Warning: Use a little less of these alternatives than the recipe directs and then adjust the amount to taste if you’re using them in a cocktail or coffee beverage.
In cocktails, agave syrup works well in place of simple syrup (it’s sometimes added to margaritas to sweeten them). The agave plant produces the nectar. After that, it is transformed into a syrup that is more commonly available. Since the flavor is quite unassuming, it’s a wonderful choice for cocktails. Use it as a 1:1 substitution for simple syrup.
Another excellent alternative to simple syrup is honey. Although it has a slightly stronger flavor than maple syrup, it can still be substituted. Make honey syrup out of it since honey can have a very thick consistency. You can use honey syrup in place of simple syrup 1:1 by following this recipe for honey syrup.
Who or what makes simple syrup?
I have strong feelings regarding simple syrup because I was a barista in the past. Even though I’d never pass judgment on a customer’s drink selection, I did actually shudder whenever I watched someone add sugar to their iced coffee. Reviewing the science: At low temperatures, it might take a long time for solids, such sugar granules, to dissolve. Even if you vigorously stir the ice, the sugar will continue to settle to the bottom of your cup. Syrup, though, is a straightforward remedy.
A liquid sweetener called simple syrup is created by combining sugar and water. That is it, exactly. Simple syrup is a crucial ingredient in many iced drinks and cocktails because it equally distributes sweetness throughout beverages of any temperature (like sparkling beet lemonade or a whiskey sour).
There are two primary types of simple syrup: rich syrup, which is more viscous and is created with twice as much sugar as water (2:1 ratio), and standard syrup, which is made with an equal amount of sugar and water (1:1). Everything can be weighed out by volume (for example, 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water), but if accuracy is important to you, weighing your water and sugar will produce results that are slightly more precise.
Simple syrup can be made in two different ways: hot and cold. You get to choose your own adventure at this point because both methods are really simple and each has its own distinct benefits and drawbacks.
The heated method of making simple syrup on the stove is more typical. Equal parts of water and sugar should be brought to a boil in a pot while being continually stirred until the sugar has completely dissolved. If you allow too much water to evaporate, your syrup will reduce and cook down, becoming much thicker and sweeter than you had anticipated. Remove from heat, pour into a lidded glass or plastic container, and allow to cool completely before using.
Perhaps because it requires a little more time, the cold approach is generally disliked more than its cooktop equivalent. Many recipes call for stirring sugar and water at room temperature every 10 to 15 minutes, but Drink What You Want author John deBary swears by a different method that doesn’t involve stirring: using a blender.
DeBary explains, “I normally need to utilize [simple syrup] right away, but that’s difficult when it’s hot! Simple syrup is a liquid that may be used immediately that is produced by blending sugar and room temperature water together on high for a full minute and then letting it sit for another full minute.
Simple syrup can be readily altered because it is essentially just sugar water by adding another ingredient that will flavor it. Flavorings can be added by crushing entire spices like cardamom and fennel as well as dried flowers like hibiscus and citrus peels. It’s a low-risk approach to try out various flavors in a drink, according to deBary.
Be careful that the two methods for infusion operate somewhat differently from one another: When utilizing the cold blender technique, place the flavorings, sugar, and water directly into the blender, and blend until smooth. DeBary loves this process since it allows for infusion without a loss in flavor when utilizing delicate ingredients like herbs. When using the hot approach, you can just add your fresh hot syrup and your fruit, herb, and/or spice mixture, and let it sit for 24 hours before filtering.
Once more, it depends on the adventure you pick. Hot-processed ordinary syrup, when properly stored, can last up to a month in the refrigerator and rich syrup, up to six months, claims Food Republic. However, mold can develop in cold-processed syrups in about half the time.
produced more than you can utilize? DeBary advises preserving any surplus simple syrup and defrosting it as required in the microwave or over night in the refrigerator. How easy!
What components make up basic sugar syrup?
Simple syrup is quite simple to produce, and since it keeps for a while in the fridge, we can create a big quantity and use it whenever we want to mix a drink.
