One of the easiest ways to experiment with cocktails, is to use an infused simple syrup. It allows you to transform a cocktail you already like into something slightly different. A simple syrup is typically one part sugar and one part water over heat, to dissolve the sugar. And an infusion is just soaking leaves or a plant in liquid. So, making an infused simple syrup is quick and easy. If you can boil water, you can make your own infused simple syrup. Let’s get started!
Tips on Making Infused Simple Syrup
Use the right tools
As with most things, it’s easier to get the job done with the right tools. I would highly recommend using the 450mL Crew Chubby Bottles (use the code COCKTAILS-AWAY for 10% off your order) to store your syrups. Not only can you easily strain your syrups into the bottom of the screw-off bottom, but the bottles are easy to clean in the dishwasher. (Syrups can be pretty sticky, so that is a big plus for me!) And they are easy to label with a bit of washi tape and a Sharpie.
I would also recommend a good quality fine mesh strainer. This one from A Bar Above is perfect for making simple syrups, and many other tasks. I love it for double straining cocktails. It’s slightly larger that other mesh strainers I’ve owned, which is especially important when you are making things like the lavender honey syrup. You can use the code COCKTAILSAWAY2020 for 10% off your order at A Bar Above as well.
Grow your own herbs
While you can certainly buy what you need at the store, you can also grow your own. I am just getting started with my own garden, and I am looking forward to making my own syrups with those herbs as well.
1. Rosemary Infused Simple Syrup
Rosemary Simple Syrup
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup water
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- Add sugar and water to a small saucepan and stir continuously over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
- Remove pan from heat.
- Add the sprigs of rosemary, stir, and cover pan to allow syrup to steep for 20 minutes.
- Strain into storage container through a mesh strainer. Refrigerate and use within four weeks.
Rosemary provides a lovely herbal and floral flavor to dishes you cook and adds the same qualities to drinks as well. I discovered rosemary simple syrup through a holiday cocktail called a Dickory Dock. (The link includes the recipe for that cocktail and also a honey version of a rosemary simple syrup you might like as well. And, while winter holiday drinks typically aren’t something you’d want year-round, this one is an exception.) Other uses for the rosemary simple syrup that I recommend are in a gin gimlet or a French 75.
2. Lavender Honey Infused Simple Syrup
Lavender Honey Simple Syrup
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup water
- 0.5 cup lavender flowers
- Combine honey and water into a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until dissolved.
- Turn off burner and stir in flowers. Muddle lightly to break up the buds. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
- Strain through a mesh strainer into a storage container.
- Store in the refrigerator for up to six weeks.
I bought some organic, food-grade lavender to make a lavender Bee’s Knees. A simple twist of flavor to the typically lemon-forward drink. Once I started making infused simple syrups, it occurred to me that I could make that drink a lot easier with a syrup, instead of muddling the lavender into the gin. Instead, you muddle the lavender into the syrup itself. This syrup is also great in a vodka martini and a whiskey sour. For the latter, add 2 ounces of whiskey to 0.75 ounces of both the lavender syrup and lemon juice. Shake with ice and strain to serve up.
Lavender Bee’s Knees
- 2 oz gin
- 0.75 oz lemon juice
- 0.5 oz lavender honey syrup
- Shake ingredients with ice.
- Strain into a chilled glass and serve up.
3. Cascara Cinnamon Infused Simple Syrup
Cascara Cinnamon Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 0.5 cup agave
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 20 grams cascara (coffee cherry) tea
- Combine water and agave in a small saucepan over medium heat until agave is dissolved and the mixture is lightly boiling.
- Add cascara tea bags and cinnamon sticks and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
- Take off heat and let steep for 10-15 more minutes.
- Let mixture cool, remove tea bags and cinnamon sticks, and pour into storage container. Keeps for 6-8 weeks refrigerated.
Cascara is the dried skins of the coffee cherry fruit. (You can buy some here.) I first learned about it from my friend Cheryl from Boozy Botanicals. She had invited me to a cascara tasting in Kansas City. The flavor was great and have been meaning to make some simple syrup with the cascara I was given. I was trying to mix things up a bit, so I used agave instead of regular sugar. Agave seems twice as sweet as sugar to me, so I used a 2:1 mixture of water and agave. The resulting syrup is rich in color and would be amazing in a mint julep or a spiked apple cider cocktail with rum. Yum!
Cinnamon Cascara Julep
- 2 oz bourbon
- 0.5 oz cinnamon cascara syrup
- 1 sprig fresh mint
- Stir bourbon and syrup with ice.
- Slap mint and add to a glass filled with crushed ice.
- Pour julep over ice and enjoy!
4. Jalapeño Basil Infused Simple Syrup
Jalapeño Basil Simple Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 jalapeño pepper sliced into 0.25" rounds
- 6 leaves sweet basil ripped in half
- Add water and sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Fully dissolve sugar.
- Take off heat and add peppers and leaves. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes.
- Strain into a container and refrigerate for up to three weeks.
I honestly wasn’t sure if this would work but it is SO good. The resulting syrup is light and fresh. I made a margarita with it and it was incredible. For an easy syrup to make, it has a nicely complex flavor – spicy and herbal. It would also be good as a variation on a mint julep – just add 2 ounces of bourbon, an ounce of syrup, and fresh mint to a glass and muddle. Add some crushed ice and a sprig of mint to serve.
5. Ginger Infused Simple Syrup
- 0.5 pound ginger root
- 170 grams raw sugar
- 170 grams white sugar
- Juice ginger root (a juicer works best).
- Strain juice through a metal mesh strainer.
- Blend juice with sugars until smooth. Store refrigerated for 4-6 weeks.
This syrup is a bit more of a flavored simple syrup, than an infusion, since you leave the ginger juice in the mixture. However, since the mechanics are like all the infused simple syrups, I am including it here. And, it’s so spicy and delicious, I think you’ll forgive my technical oversight. This syrup is great in everything from a mojito to a margarita. Any cocktail that needs a little punch of sweet and spicy is a great pairing for this syrup.
Experiment & Get Creative
There are limitless possibilities for infused simple syrup flavors. It’s easy to make small amounts, cut a recipe above into a quarter the amount and see what you can discover. Rose petals and pink peppercorn? Why not! For more tips on perfecting your home bartending, check out this post!