, and let it steep for at least one hour, and up to three. Strain with a mesh strainer and/or cheese cloth. Store in the fridge in a sealed container. The coconut will chunk up a little bit, so give the container a good shake before using the syrup (just for appearances; it sure doesn’t taste bad, even when chunky).
Coconutty Summer Cold Brew
Take your summer cold brew coffee up a notch. Perfect for an afternoon reading session on the porch on a hot day.
- 5-6 oz cold brew coffee
- 1 1/2 to 2 oz coconut syrup
- Splash of milk or half and half
In a glass filled with ice, add all the ingredients and stir well.
4. Mint Syrup
For a refreshing pop of spring in your drink of choice, this mint syrup is as good as it gets. In cocktails, it goes especially well with clear spirits (a minty Moscow mule is great). This one goes particularly well in tea, too (especially green tea).
In a small pot on the stove, mix 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, let the mixture come to a boil, and then remove from heat. Immediately add five whole mint sprigs, cover, and let steep for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour. Strain with a mesh strainer and/or cheese cloth. Store in the fridge in a sealed container.
The classic, old fashioned mint julep uses powdered sugar, but using this syrup instead is far easier, and, dare I say, far tastier too.
- 2 1/2 oz bourbon
- 3/4 oz mint syrup
- 1-2 mint sprigs for garnish
Add bourbon and mint syrup to a glass with crushed ice. Stir well. Add mint sprigs for garnish.
5. Blackberry Ginger Syrup
Just about any fruit can be added to simple syrup, and just about any fruit syrup is great for adding to a number of cocktails. Fruit syrups also make refreshing homemade pop by simply being added to a glass filled with 1-2 ounces of club soda. Blackberry is one of my personal favorite flavors, and the addition of real ginger gives it some surprising complexity and even spiciness. The deep purple color is an added bonus!
Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 1 cup halved or quartered blackberries, and 1 inch of peeled, thinly sliced ginger to a pot on the stove over medium heat. Bring to a boil and keep it there for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Then remove from heat and let it steep for at least an hour, and up to three.
Strain with a mesh strainer and/or cheese cloth. Store in the fridge in a sealed container.
This drink tastes (and looks) about as close to a cocktail as you can get without adding any booze. Everyone in our household enjoys it, including the kids.
- 5-6 oz club soda (ginger ale or ginger beer are also great)
- 2 oz blackberry ginger syrup
- Juice of a lime wedge
Add club soda and syrup to a glass filled with ice. Squeeze a lime wedge over the drink and plop it into the glass. Stir well and serve. Scale the syrup up or down to your own liking.