simple syrups

"Simple" & Seasonal Mixology on the Homestead

When Paul and I were asked by Dutch Hill Homestead to collaborate on a introductory mixology class at their suburban farm, complete with eight laying hens and a small herd of adorably active Nigerian dwarf goats, we knew that we wanted to incorporate fresh eggs into the drinks for the evening. But, acknowledging that eggs can be off-putting for some folks (What are eggs doing in my drink? Are they safe?), we also wanted to offer a simple approach to cocktail making.

And what is more simple than simple syrups?

The focus, then, of our class at DHH, on a Friday evening in early spring, was simple syrups and the ways that you can get seasonally creative with them to jazz up your favorite cocktails. That evening we demonstrated how to make a hibiscus syrup for a whiskey sour; a jalapeno agave syrup for a naturally spicy margarita, and a lavender honey syrup, with DHH’s own dried lavender, for a floral Bee’s Knee. See below for recipes, and for inspiration about making your own flavors of simple syrups—thyme, rosemary, rose, celery, or whatever’s in season and you enjoy.

In the spirit of keeping things simple: What are simple syrups and how do cocktails benefit from them. At its most basic, a simple syrup is a sugar dissolved in water. As a liquid, the sugar is more easily incorporated into a drink; there are no crystals lying sadly unused and crunchy at the bottom of the glass. By definition, all cocktails will have a measure of sugar, to help offset the alcoholic burn of spirits; add a desirable mouthfeel to the drink; and to meld the disparate ingredients.

By making your own simple syrups, instead of buying them premade, you not only save money but you also get to decide the type of sugar to use (e.g., refined, raw, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, demerara etc—all with distinctive taste and consistency and potential health benefits) and how much. For most of our drinks we use an organic cane sugar, since it offers a more complex flavor than white sugar but not too complex, in a proportion of 1:1 (simple syrup) or 2:1 (rich syrup) but we do certainly mix it up with agave syrup, usually for tequila drinks, and honey.

Most recipes for making simple syrups call for adding water and the sugar to a pot and heating them at the stove, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. That’s a fine way to do it, but not the best or most efficient. The drawbacks of this method are that you’ve got another pot to clean and the water can evaporate while heating, thereby throwing off the proportion of water to sugar. We instead opt for putting the sugar into a mason jar or some other container and adding the required amount of hot water. Either stir or shake the contents until the sugar is dissolved, and once the syrup is room temperature, seal the container and put it in the fridge, where it will last about two weeks.

If you want to add other ingredients to flavor, make a “tea” with the ingredient by adding it to the hot water. Once the desired intensity of flavor is reached and while the water is still warm, drain the solids and add the sugar (whatever kind you want) and stir or shake until the sugar is dissolved.

Here are some recipes for simple syrups to inspire you and some cocktail recipes which use them:

Lavender Bee's Knees:
2 oz Gin
.75 oz Lemon juice
.75 oz Lavender honey syrup (see below)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin, add ice, shake for 10 seconds, and strain into a rocks glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.

Lavender Honey Syrup:
6 oz. Honey
3 oz. Hot water
5 tsp Dried lavender
Stir the dried lavender into the hot water and let steep for three minutes. Mix honey into the hot lavender water until the honey is fully dissolved.  Strain and let the syrup cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.  
Makes 9 ounces.

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Spicy Margarita:
2 oz. Tequila
.75 oz Lime juice
.75 oz. Jalapeno-infused agave syrup (see below)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin, add ice, shake for 10 seconds, strain into a rocks glass.
Garnish with a lime wedge.

Jalapeno Agave Syrup:
6 oz. Agave syrup
3 oz. Hot water
2 Fresh jalapenos
Dice the jalapenos, retaining all the seeds, and steep in the hot water for 3 minutes. Taste the mixture to ensure that the spice level is to your taste.  Allow them to steep longer for a spicier end product. Strain out the jalapenos and stir the agave into the jalapeno-infused water until it's fully integrated.  Let the syrup cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.
Makes 9 ounces.


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Hibiscus Sour:
1.5 oz. Bourbon
.5 oz. Lime juice
.25 oz Lemon juice
.75 oz. Hibiscus syrup (see below)
1 Egg white (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. If using egg white, first shake without ice for 10 seconds (a "dry shake") and then add ice and shake for 10 more seconds.  Strain into a rocks glass.
Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon.

Hibiscus Syrup:
8 oz. Organic cane sugar
8 oz. Hot water
3-4 tsp Dried hibiscus flowers/tea
Combine the hot water, dried hibiscus and cane sugar in a saucepan.  Stir over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved, and tea is fully steeped (about 10 minutes).  Strain and let the syrup cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.  
Makes about 12 ounces.


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Spiced Rum Flip
(Here's what you can do with that leftover egg yolk from the Hibiscus Sour)
2 oz Dark rum
1 Egg yolk
1 oz Heavy cream
.25 oz Spiced simple syrup (see below)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin and shake without ice for 10 seconds (a "dry shake") and then add ice and shake for 10 more seconds.  Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Spiced Simple Syrup
1 cup Organic cane sugar
1 cup Water
.5 tsp Ground star anise
.25 tsp each Ground allspice; Ground cloves; Grated nutmeg; Ground cinnamon
Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat; do not boil. Add the spices and slowly stir to dissolve the sugar.  When the syrup has thickened, remove from the heat. Strain and let the syrup cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.  
Makes about 12 ounces.

Cheers!

Diana & Paul