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.

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