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Everything You Need to Know About Making Simple Syrup at Home

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How to Make Simple Syrup - finished syrup in a glass jar
How to Make Simple Syrup

One of the most basic skills you can master for at-home bartending is how to make simple syrup for cocktails. While many recipes instruct you to heat the water and sugar on the stove, you can create simple syrups without heat if you prefer.

I generally create them by using very warm water, then adding a sweet element. That element can be white sugar, brown sugar, honey or even something like agave or molasses.

What is Simple Syrup Made Of?

sugar being poured into a pile
955169 from Pixabay via Canva

Water and sugar. That’s it. You can make it from any kind of sugar, and that affects the taste. Some people use raw sugar, others coconut sugar, some cane sugar and some brown sugar.

But at its core, simple syrup, also known as sugar syrup, is easy and simple to make.

Basic Simple Syrup Recipe

water being poured onto sugar in a pan
vinicef from Getty via Canva

Please don’t buy simple syrup. I mean it. This is so simple and cheap to make it home. There’s no reason not to.

This recipe is designed to be a basic ratio. The easiest simple syrup to make has a ratio of one part water to one part sugar. While most people use cups to measure out the ratio, the most accurate way to measure is by weight.

This means that you’ll add 8 ounces of warm water to 8 ounces of sugar.

If you don’t anticipate using 12 ounces of syrup within four weeks, make a half or quarter recipe of simple syrup.

How to Use a Kitchen Scale to Measure Your Ingredients

sugar on a kitchen scale
Ekaterina79 from Getty via Canva

If you’re using a scale to measure weight, add the container you’re using to hold the water or sugar to the scale. Then wiggle it a little to make sure it’s level. Tare off the scale, so it’s set to 0 and add either your water or sugar to the container.

Add 8 ounces of water, then add 8 ounces of sugar.

You can either add the water first, then sugar, stopping first at 8 ounces for the water, then at 16 for the sugar. Or, add 8 ounces of sugar, transfer it to the container you’ll use to store the syrup, then measure 8 ounces of water.

If you’re going to add the contents to the storage container for mixing it, add the dry contents first, then the wet. If you add the wet first, then the dry, your sugar will stick to the inside of the wet measuring up.

How to Make Simple Syrup at Home

How to make Simple Syrup at Home - Mixing glass with water being poured in, sugar nearby
How to Make Simple Syrup

Simple syrup can be made in many ways. This recipe is the quickest yet simplest and doesn’t require the use of a stove!

How to make Simple Syrup at Home - Mixing glass with sugar being poured in
How to Make Simple Syrup

It’s simple. Heat up 8 ounces of water (or use hot water from your tap). Add in 8 ounces of sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Sometimes, with brown sugar or raw sugar, it will take a little longer for everything to dissolve. Either keep stirring or put the solution in a jar and shake it.

How to Make Simple Syrup - stirring sugar and water together in a mixing glass
How to Make Simple Syrup

If it still has some crystals in the bottom of the jar or container, let it sit overnight in the fridge. They’ll dissolve by the next morning.

Rich Simple Syrup Recipe

karimitsu from Getty via Canva

A rich simple syrup has a ratio of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. That means for every ounce of water you will add 2 ounces of sugar. This one can also be made without heating it on the stove, but it’s much easier if you use very hot water.

It will take longer to dissolve, so be prepared to stir or shake for a while. Because the sugar with be higher in solution, it takes longer for all the sugar crystals to dissolve into the water.

How to Make Simple Syrup on the Stove

sugar being poured into a pan
vinicef from Getty via Canva

Most people think you have to heat your simple syrup on the stove to make it. This is entirely up to you. If you prefer to make simple syrup on the stove, it will dissolve a bit faster, but you still have to wait for it to cool before you can use it.

To make simple syrup on the stove, add the water and sugar to a small saucepan on medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Once it’s dissolved, let it cool and pour it into a clean glass container.

Cooking simple syrup doesn’t change the flavor much. However, it might feel slightly less thick in mouthfeel, depending on how long you cooked it and the heat you used. But the basic flavor will be the same.

When to Make Cooked Syrups

Christmas Syrup in a small glass bottle with spices and oranges on a plate
Christmas Syrup

There are occasions when a cooked simple syrup is better than an uncooked one. If you are creating infused simple syrups with spices, woody herbs or cooked infused fruit, you do want to make those syrups with heat.

Heat helps infuse the flavors of hardy spices (think cinnamon, vanilla, ginger or nutmeg) and herbs (like rosemary) into the syrup. In general, I cook hardy spices and herbs at a low simmer for about 10-15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature.

Then I strain the infusing materials out and store the resulting infused simple syrup in a clean glass container.

How to Store Simple Syrup

How to Make Simple Syrup -pouring finsihed syrup in a small jar
How to Make Simple Syrup

Simple syrup should always be stored in a clean glass container. It keeps for up to four weeks if you make it without cooking it on a stove. Rich simple syrup will keep for longer, up to 6 months.

Rich simple syrup can also be stored in the freezer. Because of the high sugar content it won’t freeze completely, but the cold will keep mold and bacteria from growing in the syrup.

Make sure to use a container with a top that seals well, so you don’t get off odors from other freezer foods in your syrups.

How to Make Syrup Last Longer

sarapulsar38 from Getty via Canva

There are three main ways to keep your simple syrup from spoiling. First, you can add an ounce of vodka to your syrup. The alcohol content and the sugar will help delay the growth of mold or bacteria. This can extend the life of your simple syrup by two to four weeks.

