5 Syrups Every Home Bartender Should Know How to Make
Crafting your own syrups at home is a simple, yet essential, task for making cocktails. Without the appropriate sweetener, no Daiquiri, Old-Fashioned, Gimlet, or Mai Tai can be executed properly.
A well-made syrup balances certain ingredients, while enhancing others. It adds body and texture to a cocktail, turning a simple sour into something memorable and worth drinking again.
Syrups can be made with fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, and other ingredients to augment the flavor in a way that benefits that cocktail you are planning to make, but before jumping into those “secondary” tier syrups, there are a few basic recipes for making classic cocktails that every home bartender, and professional, should know how to make. We recommend weighing in grams if you have a scale for the most accurate measurements, otherwise you can apply the ratios in cups. Here are the five syrups you need to know, along with some common cocktail applications.
While these are technically two separate types of sugar, we are combining them because they are relatively neutral sweeteners if you are using the refined organic crystallized sugar from the grocery store. (Cane syrup can also be made from fresh cane juice, but that’s not as common and is typically bought pre-packaged.) This will be a home bar staple as it is employed in a wide array of classics.
1 part granulated sugar
1 part water
Or, for a rich simple syrup:
2 parts granulated sugar
1 part water
Directions: Combine granulated sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat for 1–2 minutes. Stir gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Funnel the syrup into a glass bottle or jar, and cover. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Demerara is common amongst tiki, or tropical, cocktails. The sugar has delicate notes of caramel, which pairs well with darker spirits like rum, or whiskey. If you don’t anticipate making those types of drinks often, then this might just be one to keep filed away for when the time comes, but it is definitely one of the core five.
1 part Demerara or Turbinado sugar
1 part water
Directions: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature and transfer to a clean glass jar. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Most commercial honey in its organic form is too viscous to mix with other liquids, so it needs to be cut with water to effectively find its way into a cocktail. Honey syrup adds body, texture, and a distinctive flavor in cocktails; and depending on how the honey is sourced, it can bring a range of various notes to the mix as well. It is most notably employed in cocktails such as the Bee’s Knees, and Gold Rush.
2 parts honey
1 part water
Directions: Combine honey and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until the honey combines. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature and transfer to a clean glass jar. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Cocktails to try: Gold Rush, Airmail, Bee’s Knees
Agave syrup is earthy and lightly floral, making it a versatile syrup for cocktails. The obvious use for this syrup is for any cocktails that need a sweetener and contain Tequila, or mezcal, but it also compliments whiskey as well.
1 part agave nectar
¾ part water
Directions: Combine agave nectar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature and transfer to a clean glass jar. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Cocktails to try: Margarita, Oaxacan Old-Fashioned
Orgeat is a French nut syrup traditionally made with almonds, but can be made with any type of nut including pistachio, walnut, or even sunflower seeds. It is an essential syrup in the tiki cocktail cannon, but isn’t the easiest to make. For those who are culinary-inclined and are up for more of a challenge, this recipe is for you. Otherwise, craft producers such as B.G Reynolds, Small Hand Foods, and Giffard all produce pre-bottled versions that are worth buying.
2 parts blanched almonds
1 ½ parts sugar
1 ¼ parts water
½ teaspoon orange flower water per cup of water
1 oz brandy (to increase the shelf life)
Directions: Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves completely. Lightly simmer the syrup for three minutes, then add in the ground almonds. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for another three minutes, then slowly increase the temperature to medium high. Just before it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and cover with a lid.
Allow the covered nut mixture to infuse for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. Then, strain it through a nut milk bag, discarding the ground almonds for another use. Stir the orange flower water and brandy into the nutty syrup, then use a small funnel to portion the orgeat into bottles or a jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Cocktails to know: Mai Tai, Trinidad Sour, Fog Cutter