Ever since I visited my first cocktail bar at about age 20 (yes, I think I only ordered a vodka soda. #unilife) I've kind of been in love with the idea of having a similarly sexy set up at home - complete with beautiful glasses, shiny barware, moody lighting and an array of intriguing liquors from anywhere and everywhere. Of course, practically, that’s just crazy right? I mean, who really has the space, budget, mixologist background or free time around their 9-5 to fully take advantage.
Plus, once I discovered gin (which funnily enough I thought I HATED until last year – a story for another time), I figured I'd probably be better off with a smaller selection of bottles I can enjoy with a bit of soda and garnish more regularly. That said, the need to get out of my current gin, wine and occasional beer rut isn’t lost on me … hence looking for ways to mix things up using minimal effort - but just enough to feel like I’ve made one). Enter simple syrups: the gateway to simple, but tasty, cocktails.
For all of the below I've chosen flavours that are easy to find at home or the supermarket. Paired with cocktail recipes that take only few minutes to make, use simple ingredients and minimal 'equipment' – they'll hopefully make for a regular appearance at your place!
Basic simple syrup recipe
Time to make: 5 minutes Servings: Up to 15
- Add equal parts white sugar and cold water to a saucepan (I usually do 1/2 cup of each).
- Bring the syrup to the boil on your stovetop over a medium heat, waiting until all the sugar has dissolved (i.e. the mixture goes completely clear), before turning it off.
- Let the syrup cool to room temperature then pour into an airtight bottle or container (using a jug with a lip or funnel helps avoid spilling. Keeps in the fridge for ~1 month.
- Alternatively, if you want to use it right away you can pop the container in the freezer to cool down for 15 minutes - just make sure not to sit it near anything that might easily melt! It's always handy to add a label to your container too so it doesn't accidentally get thrown out or you can tell the difference if you're planning to make more than one kind.
Get creative with flavours and cocktail recipes
Now you have the basics down, here are some different syrup flavours to try!
Rosemary simple syrup:
To infuse rosemary (or any flavour into the syrup), simply add a few springs (around 1/4 cup) at the start of cooking. Bring the syrup to boil over a low heat and let it sit until full cool to allow maximum time to impart all that lovely flavour. To avoid chunky bits in your drinks, use a small sieve lined with muslin cloth to strain it into your container. You can easily find cheap muslin in the fabric section of your local Spotlight or craft store. Woody and herbaceous, try your delicious rosemary syrup in:
Chai simple syrup:
Add 1/4 cup of chai tea leaves of your choice (I use Prana Chai) to your syrup at the same time as the water and sugar. Let it cool in the pan then strain into your container using a small sieve and / or muslin cloth. Warming and spicy, enjoy chai in in:
- Dirty chai espresso martini (sub in your syrup for the plain stuff)
- Vanilla chai whisky old fashioned
Thyme simple syrup:
Add 8 springs of fresh thyme to your syrup, letting it cool in the pan once dissolved and using a sieve and muslin cloth to strain. Savory and great during summer or cooler months, try thyme syrup in:
Orange simple syrup:
Add the rind of 1 orange (peeled not grated) plus half of its juice to the syrup, and cook as per previous recipes. Versatile, sweet and tangy, orange is a great go-to addition for so many cocktails, including: