The Ultimate Guide to Cocktail Syrups: Part Two

In Part One of the Ultimate Guide to Cocktail Syrups, we went over the basics of simple syrup, including how to make demerara and honey syrups, and how to best store cocktail syrups. Now we’ll cover flavored cocktail syrups, including the classic cocktail staple, grenadine. We’ll also go over some basic rules of thumb you can follow to make your own syrup from any fruits, herbs, spices, or teas you like. The recipes below are guides you can use to make your own flavored cocktail syrup from just about anything!

Jump to: Part One: The Basics of Simple Syrups
Part Three: Orgeat, Spice, and Advanced Cocktail Syrups

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Fruit Syrups

I’m always making cocktail syrups with whatever fresh (and sometimes frozen) fruit I have on hand. Apple, pear, melon, dragonfruit, peaches, pineapple, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, physalis berry – you name it! There are two primary methods for making fruit syrups: fresh and heated. We’ll discuss why you’d choose one method or another below. My very basic and customizable rule of thumb for fruit syrups is to use: 1 part water, 1 part sugar, and 2 parts fruit. This ratio might not be perfect for every fruit – use it as a starting point. You can also use equal parts with great results, especially if using the heated syrup stovetop method. However, for freshly juiced/muddled syrups like the ones below, I like to use 2 parts fruit to maximize the fruit flavor.

Fresh Fruit Syrup Methods

The first fresh syrup option is to add extracted juices to a simple syrup base. This can be done really easily by muddling fruit in simple syrup (or adding the syrup after muddling), and then straining the mixture. Another method is to add chopped fruit to the sugar component, or to the base simple syrup and allow it to infuse slowly. I’m pretty impatient, so I love the quick muddle method.

Depending on how juicy the fruit you’re using is, you may want to alter the quantity of water in your base simple syrup to compensate. Very watery fruits like watermelon could potentially produce enough juice to completely replace the water component in simple syrup. This is really your call. Just be sure to measure and write down what you do so that you can remember for next time! Tip: for best results with watery fruits, first muddle, extract, or press the juices from your fruit and then strain into a measuring cup. Then you can easily subtract this measure of juice from your water measurement for a consistent and easy to reproduce syrup. Now combine your juice, water, and sugar. If you’re less picky about things, feel free to just muddle directly into a base of simple syrup or add your extracted juices to a base of simple syrup. Fruits that don’t work as well with the fresh syrup method are apples and pears. These fruits will produce much more flavorful syrup through the heated method. A great candidate for the fresh syrup method is:

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Fresh Raspberry Syrup

Fresh raspberry syrup is a cocktail (and mocktail) ingredient you’ll want to use again and again! Syrup made with fresh, unheated berries tastes just like the real thing, and livens up any cocktail you add it to. Some cocktails that use raspberry syrup are the Floradora and the Clover Club.

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Begin by making a base simple syrup. Combine equal parts water and sugar and stir until dissolved (a minute or two). I used a half cup of each for this recipe. Now measure 2 parts fresh raspberries (I used 1 heaping cup). 1 cup of fresh raspberries is just about the quantity that comes in a standard 6 ounce container, so if you’re short on time, just wash and dump a container of raspberries into a jar. Next, you’ll vigorously muddle the berries, making sure to thoroughly mash each one. Once the berries are fully muddled, add your base simple syrup and stir well. If using a mason jar, screw on the lid and give it a good shake. Now you’re ready to strain out the fruit pulp using a fine mesh strainer. Use a spoon to help press the fruit against the mesh, transferring as much liquid out of the berry mush as possible. You’ll be left with 1 cup of vibrant, ultra-fresh raspberry syrup. Now it’s time to whip up a cocktail or mocktail!

Another favorite fresh fruit syrup of mine is passion fruit. Find the recipe here and try it in my Raspberry Passion Fruit Tequila Sour!

