The Simple Life
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. You know this. A little bit of sweetness can really put the finishing touches on a cocktail recipe too. It’s like that rug that ties the room together.
It breaks my heart a little when a guest asks for no simple syrup in their cocktail. Why, you ask? Because the sugar isn’t just there to make the drink sickly sweet, it’s there to create a magical balance that will have you saying “wow” after just one sip. I know a lot of you readers cook and understand the importance of a pinch of salt here and there. Sugar, when used properly, can be thought of in the same way.
Now that I have thoroughly convinced you of the importance of using sugar when concocting a well-balanced drink we can get to the fun part--making simple syrup.
Simple syrup is just that. Simple. Equal parts sugar and water cooked down a bit to dissolve the sugar and give it a little viscosity. Any type of sugar can be used—brown, demerara, turbinado, white or honey will all add different flavors (and potentially colors) to your syrup, so consider that when making a selection.
But why stop with just sugar and water? There’s no end to what can be added to simple syrups. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, teas… really, anything edible! One of my favorite additions to simple syrup is rosemary. Imagine how uniquely refreshing a tall glass of seltzer water with some rosemary infused simple syrup would be. No muddling required!
As with most infusions you want to think about the desired potency, flavor and how you want to use it. You'll need to add more of an ingredient with delicate and subtle flavors than you would of an ingredient very strong flavors, like the rosemary I mentioned above.
Another favorite of mine is to brew tea (try anything in Summit Spice and Tea’s large selection) and use the tea instead of water in your simple syrup. Try a nice chamomile tea, add orange peel and sugar and create something divine. Mix this sweet concoction with seltzer water and impress your friends!
Rhubarb, crabapple, rosehips, blueberries, spruce tips, fireweed, lilac—oh so many ideas!
Speaking of rhubarb, here is a simple and easy way to use up all that rhubarb besides a plethora of pies:
Rhubarb Simple Syrup
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb
In saucepan add water, sugar and rhubarb. Bring the mixture to a simmer, not a boil. Let mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain and cool before use
1 fl oz rhubarb simple syrup
.5 fl oz fresh lemon juice
4 fl oz seltzer water
Combine all ingredients in a 16 oz glass. Add ice and stir. Tastes great on its own, or try it with a splash of gin, a light rum or yes, even vodka.