You simply need two components to make simple syrup: water and sugar. The most typical simple syrup proportion is equal parts water and sugar. This is not to say that you couldn’t add more sugar to the syrup to make it richer or less sugar to make it leaner.
Simple syrup can even be made while having fun. Brown sugar can be substituted for white sugar to create a syrup that is rich, almost caramel-like, and goes nicely in drinks like this Old Fashioned or our Lemon Drop Martini. Honey is also a good suggestion, especially since it can be tough to use honey in cocktails alone. Pure honey is solid and won’t mix with the drink.
You may thin honey while preserving flavor by preparing a honey simple syrup. The creation of flavored simple syrup is another concept.
- Light and dark brown sugar and water should be combined in equal amounts to make brown simple syrup. It should be simmered for a while to allow the sugar to dissolve.
- To prepare honey simple syrup, mix one part water and one part honey in a 1:1 ratio for a mildly flavored honey syrup, or use two parts honey and one part water for a stronger honey flavor. Try out different honeys to make honey syrup. Orange blossom honey might be a good addition to cocktails that call for citrus, whereas clover honey is light and sweet.
- Combine sugar and water in equal parts, then add citrus zest to create simple syrup with a citrus flavor. Everything should simmer. A simple syrup with citrus taste is created when the sugar dissolves and the oils and flavor of the zest leak out of the water as it simmers. When using spices, think of whole cloves, star anise, and cinnamon.
Updated recipe; first published in October 2011. 2011 saw the publication of this, and since then, we’ve improved the recipe’s clarity. Joanne and Adam
Can I use water for the simple syrup?
If you’re looking for a replacement simply because you’ve ran out of simple syrup, don’t worry, just make more. It’s really simple to manufacture. Simply combine equal parts sugar and hot water, stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then allow the mixture to cool. I usually mix one cup of sugar with one cup of hot water that is hot enough for the sugar to dissolve but not boiling. The syrup should then be transferred to a container and kept in the refrigerator so that it is available for drinks at any time.
There are a few substitutes you can try if you don’t have time to create more, wait for the drink to cool (it is, after all, cocktail hour), or if you would rather not use sugar. Agave nectar makes for the simplest swap because you can typically use it in drinks as an exact 1:1 swap without diluting it. If the recipe calls for half an ounce of simple syrup, for instance, you can substitute half an ounce of agave nectar.
You can also use honey or maple syrup in place of agave nectar, however I prefer to diluted these with water first. To get a sweetness that is not overly cloying or overwhelming, I would substitute a quarter-ounce of honey or maple syrup with a quarter-ounce of water in the example above if the drink asked for a half-ounce of simple syrup.
Can honey be substituted for simple syrup?
The proportion is really flexible, although I usually mix warm water and honey in a 2:1 ratio.
For a solution that is even more liquid, you can also use 1 to 1. (equivalent to simple syrup called for in cocktails). And I’ll combine it in the container itself.
So, for instance, in the squeeze bottle in the image above, I added the warm water first, followed by the honey. I then covered the opening with my finger, placed the cap on, and just shaken it. The thickness can be changed directly in the bottle. I prefer mine to have a consistency similar to maple syrup.
I keep it on my stove next to the salt, as I already mentioned. Interesting enough, I’ve never seen mold grow on this because honey has natural antibacterial characteristics (like you would typically see with maple syrup). The flavor of the honey actually seems to get more rich and nuanced with time, even even fermenting a little.
Even ancient, extremely thick, hard honey can be revived in this manner. Please feel free to use really hot water if your honey has been pasteurized. You can blend the honey and water by swirling them together in a small pot over low heat.
If your honey is raw, try to maintain the water temperature below 110 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve all the beneficial microorganisms.
Test it out! I use liquid honey in most of my marinades and vinaigrettes that ask for sugar, including this Old Fashioned Cocktail, the switchel beverage, the masala chai, and the switchel drink.
Is it necessary to boil simple syrup?
Simple syrup is as simple as it gets. Grab some sugar, add some water, heat it up, and then stop. You’ve already exerted more effort than is necessary. This is why.
