Simple Syrup

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Simple Syrup

There’s a long-running joke behind the bar that goes like this: “It’s not called ‘Complicated Syrup’!” and it’s just about every bartender’s go-to joke when one of our coworkers screws up the simple syrup.

There’s a reason why it isn’t called “Complicated Syrup”. If you can heat water on a stovetop, you’re on your way to making drinks like a pro. But it can be a little complicated and daunting if you’ve never had to do it before. I remember when I first really sat down to learn how to make simple syrup the right way, it was a little overwhelming to find all of these lengthy articles on the internet and in books. They talked about brix and solubility and pH and all this other stuff that, quite frankly, isn’t really necessary to know.

I did go into this topic at fairly great length in my first book, The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, if you want to read more about simple syrup. And if you want a doctorate course in it, I highly recommend my friend Dave Arnold’s book Liquid Intelligence. But here I’m going to pare it down to what you really need to know, whether you’re a home user or a bartender, about simple syrup in order to make great drinks.

The most important thing you should know about making simple syrup is that in order to maintain consistency and be certain that the drinks you’re making are tasting just like my recipes, or anyone else’s recipes for that matter, is you have to measure your sugar and water by weight. To put it in the clearest terms I know, the volume of sugar is variable depending on what type or brand of sugar you’re using. But a pound of sugar will always be a pound of sugar. So when we talk about ratios like 2:1 and 1:1, we’re talking about sugar:water. Get yourself an inexpensive digital kitchen scale if you don’t already have one.

On this site and in my bars, I only use 2:1 simple syrup. I used to use 1:1 and really grew to prefer 2:1. Here’s why:

  • It lasts longer. 2:1 simple syrup is much less prone to spoilage than 1:1 is, as the 1:1 ratio is much more hospitable to mold and bacteria. 2:1 simply (heh) contains too much sugar.
  • Your drinks are slightly richer. I learned this in Europe, where most bars use 2:1 simple. Makes sense, right? Less water, more flavor? Sure. The drinks are just a little more rich in the mid-palate, which is where flavor lives.
  • It takes up less space. I mean, just slightly, but in a professional environment every inch counts.

Anyway, here’s how we do it.

  1. Weigh out some sugar. Doesn’t matter how much, really. When I make this at home I just eyeball it and divide the weight of the sugar by two. You need a recipe? There’s one below.
  2. Weigh out half that amount in water. Did you use 1 kg of sugar? Then weigh out 500 grams of water. You got this.
  3. Put the sugar and water in a pan, and put it on the stove.
  4. Turn the heat to low and stir to combine.
  5. Stir the mixture occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  6. Let the mixture cool and pop it in a squeeze bottle or two.
  7. Store it in the fridge.

I like using these clear squeeze bottles for mine. If it’s gone bad, you’ll be able to tell. No mold or weirdly colored spots? You’re good to go.

Anyway, that’s all there is to it. You can now make any of the recipes that call for simple syrup on this website or in any of my other writing. Go nuts!

Simple Syrup Print Me

  • 1 pound/453 grams cane sugar
  • ½ pound (8 ounces)/226 grams water
  1. Weigh sugar and water.
  2. Put the sugar and water in a pan, and put it on the stove.
  3. Turn the heat to low and stir to combine.
  4. Stir the mixture occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Let the mixture cool and put into the container of your choice.
  7. Store in the refridgerator.

Recipe printed courtesy of jeffreymorgenthaler.com

36 Replies to “Simple Syrup”

  • Pete says:

    Hey Joe, Zeph, Jeffrey and others, I wanted to add my 2 cents of knowledge on the storage aspect.

    I am a horticulture major at Michigan State University and I just finished a course in apiculture (bees). You’ve probably heard that honey doesn’t spoil and that’s due to the high sugar content. Properly formed honey will be about 80% sugar. If it gets more watered down than that, there is the potential for spoilage. Simple syrup is basically man-made honey which is why when Joe makes his simple syrup twice as sugary, he has a better shelf life.

  • Robert says:

    Jeffrey,

    Is it feasible to use agave syrup as a source in place of the cane sugar to make simple sugar syrup? Better yet, just use the agave syrup in place of the simple sugar syrup? Any thoughts?

    Brand name is Wholesome Sweeteners ‘Organic Blue Agave”. Listed as 100% pure agave nectar & a low glycemic organic sweetener. From my local Coop.

    Listed as 25% sweeter than sugar so ‘you need less’ so you can use wherever you would use sugar.

    I suppose the artful challenge is to identify what unit of agave syrup is equal to ‘x’ unit of cane sugar.

    My objective is as a sugar source for brewing ginger beer.

  • Brendan says:

    Robert,

    You can use agave instead of simple syrup. You just about 3/4 as much. The one drawback is it will discolor lighter drinks. Your Tom Collins and Mojitos and so on will be a light brownish instead of white. That probably wouldn’t be a concern for ginger beer.

    Cheers.

  • CM Johnson says:

    The first time I made this, many years ago for my house party, I had quickly had a backyard full of insane(ly happy) people. The simplest recipe can easily blow the most minds. So, thanks Jeff. Since then, I’ve tweaked it with a little less citrus, hits of honey or nut syrups, and turbinado or brown sugar. Works every damn time. I’m breaking it out again in 2 weeks for a friend’s 40th birthday party. Wish us all luck – especially the next morning. Salud!

  • Lenore Rivera says:

    Jeffrey, Can you use regular granulated sugar vs cane? Thanks! I’m anxious to make your recipe for this coming Cinco de Mayo. Thanks again! Lenore

  • Linda says:

    How far in advance can I make these margaritas? It’s Thursday, can I make now for Saturday or do I need to make the day of?

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