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It’s Cocktail Time: Really, Really Simple Syrup

By May 26, 2015Food

Everything should be simple…especially cocktails!  That’s where simple syrup comes in.

summer cocktails, simple syrup

I got a lovely letter from a reader this week with the following request:

“…I really love cocktails this time of the year but they are so expensive at Moscow restaurants. It would be great to make them at home for my guests. I’m not very creative but I would love something more summery and interesting than just a vodka and tonic. I’d also love to make a Moscow Mule but I can’t find any ginger beer. Can you help?
— Theresa W.”

Well first of all, Theresa, many thanks for the note! I love hearing from readers like you, and I always enjoy solving culinary problems.

And this is a REALLY simple fix. Really, really simple.

It’s called Simple Syrup.

This refrigerator staple is the foundation of many summer cocktails — it’s quick and easy to make, it keeps in the fridge for at least a month and it is a marvelously blank canvas on which you can — and you should — build flavor by infusing the syrup with herbs and fruits.

Simple Syrup is the foundation for great lemonade and limeade as well, ensuring that your beverage strength stays consistent. Combined with fresh juice and garnished with mint or any other summertime herb, this is a great way to prepare refreshing non-alcoholic beverages for the teetotalers in your life.

The recipe could not be simpler. Here it is:

Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

250 ml (2 cups) of plain white sugar
250 ml (2 cups) of water

Instructions:

1. Combine the sugar and water together in a sauce pan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Bring to a brief boil
3. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature.
4. Store in a non-reactive glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Recipe notes: some cocktails call for “honey syrup.” Substitute honey for sugar and proceed.

Some cocktail recipes call for “rich simple syrup.” As the name suggests, this is a sweeter, more concentrated syrup. It’s also dead easy. Just increase the ratio of sugar to water.

Like this:

Rich Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

3 cups of plain white sugar
2 cups of water

Instructions:

1. Combine the sugar and water together in a sauce pan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Bring to a brief boil
3. Remove from heat, cool to room temperature.
4. Store in a non-reactive glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Recipe notes: some cocktails — particularly ones that are anchored with the “brown” liquors such as tequila, bourbon, scotch, rye, or brandy may recommend you use a brown sugar simple syrup. Substitute Turbinado for white sugar and proceed as above.

So, now you’ve got your base (got your base, got your base…) it’s time to get creative.

You can infuse anything into a syrup but here are a few I think are just great and which you will need to mix up the cocktails below.

Ginger Infused Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

2 cups of plain white sugar
2 cups of water
2 knobs of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced into thin “coins”
100 grams of candied ginger, chopped

Instructions:

1. Combine the sugar and water together in a sauce pan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Bring to a brief boil.
3. Add the ginger and stir to combine
4. Remove from heat, cool, covered to room temperature.
5. Strain the ginger from the syrup
6. Store in a non-reactive glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Berry Infused Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

250 ml (2 cups) of plain white sugar
30 ml (2 Tbl) of plain white sugar
250 ml (2 cups) of water

300 grams of fresh as fresh can be berries in season (for best results, use strawberries, sea buckthorn, raspberries, kliokva, and gooseberries, washed

Instructions:

1. Combine the sugar and water together in a sauce pan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Toss the fresh berries with the sugar, then gently macerate the berries with the sugar — don’t overdo it, but initiate the breakdown of the berry flesh.
3. Bring to a brief boil.
4. Add the berries and stir to combine
5. Remove from heat, cool, covered to room temperature.
6. Strain the berries from the syrup
7. Store in a non-reactive glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Herb Infused Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

250 ml (2 cups) of plain white sugar
250 ml (2 cups) of water
125 ml (1 cup) of fresh herbs (for best results, try basil, tarragon, mint)

Instructions:

1. Combine the sugar and water together in a sauce pan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Remove the leaves of the herb from the stems. Roughly chop the herbs to release the aroma
3. Bring the sugar to a brief boil.
4. Add the herbs and stir to combine
5. Remove from heat, cool, covered to room temperature.
6. Strain the herbs from the syrup
7. Store in a non-reactive glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Coriander Infused Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

250 ml (2 cups) of plain white sugar
250 ml (2 cups) of water
125 ml (1 cup) of fresh coriander
45 ml (3 Tbl) of whole coriander seeds, crushed slightly with a mortar and pestle.

