Kitchen Confidence

How to Make and Infuse Simple Syrup

February 25, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Learn how to take your drinks to the next level -- it's as simple as syrup.

How to make simple syrup on Food52

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To make simple syrup is to be a real, adult person. To make simple syrup is to proclaim to the world, "I have it together! I have life sort of figured out!" To make simple syrup is to up your cocktail game exponentially, and to perfect your lemonades and sweet teas. To make simple syrup is to do Arnold Palmer proud.

Alright, so perhaps it's not as dramatic as all of that, but in all seriousness simple syrup is something that everyone can, and should, have sitting in their fridge, quietly awaiting the chance to be shine in a Classic Daiquiri or a New York Sour. At the very least, it's something you should be able to whip up 20 minutes before your guests arrive, so you can have fancy ginger-infused cocktails waiting upon arrival. What, this old thing?

Southside on Food52

In short, you can make simple syrup -- and memorize the formula -- in less time than it took you to read that opening paragraph. It might not dramatically upgrade your social life, but it will definitely improve your drinking life. 

Okay, you've sold me. What exactly is simple syrup?

Simple syrup is a sweet, thick liquid composed of two ingredients: sugar and water. What sets it apart from its humble components is simple syrup's ability to dissolve completely in cold drinks, therefore avoiding the gritty texture you may have experienced in the lemonade from your kid neighbor's roadside stand. It's also a must-have for any budding mixologist.

How to make simple syrup on Food52

True to its name, simple syrup is made by dissolving sugar in water. Now here's where the customization options begin:

Depending on the intended use of your syrup, you can opt for different ratios. Simple syrup for cocktails is typically 1:1, and it results in a product that's quite sweet but not too thick. If you prefer thicker or thinner, feel free to experiment.

You also have the option to customize your sweetener. We went with white sugar for simplicity's sake (ha), but if you choose natural, raw sugar such as turbinado, demerara, or muscovado the result will be reminiscent of molasses. If you're planning on combining your syrup with a brown spirit -- such as dark rum or whiskey -- consider going this route. 

How to make simple syrup on Food52

Combine your sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves (this shouldn't take long. Just long enough for you to decide what you're going to wear to your impending cocktail party, or remember you need to write a thank-you note to your aunt).

Once you can't see any sugar in the solution, take the saucepan off the heat. Then put on your creativity caps -- now comes the fun part.

Use it, Infuse it

Simple syrup on its own is a wonderful staple to have around for last-minute sweetening needs, but here's the real benefit of DIY-ing it: infusion potential. 

Feeling spicy? Throw in some peppercorns or chili peppers. Feeling zesty? Citrus peel is too. Feeling...gingery? You know what to do. 

How to make simple syrup on Food52

Waste Not, Want Not:

Now that you've decided on a flavor, make sure to get the most out of it. For vanilla beans, scrape out the seeds and toss in the pod itself, for good measure. Give herbs (such as curry leaves, pictured) and citrus zest a good twist before adding them to the hot syrup to release their essential oils. Smash peppercorns and chilis, and slice up ginger into small pieces. 

Proportion is also important in infusion; the more you add, the stronger the flavor will be. Start with a little, then adjust as you see fit. Remember that you won't be putting much of the syrup in a drink, so you don't want the flavor to be too diluted. Don't let your hard work be for naught!

How to make simple syrup on Food52

Strike when your newly-minted simple syrup is still warm, receptive, and ready to get jiggy with it. Let your hot simple syrup mingle with your chosen flavor enhancer for about twenty minutes -- enough time for them to really get to know each other. Then pour the syrup through a fine strainer, and store it in an airtight container.

Side note: If you don't want to worry about spilling hot sugary liquid on your kitchen counter, you can bundle your flavor infusers in a cheesecloth, tie the end, and toss it in after you take the syrup off the heat. Fish the bundle out with forks before bottling.

How to make simple syrup on Food52 

So when does the booze come in?

All right, so you made your kumquat-chili pepper-cilantro syrup (disclaimer; we do not recommend this. But if you choose to try let us know how it turns out!). Now what do you do with it?

Sweet tea, lemonade, and cocktails -- the sky's the limit. But keep in mind, when it comes to booze, certain flavors play better with certain liquors. Here's a very basic guide:

Spices on Food52

Spices (such as cloves, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, vanilla beans): pair well with darker liquors, such as dark rum, bourbon, or whiskey.

Mint leaves on Food52

Herbs (such as mint, curry leaves, or rosemary): pair well with lighter, brighter liquors, such as vodka or gin, and light rum.

