Syrups: Easy Recipes

Here are the recipes for some basic syrups that I like to keep at my bar at all times.

Simple Syrup:

Use a scale to weigh out your sugar and your warm water. This recipe works in any amount as long as you use an equal weight of sugar to warm water. I then use a whisk or immersion blender to combine the mixture until there are no sugar solids left. You can store this syrup in a closed container in the refrigerator for up to a month but I recommend making smaller batches so it stays fresh.

Demerara Syrup:

Follow the same steps as above but substitute Demerara sugar for white sugar.

**The same technique can be used for any crystalized sugar (coconut sugar, brown sugar, muscovado , etc…)

Cinnamon Demerara Syrup:

Take 6 Cinnamon Sticks and toast them in a shallow pot over high heat until they become fragrant (approx. 3 minutes). Then add 1 cup of water to the pot. Boil for about 5 minutes. While it is boiling, weigh out a quart container full of Demerara sugar and add equal weight in water to a bowl. Place this liquid into the pot with the cinnamon sticks and stir until sugar solids dissolve. Strain out the cinnamon sticks and store in a seal container in the fridge.

Agave/Honey/Maple Syrups

When making a syrup out of a sweetener that is already a liquid, less water is needed. In this case I use a 60/40 ratio of 60% Sweetener to 40% water. The reason that bartenders water down honey/maple/agave is so these syrups can be easily poured from a pour spout. Use your best judgement to adjust to the brand of sweetener. For example, some honeys can be much more viscus than others. Taste your syrups as you add water to them and find that sweet spot where it is thin enough to quickly dissolve into a cocktail while still maintaining its flavor.



Syrups: An Introduction

What is a Syrup?

A syrup is a viscous, pourable liquid. It can be found naturally in nature (ex. Maple syrup, honey, agave) or it can be made from mixing sugar with liquid to create a pourable sweet syrup. There are many different types of syrups.

Here are a few that I commonly use behind the bar.

  •      Simple Syrup is a mixture of half sugar and half water by weight. It can be used in almost any cocktail. Both spirit forward and citrus cocktails can benefit from the addition of simple syrup.
  •      Gomme Syrup is an extra thick syrup that helps to give weight to the mouth-feel of a drink. It is made from Arabic Gum (AKA Acacia Gum) mixed with water. You can add sugar if you want to make it sweet. I like to use this type of syrup in citrus cocktails to add weight to the palate.
  •      Cinnamon Demerara is a mixture of demerera, a brown cane sugar from Guyana, with cinnamon and water. This syrup is great in tiki style cocktails but tastes awesome in a wide variety of other drinks too. I also keep a plain demerera syrup on hand because I love how it tastes in an Old Fashion.

There are also many fruit based syrups that are often kept in stock at bars. For example, Grenadine, a traditionally pomegranate syrup, not what you get at your discount grocer, is an excellent thing to keep behind the bar! It can be used for so much more than just Shirley Temples. I make mine  with pomegranate juice, sugar, orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses but I am not quite ready to give up my portions on this one. It’s a family secret for now! Other fruit based syrups could be made with pineapple, strawberry, blackberry, etc.

You can also make herb/spice syrups. This can be as simple as adding a few habañeros or some mint to your simple syrup. The possibilities are endless!

Simple Suggestion:

When adding herbs and spices to cocktails, I feel that using a tincture, bitters or just good fresh herbs/spices is typically a better way to go. These other options make it easier to control the herbal/spice elements without an increase in sugar content.

For example, if your spicy component in a Margarita is a habañero simple syrup, it is impossible to increase the heat in the drink without also increasing the sugar content. Therefore, something like Scrappy’s Firewater Bitters, or a homemade tincture, might be a better option! This way, you can turn up the heat and maintain a balanced cocktail.

What’s Up Next:

The next post will list some recipes for syrups that you can keep in stock for your bar. The great thing about the high sugar content of syrups is that they last a long time! You can make a batch and keep it on hand at home so you are always ready for an impromptu cocktail party.

What is a shrub?

Nope, it’s not a plant that grows in your front yard.

A shrub is technically a drinking vinegar. The use of cocktail shrubs can be found as far back as the 17th Century. They are a liquid composed of fruit, sugar, and vinegar.

Shrubs have made their way into the craft cocktail bar scene due to their ability to enhance the flavor of a drink and add a sort of depth to cocktails that can’t be achieved with juice or sugar alone.

How to make a shrub?

There are many ways to make a shrub. My preferred method is to use a pressurized vacuum sealer. I fill the vacuum sealer bag with fruit & sugar in equal weights. I then seal the bag to remove all air and let the sealed bag sit a room temperature for 24 hours. During this time the sugar and fruit macerate completely. Maceration is the process in which the sugar eats at the flesh of the fruit and turns it into a juice.  I then put this juice into a container and stir in an equal weight of vinegar. I recommend that you use a scale to weigh out your ingredients to get the best results. I put all of this (sugar/fruit/juice/vinegar) in a new vacuum sealed bag and keep it the fridge until the fruit is completely eaten by the sugar & vinegar. Lastly, I fine strain this mixture to remove any unwanted sediment and then I have a shrub!

Some of my favorite shrub flavors to make are:

Strawberry Basil, Peach, Concord Grape, Avocado Cilantro, the list could go on forever. Pretty much any fruit/herb combination is possible. Don’t be afraid to try something strange and see how it tastes!

Here is a video, from when I worked at The Nolen, of me explaining one of my cocktails, The Burning Bush. I originally created this cocktail when I worked at Tavern Law in Seattle but re-adapted it for San Diego when I moved down!

This cocktail features my homemade strawberry shrub.


Welcome to Simply Stirred

The way I see it, there are three steps to make a cocktail. Once you know the basic ingredients and learn what types of flavors work well together you can use these steps to produce delicious beverages.

The three steps I focus on are:

  1.     Ingredients
  2.     Technique
  3.     Presentation

I will take you inside the mind of a bartender so that you can understand why we do the things we do. You’ll come to see that there is a lot more to it than throwing a bunch of booze into a cup – yet it can be quite simple once you get the hang of it!

Spirit Forward vs. Citrus

If you ask a bartender for a custom cocktail the first question they will probably ask you back is “Would you like a spirit forward cocktail or do you prefer something with citrus?”

The difference between a spirit forward & a citrus based cocktail is quite simple.

A spirit forward cocktail consists of alcohol with perhaps the addition of bitters, a cordial, syrup and/or fortified wine. The only citrus element of a spirit forward cocktail would be the garnish (for example; lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit peel, or zest). Citrus flavored bitters or tinctures may also be used in a spirit forward drink.

Some of the most classic examples of spirit forward cocktails are the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac and the Ford Cocktail.  These cocktails are more boozy, and have a little bit more of a bite. Definitely not for “Felicia” who likes the lemon drops!

On the other hand, the basic components of a citrus cocktail would be the spirit and then citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, etc..), bitters or tincture, fresh fruits, and maybe something bubbly like Champagne, Prosecco, soda water, or ginger beer.

Some classic examples of citrus cocktails are a Sour, Gimlet, Bee’s Knees, Last Word and a Sidecar.

Go to my recipe page to check out the recipes I choose to use for these classic cocktails – some may be slightly different than what you use or have been taught. Bartenders around the world have been making and adapting these “classics” for years and many people use slightly different recipes. Mine are the ones that work best for me and taste the best to my palate but if you prefer yours a different way – by all means make what you like! Cocktails are meant to be enjoyed and it is unnecessary  to have too many rules.