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Simple syrup is an essential component in countless cocktails—but why stop there? Infusing your homemade syrups with other ingredients is a great way to introduce new layers of flavor and create something truly unique. 2012 World Class winner Tim Philips offers his top tips and reveals his favorite recipes to get you started.

Sugar, sugar

What do you think the secret to a great Tom Yum soup is? Or the key to preserving freshly harvested tomatoes for an Italian’s annual supply of Napoli sauce? That’s right: sugar. The culinary world, just like the bar industry, relies heavily on sugar to extract and preserve flavors from base ingredients. In high-end bars, sugar is rarely injected into cocktails to "make them sweet," in the same way sugar isn’t added to Tom Yum to make it sweet; it’s used to highlight and complement other flavors. Unlike our culinary cousins, we bartenders deal mostly in liquids, so sugar in its granulated form is dissolved into a syrup for consistent bar use.

Making your own flavored syrups is a great way to add a depth of flavor to your cocktails and highlight the other ingredients in your serve. You can experiment with new flavors and offer your customers something extra-special in their cocktail that they may not have tried before. Crafting syrups that are entirely unique to your venue is also a great selling point and helps when making recommendations. Another huge benefit of making your own syrups is the cost! In general, making your own syrups works out a lot cheaper than purchased syrups, so it’s a win-win for everyone!

How to make your own syrups

When it comes to cocktail basics, “how to make sugar syrup” is one of the most common Google searches among junior bartenders. Fear not! There are various different methods, but the easiest is to simply mix equal parts granulated sugar and water, then heat until the sugar crystals have dissolved. The only rule you need to follow is equal proportions of sugar to water to ensure a consistent level of sweetness (unless you're making rich simple syrup—more on this later).

Stick to these golden rules to achieve quality results every time:

Keep Your Ratios the Same – 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., a tea syrup), be sure not to boil your syrup. Keep it below 212°F to avoid turning your syrup into a reduction.

Cleanliness Is Key – 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 that have been cleaned in boiling, soapy water beforehand. Ensuring your syrups are clean and cold will keep them fresh for up to a few weeks.

Spice it up

Simple Syrup (1:1 Ratio)

A mainstay in every bar, simple syrup is quite possibly the easiest thing you’ll ever make. Kept in the fridge, it is also a quick and easy sweetener for iced teas and coffees. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can try infusing spices, such as cinnamon and ginger, or substituting the white sugar for demerara for a richer, caramel-like flavor.


Combine equal parts granulated sugar and water.

Stir over a low heat until all sugar crystals have dissolved.

For a rich simple syrup (2:1 ratio), just double the quantity of sugar.

Orgeat (almond syrup)

A must-have addition to your syrup repertoire, orgeat is commonly used to sweeten tropical 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.


Add almonds to a blender/food processor and pulse until finely ground.

Stir the sugar and water over medium heat until sugar dissolves completely.

Add in the ground almonds, reduce heat and simmer for several minutes before slowly increasing the temperature.

Remove mixture from the heat before it boils and cover with a lid.

Sit for 3 – 8 hours to allow time for diffusion.

Strain the mixture and discard almonds.

Stir the orange blossom water and Brandy.

Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Lemon oleo-saccharum


Wash the lemons.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lemons in wide strips leaving the white pith behind.

Muddle gently in a bowl to release oils.

Coat with fine sugar and toss to distribute evenly.

Let sit for 3 hours to 1 day (the longer, the better).

Strain to remove sugar and lemon husks.


Juice the leftover lemons.

Add lemon juice to oleo-saccharum.

Stir until all sugar is dissolved.