A saucepan with syrup surrounded by spices and mango.

How to Make Syrups and Cordials for your Cocktails

Discover how to make your own syrups and cordials using herbs, spices, and fruits to infuse depth and flavor into your craft cocktails. 

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes 

How to Make Syrups and Cordials for your Cocktails

The surge in craft cocktails' popularity has inspired many bartenders and venues to develop their own homemade syrups and cordials to highlight a drink's ingredients and add more depth of flavor. 


Discover the essentials of homemade syrups and cordials, experiment with new flavors, and learn how to make your own for extra special cocktails that will delight your customers and make them come back time and time again. 

The Basic Components

At their core, syrups are simple solutions of sugar dissolved in water, often infused with flavors ranging from fruits and herbs to spices and botanicals.  

Cordial is a term that can have multiple meanings however we are referring here to “syrups” crafted to contain a more complex range of flavors in a single ingredient.  

Cordials often include sugar, acids, salt, and one or more flavors such as fruits, herbs, or spices, for a complex and balanced profile.  

Common Styles of Syrups and Cordials

  • 1. Simple Syrup: The backbone of many cocktails, made by dissolving sugar in water. 
  • 2. Herb-Infused Syrups: Incorporate ingredients like mint, basil, or rosemary for a refreshing twist. 
  • 3. Fruit-Based Syrups: Think raspberry, blueberry, or citrus syrups, bringing a burst of fruity sweetness. 
  • 4. Spiced Syrups: Incorporate elements like cinnamon, cloves, or cardamom for a warming touch. 
  • 5. Tonic Syrup: A concentrated mix that, when combined with carbonated water, offers a homemade take on classic tonic water, with ingredients like quinine, citrus zest, and spices. 
  • 6. Ginger Beer Syrup: A spicy and sweet concoction that, once topped with sparkling water, mirrors the flavors of traditional ginger beer. 

How to Make Syrups

There are various methods, but the easiest is simply mixing equal parts granulated sugar and water and heating until the sugar crystals have dissolved. The only rule you must follow is equal proportions of sugar to water to ensure consistent sweetness (unless you're making rich, simple syrup – more on this later). 

4 Key Crafting Techniques

  1. Choosing Ingredients: Opt for fresh, organic ingredients to ensure the best flavor extraction and minimal chemical interference.  
  1. Alternative Sweeteners: Not all syrups have to be based on table sugar. Less refined sugars such as Demerara or Muscovado and sugar alternatives such as honey, maple syrup, and agave syrup offer unique flavor profiles to your syrups.   
  1. Cold Infusion vs. Heat: While heat expedites the sugar-dissolving process and can help extract flavors, cold infusion (letting ingredients steep in the syrup over time) can yield a more delicate and nuanced flavor.  
  1. Straining: Once your ingredients have infused to the desired level, use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to separate solids, ensuring a clear and clean syrup. 

Best Practices

  • Balanced Ratios: For most syrups, a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water is standard. However, some bartenders prefer a richer 2:1 mix for certain cocktails. This also applies if you add herbs, spices or other dry ingredients to a sugar and water combination. 
  • Don’t Overcook It: If making a syrup where heat aids flavor extraction (i.e. tea syrup), be sure not to boil it. Keep it below 100 degrees to avoid turning your syrup into a reduction. 
  • Experimentation: The beauty of homemade syrups lies in customization. Play with ingredients, ratios, and infusion times to create a signature blend. 
  • Preservation Syrups ferment and go rancid over time but you can slow this process by keeping your syrups cold or adding a splash of high-proof spirit to the mix. Always use sanitized bottles cleaned in boiling, soapy water beforehand. Ensuring your syrups are clean and cold will keep them fresh for up to a few weeks. 
  • Labelling: Always label your creations with the production date and ingredients to ensure freshness and proper pairing. 

Practical Applications

Ginger Beer Syrup 

Combine fresh ginger juice with sugar, water, and lemon juice, then boil.  

Once cooled, this syrup can be mixed with soda water to create a fiery, homemade ginger beer ideal for Moscow Mules or Dark 'n Stormies. 

Orgeat (Almond Syrup) 

A must-have addition to your syrup repertoire, orgeat is commonly used to sweeten Tiki cocktails such as the classic Mai Tai and Fog Cutter. If you’re looking for a quick, no-fuss alternative, try substituting the almonds for almond milk and a little almond extract.  


Four Simple Cordials

Start by making a base cordial upon which to build your flavours.  


1. Base Cordial  

  • 500g Sugar  
  • 500g Filtered Water  
  • 5g Maldon Sea Salt  
  • 10g Citric Acid   
  • 10g Tartaric Acid  
  • 10g Malic Acid  


2. Peach Cordial  

  • 250g Fresh peach slices  
  • 20g Cinnamon Sticks  
  • 2g Black Tea  
  • 3g Thyme (with stalks)  
  • 500g Base Cordial 

Seal all ingredients in a vacuum-packed bag and cook sous-vide at 60°c for 30 minutes.   

Strain through a super-bag into a clean bottle, seal and refrigerate. Store for 1 month.  Stir until all sugar is dissolved 


3. Lemon Cordial  

  • 75g Lemon Skin  
  • 25g Pink Grapefruit Skin  
  • 2.5g Lemon Verbena (Fresh Leaves)  
  • 2.5g Earl Grey Tea  
  • 500g Base Cordial  

Seal all ingredients in a vacuum-packed bag and cook sous-vide at 40°c for 30 minutes.   

Strain through a super-bag into a clean bottle, seal and refrigerate.  Store for 1 month.  


4. Elderflower Cordial  

  • 20g Dried elderflower  
  • 50g Bergamot skin  
  • 40g Chopped fennel bulb  
  • 3g Lemon thyme (with stalks)  
  • 500g Base Cordial  

Seal all ingredients in a vacuum-packed bag and cook sous-vide at 50°c for 30 minutes.   

Strain through a super-bag into a clean bottle, seal, and refrigerate. Store for 1 month.  


Creating homemade syrups and cordials is an essential skill that adds depth of flavor and a touch of sophistication to every cocktail. By embracing freshness, experimenting fearlessly, and following best practices, you can elevate your craft cocktails and open a world of exciting and innovative flavors for your guests. 

Key Takeaways

  • Basic Components: Syrups are sugar-water solutions infused with various flavors, while cordials are more complex and include sugar, acids, salt, and multiple flavors. 
  • Common Styles: Explore syrup styles like simple herb-infused, fruit-based, or spiced to add diverse flavors to your cocktails. 
  • Crafting Techniques: Choose fresh, organic ingredients, experiment with sweeteners, and consider cold infusion for delicate flavors. Strain your syrups for clarity. 
  • Best Practices: Maintain balanced sugar-to-water ratios, avoid overcooking, embrace experimentation, and clearly label your creations for freshness and pairing. 
  • Practical Applications: Learn how to make syrups for classic cocktails. For example, make Ginger Beer Syrup for a Moscow Mule or Orgeat (Almond Syrup) for a Mai Tai. 


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