A bartender straining liquid into a cocktail glass

Sweetening Your Drinks with Simple Syrup  

Discover how simple syrup can be a great way to add sweetness to your drinks. Learn how to create the ingredient and add it to your serves.  

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The Expert Way To Add Sugar

As a bartender, it’s hard to avoid sugar. Almost every cocktail contains something sweet to balance the sour or bitter ingredients and highlight other flavours, textures, and aromas.

The problem is that sugar itself isn’t a great ingredient. In high-end bars, sugar is rarely added in granulated form as it dissolves slowly and inconsistently, giving little control over the end result.

For this reason, when working with cocktails, expert bartenders prefer to craft homemade sugar syrups – also known as Simple Syrup.

Simple syrups were originally designed for medicinal use and food preservation in Arabic regions. With the expansion of global trade, this sweet concoction found its way to European kitchens and eventually became a staple in the burgeoning American cocktail culture of the 19th century.

Simple Syrup is just sugar dissolved in water; however, the finer details make all the difference. Take a closer look at the styles and variations of the humble bar syrup, plus discover some tips and techniques to create quality syrups.

The Different Styles of Syrups

Although simple in concept, there can be significant differences between the multiple types of syrups. Understanding the strengths and characteristics of each can help you choose the ideal option for your cocktails.

    1. Traditional Simple Syrup: Employing an equal 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, it's a universal choice for a broad spectrum of cocktails, including the classic Daiquiri and Mojito, adding a subtle sweetness.
    2. Rich Simple Syrup: This denser variant, with its 2:1 sugar-to-water composition, is often the preferred choice for drinks like Old Fashioneds or Sours.
    3. Gomme Syrup: Made with a very high ratio of sugar to water and with the addition of Gum Arabic, it’s a syrup with a smooth and silky texture.
    4. Infused Syrups: Adding herbs (e.g., basil, rosemary) or spices (e.g., cinnamon, clove) can create syrups with distinct flavour profiles, adding depth to any cocktail.
    5. Fruit-Driven Syrups: Incorporating fruits or zests can produce vibrant syrups ideal for a range of fruity and tropical beverages. Read more about creating flavoured syrups in our Syrups and Cordials article here.

Tools You Need to Create Syrup

Creating your own syrups gives you total control over the flavour profile and sweetness of the liquid. Making simple syrup can seem intimidating, but it’s not overly complicated, and most of the equipment needed is likely to be found in your venue's kitchen.

  1. Scales: Weigh your ingredients to get the perfect ratio. Don’t rely on volume, as water and sugar have different densities.
  2. Blender: “Cold Process” sugar syrup requires a blender to dissolve sugar in room temperature water. There are differing opinions on whether the more common 'hot process’ (noted below) or the ‘cold process’ is the best method, but both provide adequate results.
  3. Saucepan: “Hot Process” sugar syrup requires gentle heating and ensuring sugar dissolves entirely into the water.
  4. Strainer: Essential when producing infused syrups to guarantee a refined and clear end product.
  5. Sterilised Bottles: To store the finished syrup. Ensuring the bottles are sterile can significantly enhance the syrup's shelf life and maintain its intended flavour.
  6. Cooling Procedure: Post-cooking, it's crucial to let the syrup reach room temperature before transferring it to storage containers.

Selecting the Perfect Ingredients

Although a simple concept, the ingredients you choose to make your syrup with will greatly influence the overall flavour and texture of the liquid. To build a high quality masterfully crafted syrup, you must carefully consider the components you use and the methods you adopt.

  1. Choice of Sugar: Selecting alternative styles of sugar can impart distinctive flavours to your syrup:
    1. White: The most used sugar, it imparts sweetness but very little flavour to a cocktail.
    2. Brown: Similar in refinement to white, but with the addition of slightly more molasses, brown sugar creates a more flavourful, rich syrup.
    3. Raw: Covering both Turbinado and Demerara sugars, the caramel and molasses notes found in unprocessed sugars work well with brown spirits.
    4. Muscovado: The darkest and most flavourful style of sugar with deep caramel and molasses notes that shine in rum-based drinks.
  2. Water Quality: Filtered water is recommended to avoid introducing any unintended flavours or contaminants to your syrup.
  3. Fresh Ingredients for Infusions: For infused syrups, the freshness of herbs, spices, or fruits is paramount as it directly influences the final flavour profile.
  4. Heating Consistency: Aim for a consistent, moderate heat when dissolving sugar to prevent undesirable caramelisation. Don’t overcook – the syrup should never boil.
  5. Storage Recommendations: Store syrups in a cool, dark environment. Typically, simple syrups can be stored up to a month, though infused variants might require earlier usage. To enhance shelf life, a touch of vodka can be added.

Simple syrups, despite their apparent straightforwardness, play a pivotal role in ensuring texture, sweetness, and balance in a drink. By understanding the different variables and methods used to create simple syrups, you can ensure your cocktails have consistently great balance.

Key Takeaways

  • Simple Syrup is preferred over sugar granules as it provides more control over portion size and consistency.
  • Simple Syrup is made by mixing sugar with water, but varying techniques can be used to create specific syrups.
  • Quality, fresh ingredients and filtered water can help you create a beautiful syrup.
  • Even the specific type of sugar you use can influence the final taste. Brown sugar creates a rich profile, while raw options favour brown spirits.

There are many more skills to help you craft award-winning calibre cocktails. Become a member of Diageo Bar Academy to learn more and access exclusive content to elevate your game.

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