Most of us at one time or another have probably put sugar crystals into a tall glass of iced tea or other cold beverage, only to spend the next ten minutes stirring until all the granules have dissolved. There has to be a better way!
There is. A simple syrup is sugar-sweetened water, which blends immediately and effortlessly with most any drink. (The Japanese have already figured this out, and you can get cute little capsules of simple syrup at any coffee shop, while we chumps here in the U.S. continue to have to stir the contents of sugar packets into our cold beverages. But I digress…)
Your basic simple syrup recipe usually specifies a sugar-to-water ratio of 2:1. That will yield 3 cups of a nice sweet liquid that you can store in your refrigerator for up to a month. Very handy. But the possibilities go well beyond such a simple, simple syrup. You can add just about any aromatic (herb, spice, floral, tea, etc.) to flavor it, which opens up a vast range of specific flavoring uses.
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Place the sugar and water into a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved, approximately 3 – 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add whatever aromatic you desire, making sure to bruise or crumple it (if possible) to release more of the flavor-intense oils. Allow to cool completely, then strain the liquid into an airtight storage container to remove the aromatic, and refrigerate for up to one month. Yield: 3 cups
A few examples of suggested aromatics:
- Cinnamon stick
- Dried flowers (hibiscus, lavender, roses, etc. – just make sure they are food-grade)
- Fresh or dried citrus peel or slices (grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, yuzu, etc.)
- Fresh or dried fruits (strawberries, raspberries, etc.
- Fresh or dried herbs (basil, mint, thyme, cilantro, rosemary, etc.)
- Tea (black, Earl Grey, green, herbal, matcha, etc.)
- Toasted nuts (hazelnuts, for example)
- Vanilla bean
I have not provided quantities for the aromatics because it really is a matter of taste. It also depends on the intended use; if it will pair with strong flavors, you’ll want to make a more intensely flavored syrup. After it has cooled, taste your simple syrup in its intended application, and then make any adjustment that may be needed for your preference and purpose. You can make your finished product more strongly flavored by adding more of the aromatic and letting it steep overnight in the refrigerator (strain it again to remove the aromatic) or less strongly flavored by making a small recipe of simple syrup and adding it to your infused syrup.