Citrus on Food52

Citrus (everything from grapefruit to key lime): pairs well with vodka and gin, as well as tequila.

More: Want to go all out? Here's how to infuse your booze.

Grapefruit Cake on Food52

You can also use simple syrup to amp up your pound cakes. While the cake is still slightly warm, poke its surface all over with a toothpick and drizzle simple syrup over the top. The syrup will soak into the crumb, resulting in an addictive, delightfully moist cake. This is also a handy trick to have in your back pocket if your cake starts to go a little stale before company comes over. Pour on a little simple syrup, and it's brand new again.

Concord Grape Smash on Food52


 What's your favorite way to use simple syrup? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Elaine Williams
    Elaine Williams
  • marsiamarsia
  • Rani C
    Rani C
  • Elina Chernousova
    Elina Chernousova
  • Alex Txn
    Alex Txn
A kitchen scientist and dog-lover. Someday I want to have you over for dinner.


Elaine W. March 14, 2017
I have been making basil infused simple syrup lately and mixing it with cucumber infused vodka, topping off the cocktail with club soda. Delicious. Tonight I am going to try infusing the simple syrup with cilantro to try with Absolute Lime vodka.
marsiamarsia August 30, 2016
I use simple syrup for homemade cold-brewed coffee, keeping both of them in the refrigerator. I use turbinado sugar because that's the kind of sugar I always have on hand; it's noticeably grainy in cold drinks (yuk), whereas the simple syrup blends perfectly. Turbinado makes a lovely brown syrup that doesn't change the color of coffee (or iced tea), but it tastes slightly like caramel (nothing at all like molasses).
Rani C. April 2, 2015
Okay.. late to the party but basil is a wonderful herb to use/infuse. Lemonade, iced tea, gin and vodka tonics. Yum.
Elina C. July 17, 2014
It's 3:30 am here and I can't go to sleep because I have found a whole new world for me.
Alex T. March 4, 2014
I love these jars(with the syrup in), I wonder where to buy them from?
Quinn February 28, 2014
Oh this is awesome! Good idea to spice up a cake with simple syrup!
HalfPint February 26, 2014
Lemongrass-infused syrup is also quite good. Bonus: you can you the dried up tops that ordinarily get thrown out since they're too tough to use in cooking.
HalfPint February 26, 2014
Sorry that should be "you can use", not you.
glutton&wife February 25, 2014
I drop a cinnamon stick in my jar of simple syrup and just leave it there. It makes a great Old Fashioned.
Aimless February 25, 2014
Or you can always buy simple syrup bottled at Williams Sonoma. That store for people very interested and able in the kitchen?
Catherine L. February 25, 2014
But if you make it yourself it's cheaper, and you can customize it! It's a nice little project for when you're feeling DIY.
Leila February 25, 2014
True story, my grandmother used to keep a tiny bottle of simple syrup in her purse when she would travel to a state north of the "sweet tea line". It's much better for sweetening iced drinks when granulated sugar just won't do.

Second question - How long does it keep? My mom and I go back and forth on how long we should leave it in our fridge. I'd like to set the record straight :)
Catherine L. February 25, 2014
Your grandmother sounds like a smart woman! As far as shelf life, we say it's good for up to a month, three months if it has a tablespoon or two of vodka added, and up to six months if it's an extra rich syrup (2:1 sugar:water ratio).
11ladylegs11 February 25, 2014
Do you know where to find these jars? Great recipe! I just made Candied Grapefruit and Grapefruit Simple Syrup last weekend for a twist on an Old Fashioned.
erincinco February 25, 2014
I'm interested to know where to find them, too. Everywhere I've searched for Weck jars only has straight-sided or milk-bottle style jars.
laurel February 25, 2014
You can do a search for Weck. Heath has them in SF, but you should be able to order them online.
laurel February 25, 2014
laurel February 25, 2014
Sorry, meant to post the link to the tulips:

Also, from Heath:
erincinco February 25, 2014
Thank you!
11ladylegs11 February 25, 2014
Thank you so much!
laurel February 25, 2014
You bet! I love my Wecks :)
Brette W. February 25, 2014
We also sell them in Provisions!
Camihenry February 25, 2014
I love making simple syrup and infusing it with lemon mint. It's perfect for soaking cut strawberries in before topping an angel food cake, as well as great hard lemonade cocktails.
Catherine L. February 25, 2014
Those cocktails sound amazing!