How to Make Flavored Simple Syrups

And (bonus!) candied fruits and herbs!

if you wanna get serious about mixing cocktails, you’re gonna need that full bar setup along with some seriously nice liquor and spirits. After that, a lot of people reach for building a set of bitters. Not me… I vote for FLAVORED SIMPLE SYRUPS!! Not only are they delicious, they add super unique spice and flavor to drinks while also providing a needed sweetener (simple syrup). This allows you to modify a base recipe involving simple syrups without altering the entire beverage, the first step into playing with flavors and colors in your own home grown recipes. As an added bonus, the simple syrup yields beautiful, edible garnishes for decorating the final beverage. And anyone who’s ever garnished a cake knows how important it is that the garnish highlight and enhance the product itself 🙂

Beautiful fruits of infused syrup labor. Yum!

Below I’ll give a couple of different go-to simple syrup recipes and some tips and tricks for making them, starting with a plain simple syrup base.

The Basic: Plain Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a saturated liquid of equal parts sugar and water. I like to make my plain simple syrup in a lidded Mason or Ball canning jar because they look great on a bar and are easy to label. No matter what you use, I prefer to shake my mixture in a lidded container as opposed to heating it, because it maintains that perfect 1:1 ratio.

  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 cup water
  1. Add both ingredients to a sealable container.
  2. Seal the container. Make sure the lid is on tight.
  3. Shake vigorously until the sugar is completely dissolved in the water.
  4. Store in the refrigerator.

The Go To: Citrus Simple Syrup

This is my favorite simple syrup as it is fairly easy, fun to make, yields ton of wonderful and beautiful drink garnishes, and works well in many drinks. My favorite is to use blood orange in a margarita or lime in a pisco or whiskey sour. The truth is that any combination of citrus plays well in almost any citrus heavy cocktail!

There’s some equipment that certainly makes this easier and is definitely nice to have for an avid chef or bartender: mandolin for slicing, wide heavy bottom non-stick saucepan for simmering the fruit, and a food dehydrator for the final candied fruit. In the very least though, you’ll need a really sharp knife (not serrated) and a 2+ liter wide saucepan.

You’ll also notice this recipe is not 1:1 sugar to water. This is because the simmering the fruit results in water loss, so getting that final ratio right requires more water up front. Use the final result as a 1 for 1 simple syrup substitute with some added flavor.

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8” Slices from 1 large navel orange, 2 large lemons, 2 blood oranges, 4 limes, or any combination.
    • Sub Note: Other citrus such as key limes and grapefruit will also work but are a little difficult in size. You can try anything you like!
  1. If you do not have a dehydrator, preheat your oven to 225 or the lowest temp it can hold above 212.
  2. Set out a baking, cooling, or roasting rack over something to catch liquid: paper towels, aluminum foil, or parchment paper for example.
  3. Add water and sugar to a wide saucepan.
  4. Heat over low heat, stirring often, so that sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom and is encouraged to mix.
  5. Bring mixture to a very low simmer.
  6. When all the sugar is dissolved, add a layer or two of the sliced fruit. A single layer is easier to see but two layers uses the top layer as a weight, keeping the lower layer submerged, which I prefer.
  7. Simmer until the outer rinds of the fruit go from opaque to translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes.
  8. Remove the sliced fruit from the liquid and place on the rack to cool and drain.
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 until all fruit has been simmered.
  10. Move the cooled fruit to the dehydrator or low temperature oven. For best results in the oven, place the fruit on a rack so that air can circulate above and below. If you don’t have a rack, place on foil or oven safe parchment paper and flip 2-3 times while drying.
  11. Dry until desired texture is achieved. For me, this is still a tiny bit chewy but mostly dry, around 25 minutes. My husband loves them super crunchy, 45-60 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, transfer the cooled and now flavored simple syrup to a sealable container and place in the fridge. It should have taken on a color based on the fruits you simmered.

Other Riffs

Below are a list of easy substitutes that also make kick ass tasty beverages. The only difference is how much to add and when to remove it from the heat.

Ginger Simple Syrup

The candied ginger is use as a drink garnish, baking ingredient, or just to eat! For an extra beautiful garnish touch, fold the ginger in half with a cocktail cherry in the middle and push a toothpick through!. The colors and flavors will sit super well in a cocktail!

A small, sharp paring knife makes working with the ginger easier, but any decently sharp not huge knife will work.

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 oz fresh ginger
    • Note: I try to buy bigger, wider hunks of ginger for this recipe since I want slices. Slicing makes smaller, knobby pieces unusable.
  1. Peel the ginger with a sharp knife or peeler. Cut the ends flat.
  2. Slice down the ginger to cut into thin strips. You’ll want to keep all of it, but only pieces more than an inch by an inch will really work as candied ginger drink garnishes.
  3. Set out a baking, cooling, or roasting rack over something to catch liquid: paper towels, aluminum foil, or wax paper for example.
  4. Add water and sugar to a wide saucepan.
  5. Heat over low heat, stirring often, so that sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom and is encouraged to mix.
  6. Bring mixture to a very low simmer.
  7. When all the sugar is dissolved, add all the ginger and simmer for 20-30 minutes for desired flavor.
  8. Remove the sliced ginger from the liquid and place on the rack to cool and drain.
  9. Allow the ginger to cool and dry completely, flipping it over once after the top is cool and dry.

You can use the above recipe for ginger simple syrup to make all of the following delicious subs.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

Sub ginger for a 5-6 fresh sprigs (3 oz) fresh rosemary!

Fig Simple Syrup

When figs are in season, cut them in half and low simmer them for 5-10 minutes. Dry them in the oven or dehydrator and you have dried, candied figs for serving with a nice cheese plate.

Cinnamon Simple Syrup

Throw whole cinnamon sticks into the simple syrup and simmer for 20 minutes. This goes super well with boozy hot cocktails like hot chocolate, coffee, and tea.

Christmas Simple Syrup

Take the above cinnamon and add 2-3 star anise pods and 5-10 whole cloves! Christmas in a cup!

Vanilla Simple Syrup

If you can find whole vanilla beans, this is the best. Make your normal simple syrup, split the pod open, skin the vanilla from the inside, and shake it up in the syrup. Oh man. Dessert martinis anyone?

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