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Oh, the Sweetest Thing

March 24, 2009

As you may have noticed, I spend a good amount of time working with different ways of adding a new depth to drinks.  This is one of the things I refer to when I say I make “contemporary interpretations of classic cocktails”.  Today’s post is on the sweetening agent in drinks


The basic sweetener for cocktails is simple syrup.  Most bars I have worked in use a 1:1 ratio of white granulated sugar and water to make simple syrup.  Personally I like to use a 2:1 sugar to water ratio (commonly called rich syrup).  Frequently, the procedure to make simple syrup ( also called bar syrup, by the way) is short-cutted to filling a container half full with sugar then pouring hot water over it to melt the sugar, then topped off again with more water until the container is full.  This however gives a weaker than 1:1 ratio, so it is worth taking the time to do this right:


Basic Simple Syrup: Measure 1 part (8oz) of filtered water in a medium saucepan with 1 part (8oz again) of sugar.  Turn heat to medium.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently then reduce heat, and simmer or 3-5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat then let cool to room temperature before transferring to whatever storage vessel you will be using (Stor-N-Pour container or squeeze bottles are the best).  This will be good for about 5 days, unless you add about 1 ounce of vodka which will extend the shelf lie another week.  This is the same procedure for all the following syrups unless noted later.


To add a little viscosity and texture to simple syrup, add a little gum Arabic.  Gum Arabic is a natural consumable emulsifier/stabilizer used in things like watercolor paint, sodas, and the sticky stuff on envelopes.  This syrup is called Gomme (gum) syrup which is made by adding about 1 ½ ounce of gum Arabic to a rich syrup.


There are hundreds of sugars in the world so why limit ourselves to white granulated sugar?  Turbinado (aka Sugar in the Raw or Demerara) makes fantastic simple syrup for cocktails.  Turbinado is made from the first pressing of sugar cane, and has a great molasses flavor.  Normally I will reserve this syrup for use with dark liquors like bourbon or rum, because using it with clear liquors gives the end result a not so appealing color.  But if you are willing to sacrifice this, go for it!!


Other sweeteners that can be used in place of table sugar are good quality honey and maple syrup (great in a Julep).  I suggest going with the 1:1 mix on these.


There is no need to stick with water in your syrups either. Try a strong flavored or black tea in its place.  Another great substitute is fruit juices.  In a previous post, I gave a recipe for pomegranate syrup, or grenadine.  But let’s not stop there. 


Orange Syrup:  1:1 mix of honey and OJ (this works in a pinch if you are out of orange liqueur). 


Peach Tea Syrup:  2 peach tea bags steeped in 8 oz of water, then heated with the sweetener of your choice. I like Turbinado sugar here.  This is wonderful in punches and Old Fashioned’s

How about a little spice as well…..


Chile Syrup: 1:1 mix.  After the boil is achieved and you have reduced the heat, add 2 roasted and peeled green chiles to steep in the syrup.  Green chiles also go by the name Anaheim chiles or New Mexico chiles.  Jalapeños and chipotles work well too and any are great for a spicy addition to your margarita.


For more info on other mixers, click on the Recipe tab on the top of the page.



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