Simple Syrup: The Simplest Sweetener

Simple syrup is nothing more than a tool for adding sugar to cocktails as efficiently as possible. Sugar has been an essential ingredient in cocktails from the very start. Simple syrup consists of refined white sugar and water. The two ingredients are typically added in a 1:1 ratio, but a 2:1 ratio (2 parts sugar to 1 part water) is popular among some bartenders.

Simple syrup dates back to the origin of the cocktail. It is associated with some versions of the old-fashioned, which many believe to be the first-ever cocktail. It originated as a means to solve a simple problem that arose when mixing drinks. The problem is that sugar granules do not quickly dissolve into cold water. As a result, a pre-mixed liquid sweetener was necessary to speed up the process.

Simple syrup flavor profile

Simple syrup’s flavor profile is sweet and nothing more; however, the degree of sweetness can vary a lot if you measure the ingredients by volume. Experts recommend that you measure both the water and the sugar by weight using a kitchen scale.

Also, keep in mind that how you combine the water and sugar can make a difference in mouthfeel. Shaking or stirring 1:1 simple syrup at room temperature will eventually result in both ingredients blending perfectly so that there are no sugar crystals at the bottom of the container. Still, it may take some time to get them mixed. When mixed this way, the syrup makes the mouthfeel of drinks richer and more viscous.

The alternative method for blending sugar and water is to apply heat, which speeds up the dissolution process considerably but results in a syrup that lacks the same mouthfeel.

A 2:1 ratio creates what some call a rich simple syrup that is not only sweeter than the 1:1 version. It provides its sweetness without as much water, which can enhance a drink’s flavor.

Health benefits of simple syrup

Simple syrup consists of refined white sugar crystals dissolved in water, which means that its health benefits are marginal at best. It can provide a burst of energy due to the high calories provided by the sugar, but it will provide little else. Simple syrup is not a source of vitamins, minerals or any other nutrient other than carbohydrates from the sugar.

Health concerns

Because its flavor comes from the significant amount of sugar it contains, simple syrup does come with some serious health risks. For starters, the refined white sugar used to make it can increase your risk of obesity and of developing type 2 diabetes.

Sugar consumption is also linked to health problems like Alzheimer’s disease, depression and even cancer. Note that simple syrup does have a shelf life. Because it can go bad from bacteria and other microbes, it should be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup made with the stovetop method will have a longer shelf-life than the version made at room temperature simply because the heat has killed some of the organisms that would cause spoilage.

Common uses

Simple syrup is the main sweetener in many popular cocktails, making it one of the most important ingredients in any barman’s toolkit. You will need to have simple syrup on hand if you plan to make appletinis, lemon drops or pisco sours along with a vast number of popular alcoholic beverages.