Countless cocktails contain sugar in some form, whether it’s the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned or the orange liqueur in a Sidecar or Margarita.
One of the most common ways to sweeten a drink is simple syrup. Just dissolve one part granulated sugar into an equal amount of water in a saucepan, and you have a sweetener that mixes into drinks more easily than regular sugar. Best of all, it can act as a blank canvas on which to incorporate ingredients like fresh herbs, vanilla bean, and ginger. These are some of our favorite variations, from easy tweaks that make cocktails extra-flavorful to slightly more complex syrups like almond-based orgeat (a cornerstone of the classic Mai Tai) and Don’s Gardenia Mix.
As its name implies, this syrup is simple to make, consisting of equal parts sugar and water. When made in batches, it can be stored for weeks or even months in a refrigerated airtight container, allowing you to mix up classics like the Tom Collins, Mint Julep, and Espresso Martini on demand.
Rich Simple Syrup
Want a sweeter sweetener? The ratio changes to two parts granulated sugar and one part water in a rich simple syrup. This option is often used to add more body to drinks and reduce dilution, making it a great choice for thinner cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks that would benefit from added weight.
Vanilla Simple Syrup
The quickest method to make this sweetener is adding vanilla extract to a base of simple syrup. But taking the time to steep a whole vanilla bean, split in half, for a few hours yields deeper flavor with the same amount of effort. Try the results in a Porn Star Martini or Alex Jump’s non-alcoholic Shot in the Dark.
Ginger Simple Syrup
Fresh ginger lends noticeable spice to this syrup, which features in drinks like the Ginger Rogers. You can also use it to spice up your Hot Toddy or Whiskey Sour, or try it in zero-proof drinks to compensate for the lack of alcoholic burn.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
Cinnamon Simple Syrup
Infuse your simple syrup with cinnamon sticks to create a deeper, spicier profile that balances sweetness with the aromatic bark’s natural tannins. Try it in tropical cocktails like the Jet Pilot or warming hot drinks like the Francophile.
In its pure form, honey can be difficult to mix into cocktails, as its thick consistency can cause it to stick to the bottom of glasses and shakers. Combine equal parts honey and water, and you have a natural sweetener that lends its lushness to drinks like the Bee’s Knees and Gold Rush. Feel free to experiment with different honey varieties, adjusting the ratios as needed.
Teas contribute a tannic bite and layers of complexity to drinks. This recipe is ripe for experimentation, but it’s almost as easy as brewing a regular cup. Steep the tea bags of your choice in hot water, then add granulated sugar.
Basil Simple Syrup
You can infuse simple syrup with any herb to add fresh flavor to cocktails, but one of the most versatile we’ve found is this variation made with basil leaves and turbinado sugar. When refrigerated, it will keep for up to two weeks, longer than the basil would last on its own.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
Mint Simple Syrup
Swap out basil for fresh mint leaves, and you have this refreshing, herbaceous syrup. It can be used as a more self-stable replacement for fresh mint in a Mojito, Mint Julep, and other drinks.
The nutty richness of many tropical-inspired drinks like the Mai Tai owes to orgeat, a creamy syrup traditionally made with blanched almonds and orange flower water. A small amount of brandy can act as a preservative to create a longer-lasting syrup, but may also be omitted if desired.
There are many ways to switch up orgeat using ingredients beyond almonds, but it’s hard to beat this simple pistachio version. A small dose of vodka acts as a fortifying ingredient.
Don’s Gardenia Mix
This honey-butter concoction stars in many tropical-inspired drinks like the Pearl Diver. It takes a little effort to make, but combining honey, unsalted butter, cinnamon syrup, allspice liqueur, and vanilla syrup yields extra-rich results.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
Kumquats infamously contain almost no juice. Bar pro Naren Young extracts their bittersweet flavor by cooking them with sugar and water, then mashing them in the saucepan. He fortifies the resulting syrup with a small amount of vodka.