SYRUPS

A quick note on safety: When storing syrups and cordials, you’ll want to keep an eye out for spoilage. Look for a change in the clarity of the mix or for unwanted growies or floaties. Pure syrups (just sugar and water) are unlikely to spoil unless their storage vessel is tainted. When you start adding other ingredients, it’s a good practice to add an ounce of 50% ABV vodka to help inhibit spoilage. Liqueurs, having a spirit base rather than water or juice, are less likely to go bad.

SIMPLE SYRUP really is simple. In an airtight jar, mix one cup of white sugar with one cup of water, shaking well to blend, then let it sit for several hours or overnight to completely dissolve. Give it a few brisk shakes to encourage it as it goes along. This is referred to as the “cold method” and retains the brightness of white sugar. Keep refrigerated. Will last about six months.

For RICH SIMPLE SYRUP, use one cup of sugar to a half-cup of water. Same process as regular simple syrup, but will require more shaking to combine. Keep refrigerated. Will last about six months.

RICH DEMERARA SYRUP can be heated gently to combine faster without negatively impacting the flavor. Cook one cup of demerara sugar (turbinado sugar is an acceptable substitute) with a half-cup of water over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Keep refrigerated. Will last about six months.

HONEY SYRUP keeps honey from freezing and seizing when mixed in cocktails. Mix three-quarters of a cup honey with one quarter of a cup of boiling water and stir to combine. Add one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Keep refrigerated. Will last about three months.

GINGER SYRUP can also be the sweet kick in delicious nonalcoholic sodas, in addition to use in cocktails. I like Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s easy method: in a blender, combine one cup chopped ginger with one cup boiling water and one cup white sugar. Purée until smooth (secure the lid with a dishtowel to avoid a steam-pressure disaster). Strain through several layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag to remove any fine particles. Add one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Keep refrigerated. Will last about three months. Shake before using.

ORGEAT (or-zhat) is a floral almond syrup, originally from the Middle East. In a heavyweight Ziploc bag or wrapped in a clean dishtowel, smash two and a half cups of whole, raw almonds — just enough to break them into large chunks, not pulverized. A mallet or a rolling pin works well. Arrange almonds in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet (use parchment paper if you like) and toast in a preheated oven at 400° for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, combine the toasted almonds with two cups of sugar and one and a half cups of water. Bring to a simmer over low heat, then cook 10 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and let cool, then pour into an airtight container and let the mixture steep, unrefrigerated, for 24 hours. Strain the mixture through several layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag into your storage vessel (it’ll take a while to slowly drip out), then add 12 drops of orange flower water, 12 drops of rosewater, and one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Shake to blend. Keep refrigerated. Will last about one year.

CINNAMON SYRUP starts with toasting three cinnamon sticks in a saucepan over low heat, crushed lightly. When you can smell the cinnamon toasting and see a bit of steam escaping, remove from the heat. Crush them again, just into a few more pieces, but don’t pulverize. Into the saucepan with cinnamon, add one and a half cups of white sugar and one and a half cups of water, then simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cool, then pour into an airtight glass container and let steep, refrigerated, overnight. Strain into your storage vessel through several layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag to remove fine particles. Add one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Keep refrigerated. Will last about one year.

To make VANILLA SYRUP, split two vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Over medium-low heat, mix one cup of white sugar with one cup of water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla seeds and bean pods, whisking to distribute evenly. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Cool, then pour into an airtight glass container and let steep, refrigerated, overnight. Strain into your storage vessel through several layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag to remove fine particles. Add one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Keep refrigerated. Will last about three months.

The recipe for CITRUS SYRUP works with lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, or a lemon-lime combo, and it starts with an oleosaccharum. In a bowl, rub the zests of your chosen citrus (either four lemons, six limes, three oranges, two grapefruits, or a combination of two lemons and four limes) with one cup of superfine sugar. Let rest approximately four hours, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the citrus oils are extracted. When ready, combine the oleosaccharum with a half-cup of water and cook, stirring, over low heat just until the oleosaccharum has integrated. Remove the citrus twists, then add a half-teaspoon of citric acid and stir to combine. Add one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Keep refrigerated. Will last about three months.

Homemade COCONUT SYRUP avoids the “suntan lotion” essence of commercial products. In a blender, combine one cup of canned coconut milk with one cup of white sugar. Blend to combine, then add one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Keep refrigerated. Will last about three months.

PASSION FRUIT SYRUP is a bright taste of the tropics. In a saucepan, combine one cup of frozen passion fruit purée with one cup of white sugar and cook, stirring, over low heat just until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool, then add one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Keep refrigerated. Will last about three months.

FASSIONOLA, a somewhat obscure tropical syrup, also makes for a delicious soda. In a saucepan, combine one and a half cups of white sugar, one cup of water, and one cup of dried hibiscus blossoms and stir over very low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let the mixture steep for one hour, then discard the hibiscus blossoms. In a blender, combine the hibiscus syrup with one cup of frozen passion fruit pulp, a half-cup of fresh or frozen pineapple chunks, one tablespoon of frozen guava pulp, four strawberries (fresh or frozen), two raspberries (fresh or frozen), a half-teaspoon of almond extract, and a half-teaspoon of citric acid. Blend until smooth. Fine strain to remove strawberry seeds and any bits of pulp. Add one ounce of 50% ABV vodka. Keep refrigerated. Will last about three months.

© 2020 Wexler of California / Dave Stolte

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