Learn with A Bar Above

Back to the Basics: Sucrose & Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup

1 part Sugar & 1 part water by volume.

Tasting Notes:

  • Simple Syrup is a blank canvas – it adds sweetness without adding flavor.
  • I call it “The vodka of Sweeteners” because, like Vodka, it doesn’t add flavor.
  • Can be used with virtually any liquor – it is not incompatible with any flavors.

Making Simple Syrup:

There is a lot of disagreement in the industry around what is the best way to make simple syrup.  I tried three methods, and here were my results:

Method Consistency Taste
Method 1: Shake sugar into cold water until it is dissolved Both of these methods created a syrup with a thinner consistency. All three syrups tasted exactly the same.
Method 2: Stir sugar into warm water until it is dissolved
Method 3: Lightly boil (145 degrees for 5 minutes) This syrup had a thicker, more syrupy consistency.

Rich Simple Syrup

2 parts Sugar & 1 part water by volume.

Tasting Notes:

  • Again, Rich Simple Syrup is a blank canvas – it adds sweetness without adding flavor.
  • If Simple Syrup is “The vodka of Sweeteners,” then Rich Simple Syrup is “The Everclear of Sweeteners”  It adds more intense sweetness but again, doesn’t add any flavor.
  • The key benefit of using Rich simple syrup instead of “normal” simple syrup is the fact that it brings less water into your cocktail. This allows you to adjust richness and balance without affecting the overall cocktail volume as much.

Granulated White Sugar

Photo by Stacy Spensley / CC By

Can you really use table sugar in cocktails?

The answer is – almost.  If you want to use this method to incorporate sweetness, it’s important to use superfine or baker’s sugar.  Don’t use powdered sugar, as (in the US at least) manufacturers typically add cornstarch or other additives to prevent clumping and we don’t really want these additives in our drinks.

Why would you want to?

If you’re looking to build an extremely rich drink that has the absolute minimum water content, this is a great choice for a sweetener.  A word of caution – we’ll discuss this later in the “balance” module, but just remember – richer is not always better!

How to Build a Drink using Plain Sugar:

When using plain sugar, it’s important to adjust the order in which you build your drink to ensure the sugar is fully dissolved before serving.  This is because raw sugar does not dissolve well in the presence of alcohol.

  • First, mix your sugar & citrus either by dry-shaking or muddling together.
  • Then, when the sugar is fully dissolved, add the rest of the ingredients (including spirits) and complete the drink.

Relative Sweetness & Summary Tasting Notes:

Sweetener % as sweet as pure (100%) Sucrose Tasting Notes
Simple Syrup 50% All three of these have the same (lack of) taste.  Sucrose is a neutral tasting sweetener, or the vodka of the sweetening world
Rich Simple Syrup 67%
Straight Sugar 100%