The second way is to heat your simple syrup to a simmer so that it boils lightly. This kills off main bacteria and spores that might later turn into colorful and malodorous additions to your simple syrup.

The third way is to store your syrups in the freezer. Cold temperatures inhibit the growth of bacteria and mold on food (which is why we use refrigerators in the first place). When you don’t want to use your syrup immediately (or when you make large quantities of it) store it in the freezer.

How to Tell if Your Simple Syrup Has Gone Bad

audriusmerfeldas from Getty images via Canva

If your syrup appears cloudy, has spots or mold on it, or in the cap/lid, it’s time to toss the simple syrup and make another batch.

You don’t want your syrup to colonize molds or allow them to grow in it. Make sure to store your syrup in airtight containers and label them with the date and contents.

The other way to check your homemade simple syrup is just to smell it and see if it smells off. Sour, moldy or bitter smells from a simple syrup can indicate it’s gone bad and needs to be thrown out.

Three Variations on the Humble Simple that Add Flavor and Variation

image of different types of sugar, brown, raw, muscado, white, cane, cubed
MillefloreImages from Getty via Canva

I’m also including three easy variations on the basic simple syrup recipe that add flavor and mouthfeel to drinks beyond plain white sugar.

Demerara/Raw Sugar Simple

For this variation use raw or Demerara syrup as the sweetening agent. Demerara sugar has more flavor than just sweetness. It has a little bit of baking spice, a touch of brown sugar flavoring, perhaps, and pairs very well with whiskey.

I highly recommend keeping Demerara simple syrup on hand if you love Old Fashioneds or Whiskey Sours.

Demerara Simple Syrup Recipe

8 oz warm water

8 oz Demerara or raw sugar

Add raw sugar to warm water and shake or stir until completely dissolved. Store in a clean glass jar in the fridge.

Brown Sugar Simple Syrup

Another easy twist that’s fast to make uses brown sugar instead of white sugar. If you use brown sugar, I suggest using light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar.

The flavor and color of dark brown sugar can overwhelm more delicate spirits. Even some whiskeys have trouble standing up to brown sugar without more subtle flavors being overtaken.

Brown Sugar Simple Syrup

Brown sugar simple syrup tastes delicious in many whiskey, rum and tropical cocktails. Use it in drinks that need a bit more complexity than just a straight white sugar sweetener.

8 oz warm water

8 oz light brown sugar

Add sugar to warm water and shake or stir until completely dissolved. Store in a clean glass jar in the fridge.

Cane Sugar Simple Syrup

The flavor of cane sugar is lighter than both raw sugar and brown sugar. It doesn’t have as much of the light molasses and brown sugar flavor that comes from raw or brown sugar.

It does, however, have more flavor than plain white sugar in a simple syrup. Cane syrup, to me, is wonderful for cocktails that are lighter, floral and need just a little something extra to add some flavor. In many cases, I opt for cane sugar as the simple syrup and perhaps an additional dash of bitters.

Cane Sugar Simple Syrup

8 oz warm water

8 oz cane sugar

Add sugar to warm water and shake or stir until completely dissolved. Store in a clean glass jar in the fridge.

Can I Just Use Sugar Instead of Simple Syrup?

Svetlana Lukienko via Canva

Well, you can, but there’s a caveat. You have to add a bit of water to the bottom of your glass or shaker and muddle/stir the sugar and water into a simple syrup on the fly.

It will take a few minutes. Make sure that you get all of the sugar dissolved so there are no crunchy bits in the bottom of your cocktail.

I prefer to make a batch of homemade simple syrup to have on hand and just add it as needed.

What Kind of Cocktails Use Simple Syrup?

old fashioned cocktail with orange and cinnamon garnish
Bold Old Fashioned – Batched

Now that you know how to make simple syrup how do you use it? So many cocktails use simple syrup it might be easier to list the ones that don’t.

Did you try it? I love getting unsolicited DRINK pics from you when you try out a cocktail. Send them along to me on social media. Join me on my social channels at @cocktail_contessa on Instagram and Cocktail Contessa on Facebook and use the hashtags #cocktailcontessa and #bourbonismycomfortfood.

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Recommended Bar Tools

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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:

How to Make Simple Syrup - finished syrup in a glass jar

Simple Syrup Recipe

Heather Wibbels
Make this one-step simple syrup for cocktails at home and get a fast and easy simple syrup for all your home mixology needs.
No ratings yet
Total Time 3 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine Syrups
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz warm water
  • 8 oz sugar

Instructions
 

  • Add sugar to warm water and shake or stir until completely dissolved.
  • Store in a clean glass jar in the fridge.

Notes

Demerara Simple Syrup Recipe
  • 8 oz warm water
  • 8 oz Demerara or raw sugar
Add raw sugar to warm water and shake or stir until completely dissolved. Store in a clean glass jar in the fridge.
Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
  • 8 oz warm water
  • 8 oz light brown sugar
Add sugar to warm water and shake or stir until completely dissolved. Store in a clean glass jar in the fridge.
Cane Sugar Simple Syrup
  • 8 oz warm water
  • 8 oz cane sugar
Add sugar to warm water and shake or stir until completely dissolved. Store in a clean glass jar in the fridge.
Keyword brown sugar, cane sugar, demerara, simple syrup, sugar syrup, white sugar
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
By on January 6th, 2022

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey enthusiast (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location

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