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Heated Fruit Syrups

The next fruit syrup method is to cook the fruit into the simple syrup. This method is great for producing a strong fruit flavor, but it works best (in my opinion) with fruits like apples and pears that are less juicy. Any fruit that can hold up to heat well is a good candidate. I love the fresh syrup option for most berry syrups, but cooking the berries instead gives the syrup a deep, jammy flavor that is sometimes preferred. This method is especially useful when using less flavorful or out of season fruits to maximize their flavor potential. I often make heated blackberry syrup in the winter time, and fresh blackberry syrup in the summer when the berries are perfectly ripe and juicy. An example of a poor candidate for heated syrup is watermelon (or most melons for that matter). Opt for the fresh syrup method for melons.

To make a heated fruit syrup, combine 1 part water and 1 part sugar in a saucepan. Add 1-2 parts fruit and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook just until the fruit begins to break down. Remove from the heat and allow the syrup to cool. Once fully cooled, strain out the fruit using a fine mesh strainer and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

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Some examples of heated fruit syrups are:

Green Apple Cardamom Syrup

I use this Green Apple Cardamom Syrup in many fall themed cocktails.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups chopped green apple
  • 4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Instructions: Use a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy jar to lightly crush your cardamom pods. This will help release the flavor into the syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat on medium, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the apples and the cardamom and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the apples begin to break down and the syrup is flavorful. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Blackberry Syrup

A very popular modern classic cocktail featuring blackberry syrup is the Bramble.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries

Instructions: This basic recipe can be used to make syrups from any kind of berry. Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved. Add 2 cups of fresh blackberries to the pan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow the syrup to simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the fruit begins to break down. Remove from heat, strain out the blackberries and store sealed in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator. Blackberry syrup will last up to 2 weeks.

Grenadine: How to easily make it at home

There are many different grenadine recipes out there, but the one I like the best is by Jeffrey Morganthaler. It’s super simple and quick, and very flavorful. Here’s a link to Morganthaler’s original recipe. Grenadine is a classic ingredient that’s been used since at least the late 1890s (when it started popping up in cocktail recipe books). Although the brands commonly found on grocery store shelves are a bright, artificial red with a nondescript sweet flavor, real grenadine is a sweet and tart pomegranate-based syrup. Pomegranate’s characteristic flavor and fruity acidity make for a fantastic cocktail syrup that works with any base spirit. Some classic-ish cocktails that use grenadine are the Jack Rose, Singapore Sling, and the tiki cocktail, Dr. Funk.

Tip: If you want to buy grenadine rather than make it, I recommend the brand Liber & Co.

Grenadine Syrup

Recipe by Jeffrey Morganthaler. Here’s his original post.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh pomegranate juice (two to four large pomegranates) or 100% pomegranate juice like POM Wonderful
  • 2 cups unbleached sugar
  • 2 fluid ounces (1/4 cup) pomegranate molasses
  • 1 teaspoon orange blossom water

Instructions: Combine the pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan and heat on low, just until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in the pomegranate molasses and orange flower water. Let the syrup cool, then add 1-2 ounces of vodka and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Note: This recipe is really easy to cut in half if you want to make a smaller batch!

Pro tip: Real grenadine is typically not a bright cherry red, but a deeper reddish hue. Add some dried hibiscus flowers to this syrup while it’s on the stove top to brighten the color (and your cocktails).

Herbal Syrups

Herbal syrups are one of the most exciting cocktail ingredients (in my opinion), and they’re no more difficult to make than fruit syrups. In fact, they’re probably a little easier, since there’s a bit less work involved. One variable factor with herbal syrups is what ratio of herbs to water to sugar to use. This will vary depending on the potency of the herbs, so I’ll include a guide with my recommendations below.

You can use just about any herb to make a cocktail syrup. Some common herbal cocktail syrups are: mint, basil, lavender, rosemary, and thyme. Each herb has different characteristics, and you’ll find that each one requires its own little recipe tweaks. For example, mint is a very delicate herb, so I use minimal heat and allow for a long steep time to extract its fresh flavor. Rosemary, on the other hand, is very hearty, and holds up well to heat. You can make a flavorful rosemary syrup pretty quickly by simmering it on the stove top for 10 minutes or so. Here’s a helpful rule of thumb: if the herb is commonly used in cooking (hot food preparations), then it will likely work well with a heated syrup method. If the herb is delicate and prone to becoming bitter or off-tasting (like mint), you’ll want to opt for the Long Steeped Method.

