How to Make Simple Syrups and Infused Liquor353
with Ashlee Redger
Test Kitchen Chef
You’ve heard of simple syrups. They’re often what are responsible for the vanilla part of your nonfat vanilla soy latte or the lavender in that fancy gin drink at your favorite cocktail bar. Simple syrups are super easy to put together (hence the name!) but the flavors they add to drinks, vinaigrettes, desserts, and marinades are anything but basic.
The standard simple syrup is 1 part sugar and 1 part water, boiled together just until the sugar is dissolved—you can adjust that by using 2 parts sugar for a thicker, sweeter result or 2 parts water for a more subtly sweet thin syrup. Making it plain is fine—it’s a good sweetener for iced tea or coffee—but with an addition or two to the boiling syrup, you can add a ton of effortless flavor.
Skip the Plain Sugar
One of the simplest ways to up your simple syrup game is to switch out the regular sugar for an alternative.
Try using Maple Sugar, Honey Powder, agave nectar, or even stevia instead of granulated sugar. A seasoned sugar—like any of our Vanilla Bean Sugars, Whiskey Barrel Smoked Sugar, Black Onyx Chocolate Sugar, or Cinnamon Sugar—adds both flavor and sweetness in one easy step. Various sweeteners will provide different levels of sweetness, so experiment and find your favorite ratio of sweetener to water.
A few years ago, the Savory Test Kitchen created dozens of simple syrups and taste tested them all.
Favorite combos from this experiment included:
If you’re making cocktails, simple syrups aren’t the only ways to infuse flavors. If you’re like me and prefer drinks on the “dryer” side, you can totally use dried seeds, herbs, and flowers to infuse the alcohol itself. Of course, I had to experiment with this a little in the Test Kitchen!
For the purpose of testing the flavors, I made the infusions fairly strong, with 1 tsp. of the seasoning in a jar with 1/4 cup of the given liquor. I let the infusion sit for about a week. The flavors will get stronger the longer you let the infusion go. My taste testers and I tried a little bit of each in cold seltzer. Here are some of the combos we loved:
- Rum + Chai Spices
This was a great suggestion from Stephanie, our Warehouse Operations Manager. It had all the warm spices that would be perfect for adding to eggnog or sangria in autumn and winter.
- Vodka + Lavender
I’ll admit, lavender and gin is a longtime favorite combo of mine, and I had all the intentions of testing that out—until someone in the office mentioned lavender lemonade and I was sold.
- Vodka + Anise
Anise is one of those controversial flavors—you love it or you hate it. I love it, so I really enjoyed this twist for a simple vodka soda, but if you’re not a fan of the black licorice flavor, this probably isn’t for you.
- Whiskey + Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek has a super maple-y scent, so we liked the smooth and sweet flavor it added to the whiskey, with a nice subtle bitterness.
- Whiskey + Cracked Ginger
This was, without a doubt, declared the winner of the experiment. It tasted bright and had that unique spicy citrus flavor that only ginger can provide. Perfect to have on hand for more complex whiskey cocktails or for a quick drink with seltzer. Add a squeeze of lime and you’ve got an easy Kentucky Mule, no ginger beer needed.
If you want to do some experimenting on your own, we thought of a few more suggestions:
- Vodka or tequila + Hibiscus Flower
- Tequila + Whole Ancho Chiles
- Vodka + Dill Seeds (Bloody Mary, coming right up)
- Rum + Dried Mango + Jamaican Allspice Berries
- Whiskey or vodka + Minced Orange, Lemon, or Lime Peel
- Anything + Candied Orange Peel or Crystalized Ginger
- Vodka + Pink Reunion Island Peppercorns
- Rum + Grains of Paradise
What simple syrups or infused alcohols will you be trying out? Let us know in the comments below! Don’t forget to tag us in all of your social media posts so we can see your awesome Savory creations.