How to Make Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener called for in many drinks and desserts. It is usually cold when added to a recipe, so it's great to have some on hand in your refrigerator rather than having to make it and cool it on the fly. Here's how to make this simple sweetener.

Sweeten up!
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Simple syrup is just that – the simplest form of liquid sweetener there is. It’s so easy to make that it’s a wonder you can actually buy it pre-made in the grocery store (the bottle its stored in probably costs more than the contents!). Once you learn how easy it is to make, I dare say you’ll never buy it again.

A saucepan, a bowl of sugar and a measuring cup of water on a tiled counter.

What is Simple Syrup Made of?

Simple syrup is made up of equal parts sugar and water by volume. That means 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. That’s it! All you have to do is combine these two ingredients, ensuring that the sugar dissolves and what you’re left with is simple syrup.

A saucepan with water and sugar inside on a tiled counter.

How to Make Simple Syrup

The only task you have when making this liquid sweetener is to dissolve the sugar into a liquid form and the way you do that is with heat. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer, stirring every once in a while to make sure the sugar dissolves completely. You will be able to see and feel that there are no granules of sugar left and the liquid will be perfectly clear with a slight yellow tinge. At that stage, you’re officially done. However… you do have the option to boil the mixture for longer for a thicker syrup if you like. The longer you boil the syrup, the more water will evaporate, and the thicker the result will be. There’s really no need to do this for most recipes, but it is an option if you need a thicker, sweeter liquid for your purposes.

A saucepan pouring simple syrup into a glass bottle through a metal funnel.

What is Simple Syrup Used For?

Simple syrup is an ingredient in many beverages and cocktails. It’s used whenever a recipe needs sweetening in liquid form. Common uses are in lemonades, mojitos or fruit punches. It can also be called upon to sweeten fruit in a salad, like in this winter fruit salad, and is often used to douse cakes to make them sweeter after baking.

Flavored Simple Syrups

Sugar is usually the ingredient in simple syrup, but it’s not the only option. You can substitute honey, maple syrup or agave instead of the sugar if you want a different flavored syrup. Because these alternatives are liquid already, you won’t need to add as much water to the mix. A honey syrup is actually a great way to keep honey in liquid form, but it won’t last as long as pure honey. It is also possible to use artificial sweeteners to make a sugar-free simple syrup. Follow the sugar substitute suggestions on your package of sweetener for guidance. You also make flavored syrups by infusing flavors into the sugar and water combo as the liquid cools. Try adding fresh herbs like mint, basil or rosemary, or citrus peel like orange, lemon or lime, or even liqueurs like amaretto or limoncello for different flavored syrups.

A bottle of simple syrup with a lemon and some mint leaves on a tiled counter.

How to Store Simple Syrup

Once you have finished boiling the water and sugar, you will need to let the mixture cool. Then, store it in a bottle or jar with a lid and keep it in the refrigerator. Since simple syrup is almost always called for cold, it makes sense to make a big batch of it and store it for future purposes.

How Long Does Simple Syrup Last?

Once in the refrigerator, simple syrup will last almost indefinitely. The sugar content is so high that bacteria really can’t live in the syrup. That doesn’t mean that mold might not grow on top of the syrup, however, so keeping it for up to a month is a good measure to safeguard against that. The good news is that if the syrup looks fine (i.e. no mold), it is fine! It’s as simple as that!


Quick Notes:

  • Simple Syrup is made of equal parts sugar and water by volume. (1 cup sugar + 1 cup water)
  • To make simple syrup, bring water and sugar to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved completely
  • You can boil the sugar and water for longer if you want a thicker, sweeter syrup
  • Simple syrups are used to sweeten drinks, cocktails, fruit salads or to douse cakes after baking
  • Make flavored simple syrups by infusing fresh herbs or citrus peels in the sugar and water
  • Store simple syrup in a bottle or jar with a lid
  • Simple syrup will keep for up to a month (or indefinitely) in the refrigerator.

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