Enhance the Homemade Cocktail: Seasonal Simple Syrup

By Jillian Bernardini - Dec 06, 2013 - 10:13 AM
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Picture yourself opening a plain mini-packet of granulated sugar, tearing it open, hoping that half of its contents don't end up all over the counter, pouring those sweet granules into an iced tea or iced coffee, and then grimacing, frustratingly stirring the plastic straw to "mix" the sugar that already settled at the bottom of your drinking vessel and won't really dissolve no matter how much you stir, swirl or shake with rage. We've all been there, right? 

Well, do not fear the sugar! Instead, begin to quickly develop and concoct homemade batches of simple syrup! It isn't called simple syrup for nothing. Like a blank canvas, think of homemade simple syrup in a plain iced beverage or a complex cocktail as a way to enhance your drinking hobbies! The first time attempts, feel free to make the simplest of simple syrups: equal parts water and sugar in a little saucepan, bring to a boil, stir a bit, remove from heat, and allow to cool before bottling+storing.

Once you become comfortable with the basics, play with the ratios or change up the type of sugar. Think about how exciting a turbinado sugar-based simple syrup would be in a rum cocktail or in an iced latte! If you want a richer, more viscous simple syrup, double the amount of sugar and make a 2-1 sugar water recipe. In the summer, use citrus zest and fresh herbs to make a more herbaceous, refreshing simple syrup, like basil lemon or perhaps a rosemary fennel combination!

Considering the current time of year and that we awoke to a bit of frost on our porch, I want a darker, baking spice driven simple syrup to add to our whiskey cocktails. I'd even throw a splash in my ginger-lemon tea to make it all the more cozy of a nightcap by the fireplace.

Instead of sugar, I bought a mini jug of local maple syrup to use in my homemade simple syrup.  Be sure to toast up the baking spices a bit in the sauce pan before adding the water and maple syrup.  This will impart more flavor as the oils from the spices become slightly extracted and more aromatic. Learning this trick from a former co-worker, I like to break the cinnamon sticks in half beforehand. It creates more surface area if you're looking for extra cinnamon-goodness!

What would you plan on adding to your simple syrup?  I'd even add this to my pancakes or waffles, baked with a little smoky pancetta bits too! My spiced maple simple syrup would make a great homemade Christmas gift too! Find super adorable glass bottles with airtight tops, and if the bottles aren't sterilized prior to bottling the syrup, be sure to keep the concoction refrigerated so it lasts longer!