Instructions:

1. Combine the sugar and water together in a sauce pan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Remove the leaves of the herb from the stems. Roughly chop the herbs to release the aroma
3. Bring the sugar to a brief boil.
4. Add the herbs and seeds and stir to combine
5. Remove from heat, cool, covered to room temperature.
6. Strain the herbs and seeds from the syrup
7. Store in a non-reactive glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Recipe notes: You can also use this method with caraway seeds and celery leaves for a fantastic kick to any celery-based drink.

Citrus Infused Simple Syrup

Ingredients:

250 ml (2 cups) of plain white sugar
250 ml (2 cups) of water
The zest of several limes, a few lemons, 2 oranges, and one grapefruit

Note: When I say “zest” I don’t mean the zest and the pith. Use a vegetable peeler to remove just the outer layer of the skin, not the white pith. Use a very sharp kitchen knife to julienne the zest into strips.

Instructions:

1. Combine the sugar and water together in a sauce pan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved
2. Bring the sugar to a brief boil.
3. Add the zest
4. Remove from heat, cool, covered to room temperature.
5. Strain the zest from the syrup
6. Store in a non-reactive glass container in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Recipe Notes:

Experiment with combinations such as lemon and mint, basil and lime, grapefruit and pommagranate, orange and ginger.

This is the best way to make lemonade, rather than simply slicing the citrus and adding it to water and hoping for the best. Mix the simple syrup, fresh citrus juice, and water in a ratio of 2:1:4 and add ice.

So, now that your fridge is chocker block with simple syrups of every imaginable variety, its time to mix up cocktails!

The supply side for Moscow is always in flux, isn’t it? To stick to my theme of keeping it simple and affordable, the recipes below are mainly for vodka with a few tequila, rum, and gin recipes thrown in to keep it interesting.

For best results, use fresh fruit juice and chill your cocktail glasses ahead of time.

These are based on existing recipes, but tweaked to ensure that all of the ingredients are available in Russia, the names are my own.

The North-South

Ingredients:

45 ml (1-1/2 oz) vodka
15 ml (1/2-oz) elderflower liqueur such as St. Germain*
30 ml (-1oz) of pomegranate juice
15 ml (1/2-oz) of fresh lime juice
10 ml (1/4-oz) of simple syrup
Fresh lime slices and pomegranate seeds for garnish

Instructions:

Combine the vodka, elderflower liqueur, pomegranate juice, lime juice and simple syrup to cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Cover and shake vigorously. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with lime and pomegranate seeds.

*Purchase elderflower syrup at IKEA

The Dacha Garden

Ingredients

3 large bunches of green basil, leaves removed from the stems.
1 lime – tested in long strips and juiced
125 ml (1 cup) of peeled cucumber chunks + cucumber spears as garnish
30 ml (2 Tbl) of Basil-infused simple syrup
60 ml of chilled vodka
Club soda

Instructions

1. Combine the basil leaves and cucumber slices in the bottle of a cocktail shaker or jar.
2. Muddle the cucumber and basil leaves.
3. Add the simple syrup, lime juice, and vodka with several ice cubes.
4. Shake vigorously to combine.
5. Pour over ice in a highball glass until 3/4 full.
6. Top up with club soda, add a cucumber spear and more basil leaves for garnish.

