Stir it up with Simple Syrup

Hi Everyone, are you tired of stirring and waiting for the sugar to dissolve in your drinks? Do you dislike the “raw” sugar taste your drinks have when you sweeten them with the actual sugar? If you do, then Simple Syrup will become your new best friend. It’s been mine for a couple of years now.

20091024cynthiaSimple Syrup is syrup made by dissolving sugar over low heat and bringing it to a boil. It is made with a 1 to 1 ratio – 1 part sugar to 1 part water. However, there are various degrees of thicknesses of Simple Syrup, which result in it being used for other purposes such as soaking cakes, glazing baked goods, poaching or preserving fruit, or adding to frostings. Thin Simple Syrup is made with 3 parts water to 1 part sugar, medium – 2 parts water to 1 part sugar. Some people like their Simple Syrups very heavy and would therefore make it 1 part water to 1 ½ parts sugar or 1 part water to 2 parts sugar. The portion I am recommending for this column is the one I use all the time – 1 part water to 1 part sugar, in other words, equal parts water and sugar.

20091024teaGranulated sugar (white sugar) is the type of sugar used for Simple Syrup, however, because we get such excellent, naturally grown, brown sugar crystals in these parts, I also make my Simple Syrup with brown sugar. Simple Syrup also goes by the names: sugar syrup, simple sugar syrup and bar syrup. Bar Syrup, because this is the syrup that bars use when mixing our drinks – you know, those cocktails that some of us love so much; it is used to sweeten, thicken, flavour and to add volume to drinks. So, if you have a bar at home, Simple Syrup is a must-have.

Here’s how to make it. Add equal parts sugar and water to a saucepot, place on low heat and stir to completely dissolve the sugar. Let the mixture come up to a boil. You will notice that the mixture goes from being cloudy to clear. Let it boil for exactly one minute then remove it from the heat and let it cool completely. Once cooled, store it in a clean glass bottle with a tight lid. If your bottle has been properly sterilized the syrup can be kept at room temperature (68 – 77 degrees F). I keep mine in the refrigerator.

Simple Syrup simply makes life easy, particularly when it comes to making drinks. There have

Brown-sugar Simple Syrup (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Brown-sugar Simple Syrup (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

been countless times when I’ve wanted a cold glass of swank (Guyanese lemonade) but just hated the fact that I’d have to stir the sugar to sweeten the drink and then add ice to cool it (though technically that process would be warming it, but that’s for another column). By the time I’d add the ice, it would have diluted the drink somewhat. You’d have to stir the drink again because after a few minutes, the ice would have started to melt with the water sitting on top of the drink. However, by using Simple Syrup, I can make my drink with cold water and not have to wait for the sugar to dissolve. And as we all know, sugar does not dissolve quickly and completely in cold water/beverages. How many times have you not stirred and stirred only to drink and see the sugar settled at the bottom of the glass or jug. The Simple Syrup is in a liquid form and that is why it mixes quickly with the other liquid ingredients that make up your drink. See why it is a must-have in bars?

Here’s another thing you might have experienced when sweetening drinks, especially homemade fruit drinks, there is a particular “rawness” of sugar to the smell and taste of the drink. Using Simple Syrup eliminates this “rawness”. The only times, these days that I actually sweeten drinks with the sugar itself is when I am making mauby and ginger beer. Mauby because it has to be brewed and left to ripen for a couple of days and ginger beer because it has to ripen over a couple of days also. The brewing and ripening process gives the sugar enough time mellow and melds with the flavours of the mauby bark and ginger respectively.

Mint Lemonade (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Mint Lemonade (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

Simple Syrup helps to maintain or enhance the look of drinks. For example, if I am making light-coloured drinks such as passion fruit, orange, or five-finger, I use my granulated-sugar Simple Syrup, as that would not change the colour of my drink. If on the other hand, I am making a sorrel, jamun or tamarind drink, I use my brown-sugar Simple Syrup, deepening the colour of the drink and making it look richer.
Flavoured Simple Syrup

Flavouring your Simple Syrup elevates the flavours of your drinks and foods with which you use it. By flavouring your syrup, you are imparting essences of the flavouring ingredient.

Certain spices, herbs and citrus can be used to flavour Simple Syrup. Whole spices such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, star anise, anise seeds, vanilla, all spice berries and black peppercorns make for excellent flavours. Herbs such as thyme, rosemary, basil, mint and lemongrass add freshness. Fresh citrus peels like that of oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, limes, lemons and shaddocks really enhance the syrup with their natural oils.

To flavour your Simple Syrup, add the flavouring ingredient the same time you are adding the sugar and water. Stir the mixture together on low heat and bring to a boil, once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat further and let it simmer for 2 minutes, remove the mixture from the stove and cool completely. When cool, strain the syrup and store as suggested – in a sterilized glass jar at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I do not strain my flavoured syrups made with the cinnamon stick, vanilla pod, cloves, star anise, all spice berries, or cardamom. I leave them in because they are whole and can easily be removed if I so desire.

Please see the table below for the portions of spices, herbs and citrus to make your flavoured Simple Syrup.

20091024foodtableFlavoured Simple Syrup
You can also make your own syrup to have with pancakes and save some money! (I’m talking here of the North American type pancakes) Make a heavier Simple Syrup by using 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Flavour it with cinnamon, vanilla or various combinations of the spices. These days I use this heavy version on my Shrove-Tuesday pancakes as well.
Simplify things; make your own Simple Syrup.

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