While I do make simple syrups from scratch, sometimes I am busy. You might not have the time to heat up water and sugar, and then wait for it to cool either. There’s nothing worse than getting amped about a recipe and then adding extra time to prepare it. Or maybe that’s just me. Even if you don’t mind the time, you might not have all the ingredients you need. Sure water and sugar are easy to come by, but what if you want to add a little more flavor to your sweetener? These simple syrup alternatives are easy and will add some extra flavor to your cocktails or mocktails.
1. Agave Syrup
The agave plant is glorious. Not only does it provide us agave spirits like mezcal and tequila, it’s also a source of sweetener. You will see it labeled as agave syrup or nectar. It’s one of my favorite simple syrup alternatives because it is shelf-stable (no refrigeration needed) and dissolves quickly.
For culinary purposes, blue agave syrup is most common. It is roughly 1.5 times sweeter than sugar. I generally cut the amount of simple syrup in a recipe in half when using agave. The flavor of agave is not overpowering and it’s easy to find for purchase. I like this brand best for flavor and price.
Another one of my favorite simple syrup alternatives is to use a liqueur in place of the simple syrup. Not only does a liqueur add sweetness, it also adds fun flavors. For example, I love a French 75. By using a ginger liqueur or a bergamot liqueur in place of the simple syrup takes it in a whole new direction. Adding a liqueur to a margarita (many people use an orange liqueur), a gimlet, a gin & tonic, or a mojito are great drinks to start with. There are so many liqueurs to choose from. Some of my favorite liqueurs are:
- St. Germain – an elderflower; often referred to as “bartender’s ketchup” (goes with almost everything)
- Zirbenz – stone pine liqueur
- Ancho Reyes – chili liqueur; two versions that add a nice vegetal and spicy kick to your drink
- Luxardo Maraschino – cherry liqueur
- Cynar – artichoke amaro liqueur; provides a nice bitterness to your stirred cocktails
3. Orgeat Syrup
Orgeat (pronounced “or-zsa”) is a syrup made from almonds, sugar, and orange flower water. The flavor is a distinct addition to many tiki drinks, but is also amazing in an Old Fashioned. While it is possible to make your own orgeat syrup, it’s far more complex than making a simple syrup. It involves soaking, blending, and straining nuts, in addition to making the syrup. I tried once and the whole thing molded almost immediately. To avoid the headache, I just use commercially made syrups. I have found a couple of brands that I love to use:
- Liber & Co. Almond Orgeat – delicious and probably one of the easiest brands to find
- El Guapo Creole Orgeat – made with the owner’s family’s own pecans; goes great in everything (I’m obsessed with this)
- Liquid Alchemist Almond Orgeat – another all natural syrup made in small batches
If you’re wondering where honey is on my list of simple syrup alternatives, I will tell you. Honey is fairly thick and needs to be made into a syrup to dissolve properly. If you’ve ever added it to a shaker tin with ice, you’ve probably noticed that it instantly hardens to the side. One might make an argument for maple syrup, but I don’t find myself using maple flavors much. What are some of your favorite simple syrup substitutions? Drop me a comment.