If you’re crafting classic cocktails, sweetening your morning cappuccino, or spicing up a spongecake, it’s important to know how to make simple syrup. I have recipes for basic and extra-rich depending on your taste, and all you need are water, sugar, and a pot to hold both.
Simple syrup, or sugar syrup, can be a baker’s best friend, a bartender’s secret weapon, and an iced tea drinker’s dream come true. And it’s absolutely easy to make on your own, right this very minute.
Whenever I go out for lunch, I order an iced tea. If I’m lucky, the server might bring my tea with a little jar of simple syrup, instead of granulated sugar, to add to my tea. It’s a really nice touch, and it costs so little!
When it comes to simple sugar, you don’t have to buy an overpriced bottle at the store; it can be made inexpensively at home with just sugar and water.
Need to make a large batch of simple syrup for a party punch? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Why use simple syrup?
Unfortunately, sugar crystals don’t dissolve very well in cold liquid. Anyone who has ever dumped a spoonful of sugar into a glass of iced tea, only to watch it swirl around the bottom of the glass like sand, can attest to this!
Basic science tells us that the solubility of sugar increases as the the temperature of water increases. Simple syrup, my friends, is just that: water and sugar, heated together, to make the sugar dissolve more effectively in the water.
The result is a concentrated, sweet syrup that easily dissolves into beverages and cocktails. It can also be flavored and used to moisten and flavor sponge cake layers and hundreds of other desserts.
How do I make simple syrup?
When you make homemade simple syrup, you can adjust the ratio of sugar to water to best fit your needs. The ratio is usually 1:1 (one part sugar, one part water) for a basic syrup perfect for cocktails, iced tea, or iced coffee.
Rich simple syrup, a more concentrated type of sugar syrup, uses a ratio of 2:1 (two parts sugar, one part water).
Whichever type of syrup you need, the sugar and water is simmered briefly in a saucepan on the stove until the sugar crystals dissolve.
It’s important to note, though, that if your recipe calls for 2 cups of simple syrup, combining one cup of sugar and one cup of water does not make 2 cups of simple syrup. Remember, all that sugar dissolves!
To get the amount you need, you may need to make extra syrup. But that’s okay, because properly stored, simple syrup lasts a long time.
How to make (bartender-style) Basic Simple Syrup:
For a lighter style bar simple syrup just right for beverages:
- Combine equal parts sugar and water together over medium-low heat in a saucepan.
- Stir until just dissolved, then allow to cool before using.
How to make Rich Simple Syrup:
If you’re planning to use simple syrup for baked goods and cakes, you may need a denser syrup. In that case:
- Combine two parts sugar and one part water together over medium-low heat in a saucepan.
- Stir until dissolved, allow to simmer for about ten minutes, and allow to cool before using.
When making rich simple syrup, the added cooking time helps prevent the syrup from forming sugar crystals over time.
How to make Demerara syrup:
Demerara syrup, which has a slight caramel flavor and is often used to make fabulous cocktails, follows the same recipe for Rich Simple Syrup, but is made with Demerara sugar, also known as turbinado (or sugar in the raw). Demerara sugar is minimally processed and has a richer taste; the syrup is tinted brown, too.
How to make flavored Simple Syrup:
Once you’ve mastered simple syrup, it’s fun to infuse the syrup with fruit, herbs, or spices to add another layer of interest to any recipe. You can (and should) get as creative as you like!
A few things to keep in mind when flavoring sugar syrup:
- Add the ingredients while the syrup is hot, and allow them to steep in the syrup until it cools.
- Once the syrup is cool, strain out the ingredients. The syrup will stay fresh longer without them.
- I like to keep my flavored sugar syrups uncomplicated by just adding one ingredient at a time; however, sure-fire flavor combinations like lemon peel and ginger are delicious, too.
- Flavored simple syrup should be stored in the refrigerator and be used within two weeks.
Some flavored simple syrup ideas:
Herbs: a sprig of rosemary, basil or mint leaves from the garden, or fresh thyme
Spices: a cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, bay leaf, cardamom, fresh ginger root, even a bag of tea
Citrus peel: lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine
Flowers: rose petals, lavender flowers
Fruit: fresh strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
What is simple syrup used for?
A basic sugar syrup has infinite uses. It can be used to sweeten or flavor cold beverages like:
- Iced tea
- Iced coffee
Sugar syrup is an easily blended sweetener in mixed drinks, and a crucial ingredient in hundreds of classic cocktails, especially the Hemingway Daiquiri, a Whiskey Sour, and a classic Mint Julep.
Beyond that, a simple syrup, flavored or unflavored, can be brushed over cake layers before assembling to enhance the final product’s taste and texture. It can also be used as a glaze for fruit or pastries.
How to store Simple Syrup:
Because I use heat to make simple syrup, these recipes have a decent shelf life, when prepared and stored properly.
Basic simple syrup: 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator.
Rich simple syrup: up to 6 months in the refrigerator
Demerara syrup: up to 6 months in the refrigerator
Flavored simple syrup: 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator
Always store leftover syrup in a sterile container, such as a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, in the refrigerator.
Should I refrigerate simple syrup?
Almost always, yes. Store the simple syrup in an airtight container, in the fridge, until ready to use.
How to Make Simple Syrup
Basic Simple Syrup:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
Rich Simple Syrup:
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
To Make Simple Syrup:
- Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is just dissolved.
- If making basic simple syrup, turn off the heat and allow to cool. Pour into sterile container.
- If making rich simple syrup, allow the mixture to simmer for about ten minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Pour into sterile container.