Fresh figs elude me in Kentucky – the best I can source is Trader Joe’s fresh figs for a two-week period in late August and early September so putting together a homemade fig syrup for fall cocktails from dried figs is perfect for my location. Because I’m using dried figs instead of fresh figs, I cook the syrup a bit longer than I would otherwise, but the fig-steeped syrup is perfect for use in cocktails, from Old Fashioneds to Whiskey Sours to fall Mojitos and Highballs.
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How to Use Figs in Cocktails
Because figs are so sweet, they are a perfect substitution in cocktails calling for a sweet or fruity element. Fresh figs add a silky mouthfeel to sours and cocktails that is hard to describe, but when you’ve had a cocktail made with fresh figs it often feels as if it has egg white or a foaming agent in it, even when it doesn’t.
I love to use figs with cocktails that have a citrus element. They pair wonderfully with both orange and lemon, and fresh figs make beautiful garnishes when they are in season. In addition, whiskey often pairs delightfully well with fig flavors as it’s a fairly common flavor and aroma found in whiskies.
Muddled cocktails, like a smash or a julep will make lovely fall variations with fresh figs. When fresh figs aren’t in season, fig jam stands in for the sweet element in cocktails as varied as a sour, highball, margarita or daiquiri. Fig jam and preserves don’t have the same lovely pink hue as fresh figs but they make delicious cocktails no matter their color.
How to Make Fig Simple Syrup for Cocktails
Because we’re using dried figs instead of fresh figs to make this homemade fig syrup, we’ll be simmering the dried fruit a little longer than we would otherwise to make sure to get the most of the fig flavor from the fruit. In this case, I used 1.5 cups sliced dried figs, 1 cup of water and ¾ c raw sugar. I also added in a dash of vanilla and just a teaspoon of lemon juice.
To make the fig simple syrup, I added the ingredients to a small saucepan and let it simmer for 15 minutes on low. I did let the syrup cool for about an hour to steep in the figs before I strained it and it was worth it to pull that extra flavor out of the dried fruit.
Tips and Tricks to Make a Great Simple Syrup
For more information on simple syrups in general, head to my article All About Simple Syrups. Because we’re using dried figs, the recipe doesn’t make a lot of simple syrup – I had just over ½ cup of syrup. But, if you add a splash of vodka to it it will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.
I taste test throughout any syrup and this fig is no exception. Because it can be made with any kind of dried fig, taste while it’s simmering and take it off the heat once it starts to develop the dried figgy richness you’re looking for.
Should I Use Fresh Or Dried Figs for this Fig Syrup?
I prefer the depth of flavor from a simple syrup made with dried figs, but it makes far less syrup than a similar simple syrup made with fresh figs. But, if you want to make fresh fig syrup, use this recipe:
2 cups chopped fresh figs
1 cup water
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and simmer on low for 30 min or until the figs completely break down and start turning to mush. Let cool, strain into a clean glass jar and store in the fridge.
Flavor Difference between Fresh Fig Syrup and Dried Fig Syrup
Both fig syrups tasted of fig, but the difference is in the intensity of the figgy-ness (if that’s a word). The dried fig syrup is much darker and richer. It has the flavor of dried figs and lots of the vanilla comes through in flavor. The fresh fig syrup is lighter, both in color and flavor. It’s a more delicate fig taste – and it’s a creamier syrup in terms of mouthfeel. I want to use the fresh fig syrup in something like a sour, or a drink that will be served neat. I want to use the dried fig syrup in drinks served over ice.
The difference in taste does follow through from the taste difference between a fresh fig and a dried fig.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces:
You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
Homemade Fig Syrup for Cocktails
- 1.5 c sliced dried figs
- 1 c water
- ¾ c raw sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Reduce heat to low so that the syrup is barely simmering and stir occasionally for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture steep and cool. Strain, reserve the candied figs for appetizers or toppings on ice cream or baked goods. Store the fig simple syrup in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.
- 2 cups chopped fresh figs
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon juice