Ready for the forehead slap?
It is not necessary to heat simple syrup. Actually, the science is quite straightforward. At ambient temperature, water easily dissolves sucrose (granulated sugar). Amount of sucrose? 2000g/L, or merely enough to produce a thick 2:1 simple syrup in terms of mass.
True, it takes some time for the sugar to dissolve. Making a 1:1 syrup is as simple as mixing equal parts sugar and water; it will be ready in 15 to 20 minutes.
However, you’ll likely need to wait closer to 45 minutes for a 2:1 syrup, giving it a thorough shake or stir halfway through.
Do you think 45 minutes is a long time? Sure, making syrup in the microwave or on the stove is quicker, but bear in mind that you’ll need to wait for the heated syrup to cool. Additionally, there are fewer dishes to clean up and less active time with the non-heated method.
Benefits to not heating simple syrup
Since I began producing syrup in this manner, I’ve been aware of a few more advantages. First off, syrup that has not been heated appears to be very little more viscous (thicker). Darcy O’Neil, a cocktail author and chemist, claims that this is because heating sucrose causes it to break down into less complex fructose and glucose molecules. Additionally, a thicker mouthfeel is typically a positive attribute in cocktails, as you may recall from our piece on gomme syrup.
The other, more significant advantage is that you can avoid cooking off sensitive aromatics.
For instance, I wouldn’t have to worry about boiling out the delicate aromas and fragrances of the juice if I wanted to make a syrup with fresh squeezed orange juice as the base.
Without heat, fresh herbs and delicate spices also perform well. Additionally, you can combine methods, for example, by macerating grapefruit peels and then combining them with grapefruit juice at room temperature to create a syrup.
One reason you still might want to cook a syrup
Of course, every method has drawbacks. The major drawback of not heating simple syrups is this.
A simple syrup’s naturally existing bacteria and other germs are killed to some extent during cooking. Before the syrup cools, pour it into a mason jar. The hot liquid will destroy any microorganisms that may be present there as well.
The risks of microbiological deterioration vary depending on the location. Rich 2:1 syrup supposedly lasts indefinitely, however mine, even when refrigerated, only lasts around three months. Using the cold process approach might not be the best choice for you if you already experience problems with the syrup spoiling before you can utilize it all.
If you already have trouble getting your simple syrups to last, making cold-infused syrup might not be worth it to you. But in situations where you need a quick syrup and don’t want to heat up the stove or when you want to prevent cooking off delicate ingredients, this tip might be useful.
Another reason to cook a syrup
Here is how I create grenadine at home, a classic pomegranate syrup: A Pyrex measuring cup should contain a cup of POM pomegranate juice. Microwave the mixture until there is only half a cup remaining.
I adore the earthy, caramelized flavors that result from thoroughly heating the pomegranate syrup. The flavor of caramelized syrup in general, I mean, is just amazing.
So by all means use heat to develop flavor if that’s what you want to do. However, you might want to keep things cold if you’re trying to prevent aromatic flavors from cooking off.
Your favorite homemade syrup, what is it? Have you ever employed the cold-infusion technique?
You most likely have granulated refined sugar, often known as “white sugar” or “normal sugar,” in your cupboard or on your counter. The majority of us use this sugar for baking, cooking, brewing coffee, and topping cereal, and it’s good for drinks as well. It is not only a suitable alternative to simple syrup, but also the basic ingredient used to make it: one part refined sugar and one part water.
White sugar is highly refined cane sugar that has had all of the molasses boiled out of it. This is the main distinction between white sugar and other types of sugar. That indicates that the flavor is primarily sweet with little to no additional flavor.
Although technically identical to conventional granulated sugar, superfine granulated sugar is, as its name suggests, ground extra finer. Although superfine sugar dissolves much more quickly than granulated sugar, it still has lovely, sweet crystals as opposed to the almost eerily fine, uncannily cool sugar-cornstarch mixture advertised as powdered sugar. While the difference is insignificant in hot beverages, it does dissolve more quickly than normal sugar in cold beverages and most cocktails.
