Simple syrup is one of the primary sweeteners used in cocktails, and fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest ingredients to make. It is a mixture of granulated sugar and water, boiled until incorporated into a silky smooth syrup. But beyond those two ingredients, the variations are endless. You can play with the ratios to create a rich simple syrup, which is two parts sugar to one part water, or you can doctor your syrup with fruits, herbs and spices to achieve a new flavor profile.
One of the more versatile examples is vanilla simple syrup, which can be used to add the sweet, heady flavor of vanilla to a variety of cocktails. And it’s no more difficult to make than regular simple syrup, as the only extra step is to add vanilla extract to the water and sugar mixture.
However, there’s more than one way to achieve that vanilla flavor. Instead of using extract, you could infuse your simple syrup with a vanilla bean pod. In that case, cut the pot in half lengthwise, add it to the hot liquid, and let sit for several hours before using. The result is very similar to using extract, but one pod goes a long way, producing a clearer, more intense flavor.
The best part about homemade vanilla simple syrup is that it can easily be adapted to any size you require. If you’re making syrup for a party, or want to keep a large stash on hand, scale up the ingredients while keeping the proportions the same. Just multiply each component by the number of servings you want to make.
Or maybe the best part about simple syrup is that, once boiled, cooled and sealed, it can live a healthy, productive life for up to a month in the fridge. (Okay, so there are two best parts). Once you make a batch, you’ll always have some ready to dose your favorite drinks.
Although few classic recipes call for vanilla simple syrup, it can be used to modify classics or add rich sweetness to original drinks. The Old Fashioned is a prime example of a drink in which vanilla simple syrup can truly shine. It adds flavor and body to the cocktail, while complementing the vanilla, caramel and baking spice barrel notes that are already present in the whiskey.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add water and sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat.
Stir until sugar is dissolved.
Let cool, then stir in the vanilla extract.
Strain into a jar or bottle and seal tightly with a lid.