Long Steeped Herb Method

This cocktail syrup method is ideal for most herbs, but especially more delicate ones like mint. This technique is essentially the same process as brewing a cup of tea, but you’re going to let the herbs steep for much longer. Instead of muddling fresh herbs or cooking them in simple syrup on the stove, we’re going to pour hot simple syrup over the herbs, and cover them until cooled. I like to just let the mixture sit for a full hour before straining. Covering the herb and syrup mixture will keep the volatile essential oils from evaporating in the steam, maximizing the herbal flavor of the end product.

Herbal Cocktail Syrups Guide

(These recommendations are based on measures of 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar.)

  • Mint: use the long steeped method, 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • Rosemary: use heated syrup method, 3-4 sprigs of rosemary
  • Sage: use either method, 10 large fresh sage leaves
  • Thyme: use either method, 6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Basil: use long steeped method, 1 cup of fresh basil leaves
  • Lavender: use long steeped method, ¼ cup dried lavender
  • Chamomile: use long steeped method, ¼ cup dried chamomile flowers

Here are two examples of herbal cocktail syrup recipes, one following the long steeped method, and one following the heated method:

Mint Syrup (Long Steeped Method)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves

Instructions: Place mint leaves in a 2 cup glass measuring cup. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on medium and stir frequently, just until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and pour over the mint leaves. Cover immediately and let steep until completely cooled. I like to let mine sit for an hour. Once cool, strain out the mint and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

The only herbal syrup that I do cook on the stove is rosemary. Rosemary is a tough, woody herb that can handle the heat, so I opt for the quicker method here.

Rosemary Syrup (Heated Method)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 sprigs rosemary

Instructions: Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan until all sugar has dissolved. Add rosemary and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until flavorful. Remove from heat, strain out the rosemary, and allow to cool before transferring to a storage container. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Tea Syrups

Much like herbal syrups, tea syrups are incredibly easy to make and a personal favorite cocktail ingredient of mine. With teas, we’re working with dried botanicals, which makes things a bit more predictable. Most teas will work well at a ratio of 1 part sugar, 1 part water, and ¼ part tea. It was a hibiscus syrup that first opened my eyes to the fun of creating custom cocktails at home, and it’s an ingredient I still whip up all the time!

My general rule of thumb for cocktail syrups made with any tea that comes in bags is: 4 tea bags per 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. You can use this ratio to make syrup from: earl grey, jasmine green tea, chamomile tea, etc. Jasmine green tea syrup is a wonderful ingredient to use in many cocktails, including my Raspberry Jasmine Green Tea Paloma.

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A Paloma cocktail made with Jasmine Green Tea syrup and raspberries.

You can follow the 4 tea bag method for hibiscus and butterfly pea teas as well, but the following are my preferred ratios of dried flower to sugar and water.

Hibiscus Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup dried hibiscus flowers

Instructions: Combine 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and pour syrup over hibiscus flowers. Stir to combine and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain out the hibiscus flowers and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Note: this makes a strongly flavored, tart syrup. You can use less hibiscus for a lighter color and flavor.

Butterfly Pea Flower Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup butterfly pea flowers

Instructions: I like to use this ratio of ingredients for a bright blue syrup. Butterfly pea flowers have a very mild (near-nonexistent) flavor, so you can use a lot or a little, what will change most is the depth of the hue. A deeper, darker blue will work best for most cocktails, when you want to showcase the unique blue, purple, or pink shades that butterfly pea can create when mixed with citrus and other ingredients.

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A cocktail using butterfly pea flower simple syrup.

That’s it for Part Two! For more cocktail syrups, check out The Ultimate Guide to Cocktail Syrups Part Three, where we’ll talk about the classic tiki syrup orgeat, how to make syrups from spices, and some fancy (and easy) syrups like oleo saccharum!

If you want to catch up on the basics, visit The Ultimate Guide to Cocktail Syrups Part One.

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