When you make your own ingredients you are only limited by your imagination... and physics. Cooking up syrups is no different. You choose flavors you like, try to capture them in a sweet fluid and hope it also tastes good in cocktails.
Last week I wrote about a handful of syrups with clear flavors like honey or raspberry. This time I want to share recipes for syrups with multiple flavors. Some recipes will involve a bit more work, but they are still easy enough to prepare in a short amount of time. And just like last time a cocktail recipe will accompany each syrup.
Working cleanly and carefully is a must when making syrup, which means the advice from last week still applies.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs are a great way to enhance cocktails, but they can also mean a lot of work. Everybody who has made a fresh Gin Basil Smash knows that it creates a mess with all the fresh leaves in your shaker. And using spices is a bit tricky as well, since the flavor needs some time to infuse or combine with the other ingredients.
Turning herbs and spices into syrups clearly has some advantages, the main two are saving time and making it easier and faster to mix a cocktail. Of course you lose some of the freshness you get when using fresh herbs, so you have to decide if the difference in taste is worth it.
Mint is a very popular herb in cocktails and it always pays off to have some lying around. But sometimes when you have mint, you are not in the mood for a minty cocktail. And when you finally are in the mood, your mint has gone bad. Solution: Make mint syrup!
- 1 Part Water
- 1 Part Sugar
- 1 Large Sprig for every 100ml of Water
To give this syrup a lively green color blanch the mint first. It will prevent the syrup from turning brown. After blanching, add the water and sugar to a pan and bring to a boil. Then add the mint and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it rest for another 3 minutes. Strain the syrup, let it cool and fill into a clean bottle. Don't store for too long as the flavor diminishes over time.
Although this syrup has only one flavor, I wanted to list it here since it is so versatile. With this mint syrup you can make some super fast Mojitos by substituting the mint leaves and simple syrup with just mint syrup. It also offers an easy way to bring mint flavor into any cocktail, either by substituting the mint, or by adding a new twist and using this flavored syrup instead of simple syrup.
Add the rye, mint syrup and bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into a pre-chilled Old Fashioned glass on a giant ice cube. Garnish with some mint.
This is the Mint Julep grown up. As expected from an Old Fashioned you get something gentle with complex notes, but the mint syrup adds that extra kind of flavor to provide freshness. It tastes like a subtle Julep without all the ice and sugar and you know it will taste great with bourbon too. This cocktail is easily adjustable to personal taste and if the mint flavor is too strong just use less syrup.
Winter Is Coming
Last time I wrote about a simple orange syrup recipe. This time I want to add spiciness to these oranges. You can drink this syrup with some hot water and have a wonderful, warming beverage in the winter. Nevertheless it also pairs well with strong rums which is my favorite use for this syrup.
Orange and Ginger Syrup
- 500ml Fresh Orange Juice
- 650g Granulated Sugar
- 70g Ginger (cut into thin slices)
- 1 Vanilla Pod
- 5g Citric Acid (if not available, use lemon juice)
Scrape out the vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod and add them to a pan alongside the ginger and orange juice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain out the ginger and add the sugar to the strained liquid. Bring to a boil again and let it cook for 3 more minutes. Strain one more time to catch any remaining bits of pulp and fill into a clean bottle. Let it cool lying down. Will keep for months unopened.
Adapted from Ulrich Jakob Zeni: Die Einkoch-Bibel
The syrup is spicy and aromatic, which means it needs a strong partner to stand up to it. My weapon of choice is a strong navy rum to provide the proper base. A little bit of Grand Marnier and fresh juices are used to tame the rum.
Spiced Orange Navy Rum
- 60ml Pusser's Rum Gunpowder Proof
- 20ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
- 30ml Orange and Ginger Syrup
- 20ml Orange Juice
- 15ml Lime Juice
- 3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Fill all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into an enamel mug filled with ice cubes. Garnish with an orange wheel and a peeled slice of ginger.
A rum cocktail with hints of vanilla and lots of orange and ginger. It is refreshing, despite the amount of syrup not too sweet and the bitters add some complexity. The flavors suggest a cocktail for winter, but it is surprisingly easy to drink and tasty while it is still hot outside too. Remember to taste the mixed juices and rum before shaking it, since this can easily get too sweet if you limes are not sour enough. If the mixture is too sweet, then use less syrup, but I suggest adding some ginger juice (or put a tiny piece into the shaker) so the spiciness isn't lost.
