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Easy Simple Syrup Recipe for Cocktails

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With just two ingredients, this Simple Syrup Recipe for cocktails is easy to make at home. Use it to sweeten mixed drinks, coffee and any other beverages that could use a hit of sugar.

A jar on a cutting board holding simple syrup for cocktails.

Why it works

This post contains a classic recipe for making simple syrup to sweeten cocktails. And it is a recipe that is almost impossible to get wrong.

With just two ingredients that you already have at home, you can make a sweet sugar syrup in just a few minutes.

It is easy to modify this recipe based on how sweet you like your cocktails. In fact, when I make it, I typically reduce the sugar by at least half and sometimes by three quarters.

While I’m not a legit bartender, I have been making easy cocktails at home for years! I like to keep things super easy and I don’t like to have a lot of ingredients stored in my bar area.

One thing I’ve found, as I create cocktail recipes, is that when something is a little bit “off”, adding more sugar usually balances things right out.

Once you know how to make the basic recipe, you can modify to fit your tastes perfectly.

And, unlike my Hard Cinnamon Candy recipe, there is no need for a candy thermometer and it’s more forgiving than you may think.

Ingredient notes

Close up of a jar of water and a small bowl of white sugar on a table.

The flavor will change slightly based on the type of sugar you use. A traditional recipe uses white sugar but you can use demerara or cane sugar.

Instructions

Saucepan with sugar and water on a counter.
  1. To a small saucepan, add the sugar and water.
  2. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Stir often to help the sugar crystals dissolve.
  4. When the sugar is dissolved, it is done. (Or you can continue to cook a little longer to make it thicker). It will take about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and cool completely.
simple syrup in a jar.

Tips and tricks

  • Make sure that you stir the water and sugar together when you add them to the pan before turning on the heat. You want to make sure that the sugar is wet and doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
  • Reducing the sugar syrup (meaning continuing to cook longer so that more water cooks out causing the syrup to thicken) will add more texture to a cocktail. Some people prefer this, while I prefer to keep the syrup thinner.
  • You can easily make half a batch by using less of both ingredients, in whatever ratio you prefer.
  • And if you really don’t want to take the time to make syrup from scratch, you can make a cheater, quick simple syrup.
What do you use this syrup for?

Simple syrup is most often used to sweeten drinks, including cocktails. Because you are usually working with cold liquids, adding straight sugar to a drink would add a grainy quality. By making a simple syrup, you get a smooth syrup that blends right in. Sometimes people also use it to moisten cakes and cupcakes.

Why does it turn yellow/brown?

When using white sugar, chemical reactions in the process used to make it white can leave leftover elements. When heated, they can change color. It doesn’t change the flavor and all. There are technical things you can do to keep it clear.

How can you tell when it’s done?

A simple syrup is done when all the sugar crystals have dissolved. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will become. It is really more of a personal preference thing. If using to sweeten cocktails, I prefer it to be on the thin side so it blends in really well.

How to store simple syrup?

Store simple syrup in an air-tight container in the fridge.

How long does simple syrup last?

If kept in a sterile container, it should last up to a month. Since that is not a step or process I’m willing to undertake just to sweeten some cocktails, it will keep for 1-2 weeks. Flavored syrups last for 1 week.

Simple syrup in a jar on a counter.

Substitutions

The standard ratio for cocktail syrup is 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.

I prefer to make it less sweet. I typically use 1/4 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.

Bartenders like to make rich simple syrup which is thick and uses 2 cups of sugar to one cup of water.

You can also use several other things to sweeten drinks instead of simple syrups like honey, agave nectar, maple syrup and sugar-free sweeteners like monk fruit.

Once you learn this recipe, it can be the base of all other flavored syrups, like Strawberry Simple Syrup.

  • Want to add warmth to a drink? Make a Vanilla Simple Syrup with Cinnamon!
  • A Red Wine Spritzer is quick to make and an extra refreshing way to enjoy your favorite red wine.
  • Looking for something super unique to drink? Check out my Haus review. They’re aperitif wines that are complex and delicious! And can also be used in cocktails.
Close up of a jar holding simple syrup.

Simple Syrup Recipe for Cocktails

With just 2 ingredients that you already have at home, you can make an easy simple syrup recipe for cocktails and beverages.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: cocktails
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Calories: 65kcal
Servings: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan.
  • Heat over medium flame until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.
  • Do not bring to a boil. Heat just until sugar is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and cool completely.
  • Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Notes

This makes about 1 1/2 cups of simple syrup. Most cocktail recipes only need an ounce so you can make a bunch of drinks with this batch.
If you want to make the simple syrup less sweet, reduce the amount of sugar. I typically make it with 1 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar.
Bartenders typically like a really thick syrup which can be made by using 2 cups of sugar to one cup of water.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 65kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Sodium: 1mg | Sugar: 17g
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