How To Make Simple Syrup For Cocktails (Plus 3 Tasty Upgrades)

Shaken or stirred, many classic cocktails contain some form of sugar. Some are sweeter than others, but that sweetness is part of what balances the flavors of our favorite drinks. Often a recipe will call for half to one ounce of simple syrup, and if you're not sure what that is or where to find it, look no further. Simple syrup is just what it sounds like: simple! A standard simple syrup has only two ingredients, sugar and water, and you can easily make one yourself for all your cocktail making needs.


Simple syrup comes together in just a few minutes with minimal equipment. You can whip it up as needed, or make some ahead of time to keep on deck for cocktail hour. And once you've mastered this bartending basic, you can give it a twist with some tasty upgrades that will take your beverages to another level of flavor and finesse.

Gather and measure out the two ingredients

Sugar and water are all you need to make simple syrup. You can use any kind of sugar, but darker sugars will yield a darker colored simple syrup. Start off with standard white sugar for your first batch.


The easiest ratio to remember is 1-to-1 — that's one part sugar to one part water. And any unit will work. One cup of sugar? You'll need one cup of water too. But it can be made with two parts sugar to one part water for a thicker, rich simple syrup, or one part sugar to two parts water for a thinner, milder syrup. That's up to you and the level of sweetness and viscosity you're trying to achieve.

Let's start with ½ cup as your unit; you don't need to waste sugar unless you know you're going to whip up a large batch of something. Measure out ½ cup of white sugar and ½ cup of water.

Place the ingredients in a saucepan

Place the sugar and water together in a saucepan over medium heat. You can use any saucepan, but the bigger it is, the more surface area the sugar and water have to touch the pan. That means it'll probably boil faster, so keep a close eye on it.


Bring to a boil

You'll want to bring the sugar and water to a gentle boil. Cook just long enough for the sugar to completely dissolve and the liquid to reduce slightly, stirring occasionally. Too much longer and the sugar can burn and alter the taste of your syrup.


Let the syrup cool

Once that sugar has dissolved, take the syrup off the heat. Then, let it cool completely before using. You won't want hot syrup in your cocktail shaker full of ice. 

Jar and store it in the fridge

Once the syrup is cooled, pour it into a glass jar and seal tight. You can now store your homemade simple syrup in the fridge for up to a month (maybe longer if the sugar ratio is higher, or a little less time if there is juice or puree in it that can go bad).


Add simple syrup to your favorite cocktails

Now that you've got some simple syrup, get to mixing those drinks! You can experiment with making your own cocktail creations, but many classics will call for simple syrup. Mint juleps, daiquiris, French 75s, and whiskey sours all call for simple syrup, to name a few. If you like a twist on a classic, give a New York sour a try. 


You can even sub homemade simple syrup in for some liqueurs if you don't have them on hand or you'd like to cut down the alcohol content of your drink. It's easy to whip up an infused simple syrup with natural ingredients to help achieve the same flavor profile (read on to find out how). Orange simple syrup is a decent substitute for triple sec, for example. You can make an excellent espresso martini with real espresso, vodka, and simple syrup if you don't have any Kahlúa. 

Other uses for simple syrup

Mixologists aren't the only ones slinging simple syrup behind the bar. Baristas too will often have a bottle or several on deck for flavored lattes. You can add simple syrup to coffees and teas like you would add sugar, and the benefit of simple syrup is that it's already in liquid form. It's especially useful when adding sweetness to an iced beverage, as granulated sugar takes much longer to dissolve in cold liquid. Homemade vanilla or ginger simple syrup can be especially tasty in coffee and contain less artificial flavors and ingredients than most store bought syrups. You can even have some fun mixing your iced coffee in a cocktail shaker


You can also use simple syrup to make homemade lemonade or sorbet. Most sorbet recipes call for fruit juice and simple syrup, and that's about it! Unlike ice creams, which often involve making a custard first, sorbets are super easy to make with no heat necessary. 

One more great use for simple syrup is in the realm of baking. Some recipes will recommend brushing simple syrup onto cakes to help seal in flavor and moisture. It also gives a nice shine to fresh fruit tarts, for a professional glazed finish that would make Paul Hollywood proud. 

Alternate methods

There are a couple of ways to experiment with your simple syrup. As mentioned above, you can play with the sugar to water ratio. You also have the option to add an extra ingredient to prolong the shelf life of your simple syrup. You can make it last a little longer with a splash of alcohol. Or stabilize homemade simple syrup with the addition of corn syrup.


You can swap out sugar and replace it with honey or agave. Honey and agave can be great additions to cocktails, coffees, and teas as they are, but sometimes these much more viscous sweeteners struggle to integrate into a cold drink. Pouring honey straight into your cocktail shaker full of ice will likely make it freeze up, but dilute it with water first and you're back in business. The same goes for agave simple syrup.

If you find yourself without a stovetop, or perhaps the day is just too hot to turn it on, you can give this no-heat method a try for the easiest approach. And if you feel like complicating things and getting creative, play with adding flavors to your next homemade simple syrup. 


Citrus simple syrup

Many cocktails call for citrus flavors. Lemon and orange in particular pop up in gin, vodka, tequila and whiskey drinks alike. A citrusy simple syrup can also be a wonderful addition to sangria or a hot toddy. Making a citrusy simple syrup is as easy as slipping a little peel into the pot.


Use a peel of lemon, orange, grapefruit or any other citrus fruit. Add it in with the sugar and water in the saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. The peels, which contain essential oils, will infuse citrus flavors into the sugar syrup and add a little bright color too. Remove the peel from the syrup before storing. Citrus simple syrup is perfect for making homemade sorbet as well as tasty cocktails. 

Herbal and aromatic simple syrups

Herbs and spices are other fabulous additions to simple syrups. These powerful flavors can seriously upgrade the flavor profile of your favorite hot and cold beverages, and you won't need much to make a big impact. A single sprig of fresh herbs like lavender, rosemary, thyme, or mint will add a great deal of flavor to your syrup. Place the whole sprig into the pot with the sugar and water, and you can easily remove it when the syrup is ready. 


The cocktails pairings will often be intuitive. Try mint simple syrup in your next mint julep. Thyme simple syrup pairs nicely with aromatic gin. Or go bolder with recipes like this lavender Old Fashioned

Spiced simple syrups can also be made easily with just a single cinnamon stick, a few cloves, or one whole star anise. Ginger is another aromatic that makes a great spicy simple syrup. These spiced syrups are perfect for warm winter drinks, with or without alcohol. Add a splash to your next mulled cider, hot chocolate, or fall latte. 

Strawberry simple syrup

Strawberries are the perfect fresh fruit to add to simple syrup. You can place a few whole strawberries (washed and stems removed) into the saucepan with sugar and water. The beautiful strawberry flavor will infuse the syrup, and it will turn a pretty shade of pink/red. Strawberry simple syrup is great for fruity daiquiris and margaritas. It's also the perfect hack for flawless frosé. 


Remember frosé? This once trendy summer cocktail that combines rosé and strawberries in the blender for a sweet and refreshing boozy slushy. While many recipes will have you blend whole fresh or frozen strawberries with wine and ice, those can run the risk of being chunky or watery. The best way to maximize flavor and minimize seeds and chunks is to freeze the wine directly and make a strawberry simple syrup. Wine won't freeze entirely due to its alcohol content, so you should be able to scrape the semi-frozen wine into your blender and forgo the ice. Then pour in some of your homemade strawberry simple syrup for sweetness and strawberry flavor. This combo yields the perfect textured boozy frosé.