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Sugar syrup, also known as “simple syrup” or “gomme”, can be hard to come by in smaller shops, but there’s a high chance your homemade cocktails won’t taste the same without it. Though it can be tempting to simply dissolve some granulated sugar into the mix for a hint of sweetness, combining it into syrup beforehand will make all the difference – and it’s easier than you think to make
Sweeting drinks with sugar syrup can do more than just reduce the sourness in fact, according to an expert at Taste Cocktails, it also “adds rich volume” and depth to the flavour.
They explained that it is used to replace raw sugar in drinks as it is much faster and smoother to dissolve than the equivalent amount of granulated sugar.
To make the thick, sweet liquid, all you need to do is combine sugar and water using appropriate ratios to create the syrup texture. The Cocktail expert noted that a ratio of two parts sugar to one part water is best.
So, for every 100g of sugar, you will need to add around 50g of filtered tap or bottled water into the pan.
Start by adding one part water to a saucepan and gently heat over low heat for a few minutes. Add half of the sugar – either white caster or granulated will do – and gently stir.
The Taste Cocktail expert noted that while white sugar will form a more traditional and versatile syrup, dark varieties can be used instead to suit different kinds of drink flavours.
For example, demerara or soft brown sugar would be ideal for rum-based cocktails such as Old Fashioned, Dark and Stormy, or a simple punch-style drink.
Once the sugar and water are almost combined, add the other half of the sugar and continue to stir into a syrup as you pour it.
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Heating the mixture helps to dissolve the sugar more quickly, though you should be careful not to turn the hob up too high.
The Taste Cocktail expert warned against letting the water boil or even simmer as this will ruin the consistency.
Once all the sugar has dissolved, allow the syrup to cool completely and leave slightly covered to avoid attracting flies to your kitchen.
When the liquid is cold to the touch, carefully pour it into clean glass bottles for storage. Though it will last for up to six months, you can try adding a splash of vodka into the pan just before you take it off the heat to prolong its shelf life.
Flavoured syrup recipe
Sugar syrup is the base of many, if not all flavoured varieties, so can easily be adapted to your own taste.
Start with the base ratio of two parts sugar to one part water and add the third element when the water and sugar are warming up.
Lemon, lime, basil, mint and berries are all worth trying, though you should be careful not to add too much to avoid ruining the texture of the syrup.
If your chosen additive is thick or heavy, like fruit peel, adjust the water content to avoid making it too gloopy. For water-based ingredients like berries, reduce the water content to maintain the rich consistency.
If you’re looking for sugar syrup alternatives, there are several cupboard ingredients you could substitute into your homemade cocktails.
Despite being renowned for its runny consistency and exceedingly sweet flavour, maple syrup adds a more subtle taste than you may think and can be used in equal quantities to sugar-based flavourings. It may come at a higher cost than making your own sugar syrup, but it’s worth a go if you can’t get to a shop.
Its flavour is slightly stronger than maple syrup, but it still works in place of gomme. However, the thicker consistency means it should be combined with water using the same method as “simple syrup”, before being added to cocktails.
Though traditionally used to sweeten margaritas, agave can be used in other drinks too. The subtly flavoured nectar is made into syrup which has become more widely available in major retailers.
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