The Pear Tree

Instructions

30 ml (1 oz) of ginger-infused simple syrup
60 ml (2 oz) of boxed pear nectar
60 ml of vodka

A splash of club soda
Sliced fresh pear for garnish
Cinnamon stick for garnish
Candied ginger for garnish

Ingredients

1. Combine the simple syrup, vodka, and pear nectar in a sturdy glass jar or cocktail shaker filled with ice.

2. Shake the contents vigorously to combine
3. Pour into a chilled martini glass or shallow champagne glass.  Top up with a dash of club soda
4. Garish with fresh pear, candied ginger, and cinnamon stick.

The Green Line

Ingredients

45 ml (1-1/2 oz) of vodka
15 ml (1 Tbl) of chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 Uzbek (Meyer) lemon, tested into strips, then juiced
45 ml (1-1/2 oz) of tarragon-infused simple syrup (or regular simple syrup)
Green “Tarkhune” lemonade
Brut champagne

Instructions:

1. Muddle the all but a few of the tarragon leaves with half of the lemon zest in the bottom of a cocktail shaker or jar.
2. Add the lemon juice, simple syrup, vodka and ice and shake vigorously.
3. Fill a cocktail glass with ice. Fill half of the glass with the cocktail and top up with a mixture of tarkhune and lemonade and champagne.
4. Garnish with lemon zest strips and tarragon leaves.

The Grand Duchess

Ingredients:

60 ml (2 oz) of best quality gin
30 ml (1 oz) of fresh lime juice
17 ml (2/3-oz) of mint-infused simple syrup
1/2-cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1 incredibly thin cucumber slice
1 bunch of mint, leaves removed from the stems

Instructions:

1. Muddle most the mint and half of the cucumber in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add the gin, lime juice and simple syrup and fill with ice
3. Strain into a chilled champagne glass. Garnish with mint and cucumber

Note – you can add a little seltzer or brut to this to make it fizz, but I like the cleaner burn.

The Anna

(in honor of Anna Arutunyan)

Ingredients

60 ml (2 oz) of Aperol
60 ml (2 oz) of fresh grapefruit juice
1 egg white
1 oz of Honey Simple Syrup
Club soda or Prosecco

Garnish: A long strip of grapefruit zest

Instructions

1. Combine the egg white, simple syrup, and Aperol in a cocktail shaker without ice.
2. Shake very hard for 20 seconds.
3. Add 1 cup of ice and the grapefruit juice to the shaker and continue to shake vigorously for another 20 seconds.
4. Stain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.  You can also serve in a larger wine glass, over ice with 4 oz of Prosecco.
5. Garnish with grapefruit juice

Classic Mint Julep

Ingredients:

60 ml (2 oz) of Bourbon
1 bunch of fresh mint — leaves removed from the stems
15 ml (1/2-oz) of brown sugar simple syrup
Crushed ice (use a blender to crush it – makes all the difference)

Instructions

1. Muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup in a julep-type glass (ideally metal) — leave for 3 minutes.
2. Add half of the bourbon.
3. Fill the glass with crushed ice.
4. Pour the remainder of the bourbon on top of the crushed ice.
5. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

The Moscow Mule

Ingredients

60 ml (2 oz) of vodka
30 ml (1 oz) of fresh lime juice
30 ml (1 oz) of brown sugar, ginger-infused simple syrup
1/2 knob of fresh ginger, cut into very thin coins
Seltzer water

Candied ginger to garnish
Thin lime slices
Mint (optional — but it works really well!)

Instructions:

1. Muddle the ginger and the lime juice with the mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.
2. Add ice, vodka and the simple syrup. Shake vigorously.
3. Strain through a sieve into a chilled cocktail glass (traditionally copper mugs, but these are not a deal breaker if you don’t have them).
4. Top off with seltzer water and garnish with lime, candied ginger, and mint. A nice idea is to skewer the candied ginger and the lime onto a swizzle stick.

So mix up some simple syrup and get cracking on those summer holidays! And send me a line by hitting the comment button below to let me know which one was your favorite!

Enjoy!


 

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