Many Old Fashioned enthusiasts insist that the drink must be prepared using a sugar cube in the “old-fashioned” manner in order to qualify as such.
While it’s true that The Art of Mixology and Meehan’s Bartender Manual are among the holy texts of the cocktail revolution and include recipes for Old Fashioned drinks that ask for sugar cubes, let’s not be ridiculous. A teaspoon of granulated sugar is compressed into a cube to form a sugar cube.
Even while it sounds cool to crunch up the cube when you combine the sugar and bitters, the cube itself only contains around a teaspoon of loose granulated sugar. Nearly everything about the sound is the same.
Additionally, if you’re really picky about the authenticity of your sweetener, you’ll need to look for a sugar loaf. This enormous, artillery-shell-shaped block of unrefined sugar was probably the sweetener used to prepare the first Old Fashioned in the early 1800s (called simply “Cocktail or “Whiskey Cocktail back then). Sugar loaves needed a special pair of shears called “sugar nips” to be cut into bits since they were as hard as rocks. Just for a moment, let’s all look off into the distance and remember a simpler time, when “sugar nips” could only refer to a certain kitchen utensil and not another object or set of things.
Look at the panela that is marketed all over Latin America for a contemporary equivalent of the sugar loaf; imagine it to be paler, harder, and the size of a Jack Russell terrier.
Turbinado and Demerara Sugars
Turbinado and demerara are two minimally refined cane sugars that retain more of the plant’s molasses and natural flavor. Both are light brown as a result, though not nearly as dark as what we typically refer to as “brown sugar.” Their flavor is likewise more akin to refined sugar than brown sugar, but there is unquestionably more of it.
Turbinado sugar is the more widely accessible of the two; one brand is Sugar in the Raw, which can be obtained in most grocery shops and at Starbucks’ napkin-and-stirrer table. It pours like granulated sugar but is coarser.
The claim that turbinado may replace white sugar exactly to the same degree as demerara is frequently made. While demerara retains some moisture, turbinado’s texture is noticeably dryer than that of the brown types (though not as much as brown). Demerara crystals are bigger than turbinado crystals, therefore they dissolve more slowly in drinks.
Both sugars (and the syrup made from them) have their fans, but many bartenders swear by demerara syrup as the foundation for syrup-based Old Fashioneds. Turbinado and demerara tend not to get buried in a drink the way more refined sugars and syrups do because of their deeper, slightly caramel/toffee flavors.
Why Are You So Mean About Syrup?
“The syrup, what about it? Return to the simple syrup, please! What exactly is wrong with it, anyway?
Why bother making any effort to select a quality bourbon or rye, procure the appropriate glass, measure ingredients, and other steps when you can just throw in some incredibly refined, practically flavorless sugar crap from a plastic squeeze bottle? Really?
Simple syrup is essentially the most flavorless product that is nevertheless considered “sweet.
What about sweeteners used in cocktails, such as agave, honey, and maple syrup? My man, those are specialty goods. They appear in many recipes and are wonderful when used as directed. Use one if you like the flavor, but once more: If you’re making an Old Fashioned or another traditional American cocktail, use high-quality cane sugar if authenticity is what you’re after.
Syrup, or No Syrup? Substituting for Simple Syrup
Sucrose or not syrup, then? If you’re making an Old Fashioned, do you need syrup or can you get by with a syrup substitute? What should you do if a recipe calls for simple syrup but you’ve made the prudent decision to forego both the convenient store-bought simple syrup and the slightly unsanitary homemade version? What will the substitute for simple syrup look like?
Don’t go one for one if you elect to use granulated sugar; failing to take into account the additional water in simple syrup can result in an overly sweet beverage. About 1.5 teaspoons of simple syrup are made from one teaspoon of granulated white sugar. You might want to use only approximately two-thirds of a teaspoon of the granulated type if your recipe calls for a teaspoon of simple syrup. Sugar may always be increased, but it cannot be taken away.