Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener most commonly associated with cocktails. True to its name, its recipe is simple: sugar and water in a 1:1 ratio. It is easy to make, but you can buy premixed versions of it as well. Whether you need a healthier alternative to simple syrup or an emergency replacement, here are some of your best simple syrup substitutes:
Your best bet: Honey
You can use honey as an alternative to simple syrup in a variety of cocktails, including those that have intense citrus flavors. Honey is a perfect alternative in whiskey sours, lemon drop martinis, and even old fashioned cocktails.
Because pure honey is much more viscous than simple syrup, you will need to thin it out by adding water to it. The easiest way to do this is to place honey and water (in equal parts) into a small pot and heat them until they blend. You can then place your honey syrup into a squeeze bottle to make dispensing it easier. Honey has the benefit of being one of the easiest simple syrup substitutes to find as well as being relatively healthy.
While the honey syrup is a suitable replacement for simple syrup, keep in mind that there will be some key differences. It will not have the same neutral sweetness as simple syrup. Honey has a distinctive flavor profile that will give drinks a floral flavor note. Honey syrup may not work with all cocktails, but it should work with most.
Aside from flavor, another important difference has to do with consistency. Honey syrup is thicker than simple syrup, so it will pour more slowly and may not be as easy to measure.
A decent second choice: Agave nectar
The nectar from the maguey type of agave plant comes in different grades and colors similar to molasses, corn syrup, and other liquid sweeteners. The lighter variety is closer to a neutral sweetener, like the refined white sugar in simple syrup. It provides sweetness with few other flavor notes. This flavor profile allows it to sweeten cocktails without masking or otherwise affecting the flavors of the other ingredients.
Agave nectar can have some serious health effects. While it does have a lower glycemic index rating than simple syrup, it contains much more fructose than you would get from the refined white sugar used to make simple syrup. Fructose does not cause the kind of insulin spike that you get from glucose, so it is less likely to cause type 2 diabetes; however, it is processed in the liver and can cause fatty liver disease.
In a pinch: Maple syrup
While maple syrup is more commonly associated with breakfast foods like waffles and pancakes, it can also work as a sweetener in cocktails and other beverages, just like simple syrup. Maple syrup is not an incredibly healthy sweetener since, but it does have a few minerals like calcium and zinc that you won’t get from simple syrup.
Like honey, most maple syrup has a strong and distinctive flavor profile that is different from simple syrup’s neutral sweetness. The flavor may not work in all cocktails. Keep in mind that there are different grades of maple syrup corresponding to color. Darker maple syrups have more robust flavors, while lighter ones are closer to neutral. When seeking to replace simple syrup, you will probably want to opt for a milder tasting light-colored maple syrup.
Stevia syrup has zero calories and provides a somewhat neutral sweetness that may work as a healthy substitute for simple syrup.