Cocktail

The Case for No-Cook Simple Syrup

July 14, 2014

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Simple syrup can be even simpler to make -- Alice explains how.

Simple Syrup on Food52

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What could be easier than simple syrup? You just heat equal parts of sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved, then let it cool, use a bit of it, and store the rest in the fridge for another use. Easy, right?

But if you're like me, you hate waiting for a batch of syrup to cool in order to use it, you don’t like washing an unnecessary pot, and maybe you don’t want leftover syrup in the fridge (mine is too crowded already). Making a small amount of syrup is even more irritating: It’s shallow in the pot, so some of the water evaporates by the time the sugar is dissolved, which makes the syrup extra concentrated (too sweet). You still have to wash the pot and wait for the syrup to cool before you use it. 

More: Think outside of baking and add flavored syrups to your next cocktail.

Step away from the stove! Sugar dissolves in cool water (or any other watery liquid, including fruit juice or purée, alcohol, coffee, etc.) in as little as 10 minutes, if you're willing to stir it a couple of times.

Stirring Simple Syrup on Food52

To make no-cook simple syrup:
Stir equal parts of water and sugar together thoroughly. Wait 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid looks clear. (To make extra heavy syrup, increase the amount of sugar). That’s all!

To make exactly the amount of syrup you need:
This is the part I like best: 1 cup of sugar dissolved in 1 cup of water makes 1 1/2 cups of syrup (because 1 cup of sugar becomes 1/2 cup when it’s dissolved in liquid). This means that for every 1 cup of syrup needed, just mix 2/3 cup sugar with 2/3 cup water. For example, if your sorbet recipe calls for 1/2 cup of simple syrup, simply mix 1/3 cup sugar with 1/3 cup of water. 

More: If you have extra simple syrup, freeze it in an ice cube tray.

Infusing Simple Syrup on Food52

To infuse your syrups:
Fresh ingredients such as herbs, fruit, and vegetables taste fresher and brighter infused in cold rather than hot syrup. Use them to create flavored sodas, cocktails, and sorbets, or to splash on a fruit salad. Bakers can combine them with liqueurs and brush them on cake layers.

Here are some tips for further experimentation:

Herbs
Stir a generous quantity of herb leaves (torn or roughly chopped if they're large) or whole sprigs of herbs like rosemary or thyme into the syrup and chill it for up to 10 hours for soft leaves like mint, basil, and tarragon (these start tasting decayed after 10 hours) or a couple of days for sturdier herbs like thyme, rosemary, or even rose geranium leaves (very yummy). Strain and discard the herbs and store the syrup in the fridge. If any syrup is not as flavorful as you like, add fresh herbs after discarding the spent ones. If any syrup tastes too strong, add equal measures of sugar and water.

Other aromatics
Add grated citrus zests or finely sliced or grated ginger to syrup and let it infuse until you like the flavor and strength.

Fruits and vegetables
With a juicer:
There is no need to actually infuse; just substitute juiced fruit or veg for the water when making the syrup.

Without a juicer:
Make the infusion with 1 part water, 1 1/2 parts sugar, and 2 parts finely shredded (or a chunky purée of) vegetables such as carrots, beets, celery, etc., or crushed or finely chopped fruit. Stir and let the mixture stand at room temperature for a couple of hours, stirring a couple of times. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much syrup as you can. Discard the solids. Store in the refrigerator.

More: Add some simple syrup to improve your iced coffee.

Get excited about Alice's forthcoming book Flavor Flours: nearly 125 recipes -- from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread -- made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they're gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor too). 

 

 

Photos by James Ransom

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  • Erin Meyer
    Erin Meyer
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    Khipper Thompson
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    V
  • Kaitlyn Florian
    Kaitlyn Florian
  • Saffron3
    Saffron3
Comment
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).

16 Comments

Erin M. April 12, 2019
Traveling in South Korea and came upon a restaurant with gallon containers of fruit infused syrup sitting on the counter (pomegranate seed, orange, lime, cherry tomato). When asked what the containers were, my daughter and I experienced a wonderful tasting of all the varieties. The chef shared that the syrups infuse for at least six months; they pull from the jar as needed. I'm looking for recipes and readings discussing what I should know about food safety related to this product. thanks.
 
Khipper T. January 22, 2019
Just wanted to say, I tried it and it would be a mistake to call this simple syrup. It's sugar water. I was hoping this would work but it just really diluted and threw off the flavor of my cocktails. A lot of the water evaporates when making simple syrup properly, and cooking concentrates the flavor. If you were in a real pinch, this would get you most of the way there, but its honestly sub par and really dilutes the sweetness. Its probably good for iced tea? But not for your bar.
 
V October 10, 2016
A tip: I just used one of those handheld milk foamers (with the little donut-shaped whisk at the end) and it took 30 seconds max for a half cup yield, no fuss, no wait. :D
 
Kaitlyn F. August 29, 2016
Just made this. Literally took 10 minutes to dissolve. Thank you!
 
Saffron3 July 30, 2016
I'll be a monkey's momma, I have just been fussing about to get a proper mint syrup to put in my iced tea and here you are telling me just what I need!
Excellent as always, many thanks, Saffron.
 
Lisa January 2, 2016
This writing is totally worth while and very informative. It is definitely useful. Thank you for writing it up for us, the home cooks.
 
Windischgirl July 20, 2014
I make huge pitchers of homemade iced tea during the summer--it's a real money saver!--and find the simple syrup makes sweetening the tea a cinch. Also sweetening iced coffee. And when I make homemade ice cream or sorbets, simple syrup easily incorporates into the other ingredients; no gritty texture or uneven sweetening. I usually keep a small jar in the fridge ready to go, but cold prep is going to make this even easier. I appreciate knowing the ratios of sugar to water to get a good product.
 
amie M. July 19, 2014
Seriously! You wrote an entire article about this? Here's what I have to say to you...ah, duh!
 
yermalove July 20, 2014
. . . I thought this was rather helpful, actually.
 
Elizabeth B. July 20, 2014
Seriously arrogant .... helpful to lots of us. Remember the golden rule [email protected]
 
arcane54 July 20, 2014
I agree. If you can't play nice, get out of the sandbox. As far as I'm concerned Alice Medrich can write about whatever she likes. I found value in this post, too, having just steamed up my kitchen for simple syrup (again).
 
Diana B. July 19, 2014
Baker's (superfine) sugar dissolves with hardly any stirring. Can you use it instead and, if so, do you adjust the volume of sugar since it's a lot finer than regular sugar? Thanks!
 
Adrian S. July 20, 2014
The difference would not be anything that would affect a simple syrup, but if you are, 1 cup of sugar weighs 7 oz whatever the grind so you don't have to worry about the volume.
 
Tasty M. July 15, 2014
Great reminder. I tend to find that cooked simple syrup gets too thick and can settle at the bottom of a cocktail.
 
md July 14, 2014
I love the sounds of this, but I don't know what I'd use syrups for. Any suggestions beyond what's listed in the article? I want to make some!
 
JadeTree July 19, 2014
Lemonade! And our favorite is rosemary limeade. Steep branches of rosemary in the simple syrup and then add the flavored syrup to fresh lime juice. Going to make some tomorrow! (And there's a host of alcoholic drinks that use simple syrup...)