Chef Notes: Getting Saucy with Simple Syrups

Chef Notes: Getting Saucy with Simple Syrups

For some reason, the term “simple syrup” doesn’t sound so simple. If it’s so simple why must I pay $7 or more for a cup of the sweet juice stashed in a pretty little bottle in some specialty store? You’ll also run into them on fancy drink menus. So why all the simple hype?


Well, because, if you haven’t guessed, they’re beyond easy to make. If you haven’t tried making one before the basic ratio is equal parts water and granulated sugar and an optional pinch of salt.  You can also use light or brown sugar at the same ratio. If you prefer honey or agave nectar you just need to adjust your ratio. For honey use one part water and ¼ part honey (example one cup water ¼ cup honey) or agave nectar is one part water and 2/3 part nectar (example one cup water + 2/3 cup agave nectar). Then you bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly. It will keep in the refrigerator for months. Plus simple syrups have lots of applications. For instance, if you dress up the presentation a bit with a nice bottle and a bit of ribbon or custom label they can make terrific gifts.

I’ve done quite a bit of experimenting with simple syrups and have found that there are a lot of interesting ways to add flavour to them. In other words, your summer drink options are limitless and their flavour will impress the most persnickety of guests. Just add any of the following while your syrup is simmering: citrus peels; freshly grated cinnamon, nutmeg (you know how crazy I am about nutmeg), and/or allspice; whole black pepper or cloves; thinly sliced fresh jalapeños, fresh sprigs of lavender, thyme, rosemary, sage, cilantro or mint.  You can even do combinations like orange peel and rosemary, jalapenos and cilantro or lemon peel and whole black pepper. Just remove your garnishes after simmering or leave them in for presentation purposes. If you want to go so far as to put a pourer on the top of a bottle and learn to spin it like Tom Cruise  in “Cocktail” then go for it. You’ll likely start getting more invitations to parties than your calendar can manage. But don’t think these syrups have one simple use. I also like to use them on pancakes/crepes, as ice cream toppings, to mascerate fruit and in homemade salad dressings.

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