One of the most common ingredients in both cocktails and coffee bars, simple syrup is featured in countless recipes from the Tom Collins to the mojito. It can get the job done in a classic Old Fashioned, too, when you don’t feel like muddling sugar cubes. While overpriced store-bought options appear on retail shelves, simple syrup is fast to put together and less of a hassle to make yourself than go out to buy.
What is simple syrup?
Simple syrup is just sugar water. The reason we use simple syrup is that granulated sugar takes time to dissolve in liquid and can be particularly stubborn in cold drinks like many cocktails, leaving the final product unbalanced with a thick sludge of undissolved sugar at the bottom. Creating simple syrup beforehand pre-dissolves the sugar so it mixes evenly throughout an entire cocktail.
Most simple syrup is made in a 1:1 ratio of water to granulated white sugar, making it easy to throw together in a pinch. Simply mix equal parts sugar and warm water and stir until dissolved. When used in cocktails that call for “sugar” as opposed to “simple syrup,” simply double the amount of syrup to account for dilution.
You might see other syrup variations called for in cocktails, and they all follow the same formula. Demerara syrup is made by dissolving equal amounts of demerara sugar (a golden-brown sugar often marketed as Sugar In The Raw) and water. Honey syrup is typically a 1:1 combination of honey and water, while agave syrup is equal parts agave nectar and water. The goal in each is the same—to thin the sugar so it mixes in with a drink rather than getting stuck to the side of a shaker or sinking to the bottom of a glass.
Whether it’s to make bar-quality cocktails at home without the hassle of prep work, or to be able to sweeten up an iced coffee without grainy sugar chunks on the bottom, keeping a small pint container of simple syrup in your fridge is one of the simplest quality-of-life upgrades for any home kitchen.
Simple Syrup Recipe
In saucepan, bring water to simmer over medium heat. Add sugar and stir continuously until cloudiness disappears and mixture is perfectly clear. Remove from heat and store in refrigerated container for future use.
Alternatively, boil water in electric kettle or teapot, and combine with sugar in heat-proof container. Stir and seal. Makes 1 pint.
Rich Simple Syrup
One variation occasionally called for is rich simple syrup. This means using a 2:1 ratio of twice as much sugar to water. If you find yourself preferring a sweeter drink, this may be preferable.
Cocktails That Use Simple Syrup
Have a batch of simple syrup mixed up and looking for some home-happy-hour drink ideas? Here are a few classic recipes to get you started.
Last Updated: June 6, 2023