Infusing sugary liquid with flavors is similar to brewing tea. Making tea is easy and the same goes for making tea syrups. Tea already has a great flavor and you can easily turn it into syrup by just adding a lot of sugar. Both recipes are made in minutes and the quantities can be adjusted effortlessly.
Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.
Just like Jean-Luc Picard I like Earl Grey tea, especially to wake me up in the morning. Black tea with bergamot is a great combination as the citrus notes make it light and contrast the tea. When I stumbled upon a recipe for Earl Grey Syrup I knew I had to make some myself. I changed the recipe to make it easier and keep out any bitter flavors.
Earl Grey Syrup
- 250ml Water
- 250ml Sugar
- 1 Heaped Teaspoon Earl Grey
Add the water and tea to a pan, bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Strain out the tea leaves, add the fluid back to the pan and add sugar. On a low heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Fill into a clean bottle and let it cool lying down. You can add a splash of vodka so it keeps longer.
Adapted from House of Bourbon: Earl Grey Syrup
Lemon and black tea is a winning combination, which is why I wanted to combine my Earl Grey syrup with lemon bitters. This created a problem, as I wanted to make some Old Fashioned style drink, but dislike lemon bitters with bourbon. Thus I decided to switch to aged rum as it has a lot of characteristics you can find in whiskey. And because rum was the drink of the Royal Navy, the well known Earl became Lieutenant Grey in the cocktail accompanying this syrup.
- 60ml Havana Club Selección de Maestros
- 7.5ml Earl Grey Syrup
- 2 Dashes The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
Add rum, syrup and bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into a pre-chilled Old Fashioned glass filled with a big ice cube and garnish with a lemon zest.
I used a premium rum for this cocktail, but I promise you any good aged rum will do fine. The Earl Grey adds a wonderful new level to this Rum Old Fashioned and the citrus flavors do a good job combining the rum and tea.
Chai tea, a fine Indian treat, is a sweet concoction of tea, spices, milk and sugar. When leaving out the milk you can turn it into a spicy syrup that can flavor hot and cold drinks. Choose any strong black tea for this syrup and use brown sugar to add some rich flavors.
Chai Tea Syrup
- 2 ¼ Cups Water
- 1 Whole Star Anise
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 4 Cardamom Pods (cracked)
- ¼ Cup Assam Tea
- 2 Cups Brown Sugar
Add the water, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and black tea to a pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes until the water has reduced to about 2 cups. Strain the liquid, put it back on a low heat and stir in the sugar until it has dissolved. Fill into a clean bottle while still hot and let it cool lying down. Unopened syrup should keep months in the fridge, but you can add a splash of vodka so it keeps longer.
Adapted from A Spicy Perspective: Authentic Indian Chai
Chai tea is traditionally served with milk which was also the first ingredient that came to my mind when trying to come up with a cocktail. My favorite cocktail with milk is the White Russian and just like the Dude I like mine with milk instead of cream to keep it light. The vodka is a neutral base for the spicy syrup and the milk ties the cocktail together.
- 45ml Vodka
- 15ml Chai Tea Syrup
- 45ml Whole Milk
Pour the vodka, syrup and milk into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice and stir.
Obviously chai and milk go great together. As a refreshing twist on the standard chai tea, this cocktail offers spices mixed with booze. Perfect to cool down on a hot day, you can also warm up the milk and serve it hot in the winter. Or use cream and give this cocktail a bolder character.
The Sweet Finale
I'm surprised at how fast you can prepare some syrup and what flavors you can add to cocktails with them. I probably will never buy another bottle of syrup again (at least as soon as I have found out how to make some good Orgeat). Especially the chai tea syrup is really great and I hope that you will try it at some time.
Now that my fridge is full of syrup bottles I have to focus on something else for my next article. But I will continue this series in the future, because cooking syrups is great fun and can be done in mere minutes. I plan to create more cocktails with some of these syrups and feature those in extra articles. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or subscribe via mail so you don't miss it.
Title image via pixabay.