Learn with A Bar Above

Using Syrups

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Syrups & Purees

What are Syrups & Purees?

Syrups & Purees are a great way to add flavor to drinks. While they may not seem like it at first, they are actually fairly similar.  Both are made with a flavoring ingredient and sugar. Syrups are typically made with juice and sugar or water and sugar, and heated to dissolve the sugar. Purees are made by adding simple syrup to a blender along with the flavoring ingredient and blending them all together.

Syrups are fairly flexible, and can be made with juices or fruit, or they can be made with herbs and spices as well. Purees are generally limited to fruits and vegetables with a relatively high water content.

Key Benefits & Drawbacks:

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Benefits Drawbacks
  • The best part about using syrups and purees to flavor cocktails is that you can “work ahead.”  When you’re making the final cocktail, your ingredients are fully made and you won’t have to do anything except add the pre-prepped syrups or purees to the drink. Since they are non-alcoholic, these are also great to have on hand in case a guest asks for a non-alcoholic drink as well.
  • Since these are house-made, you can tweak the recipe to exactly meet your needs. Need something sweeter? Make the syrup sweeter and your bartender won’t have to think about adjusting the cocktail when he’s taking care of a thirsty crowd.
  • As with any pre-prepped product, if you actually run out of it during service, you can’t realistically go create more on a moment’s notice. If you’re in a bar or restaurant, make sure someone’s keeping an eye on your house-made products to ensure you have the inventory you need.
  • Pre-prep means there’s less to do when you’re making the cocktail, but more to do before hand. Someone will need to create these ingredients during off-peak hours, and you’ll need to make sure your bar or restaurant has the ability to store enough for service.

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Write it Down

It’s so important to write down the detail of how you made your syrups. How much time the syrup was on heat, how high the heat was, and how long you let it sit before straining may seem like unnecessary detail, but these factors can truly change the final product. So writing down the whole process in detail will be tremendously helpful in re-creating a syrup again.

Flavored Syrups

If you think of flavored syrups as simple syrups with other ingredients added, exchanged or infused, you’re pretty much there.

Making Flavored Syrups:

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Depending on the ingredient, there are different optimal ways to extract the flavors. The more delicate the ingredient and flavor, the less heat it will need to experience.

  • When infusing spices, add them to the saucepan along with the water and sugar, right at the beginning. As the heat dissolves the sugar it will also encourage flavor extraction from the spices.
  • On the other side of the spectrum, wait until the syrup has been removed from the heat to add fragile herbs like mint. Too much heat can over-extract and pull undesirable flavors like bitter, woodiness.
  • Another option is to use fruit juice instead of water when making the simple syrup. Since fruit juice is sweet, plan to add less sugar to the syrup.
  • For fresh fruit that is high in water content, another option that maintains the freshest fruit flavor is to avoid heat altogether. Cutting the fruit into small pieces and adding sugar is called Maceration. Leaving this mixture to sit at room temperature for 2-4 hours will naturally create a syrup in the bottom of the bowl, that you can then fine-strain and use. Due to the use of fresh ingredients, this technique can be hard to replicate exactly.

Sweetness & Syrups:

One great thing about syrups is that they are extremely flexible – you can make them as sweet or tart as you require for your specific cocktail.

Unless there’s a strong reason otherwise, I’d like to strongly recommend you attempt to align your syrup’s sweetness with either simple syrup or rich simple syrup. (In other words, make 1 oz of your syrup be just as sweet as 1 oz of simple syrup or rich simple syrup.) This will make it much simpler to substitute into other cocktail recipes.

Shelf Life:

Due to the high sugar content, syrups keep for a relatively long time – you can keep them in the fridge for a few weeks without experiencing a drop in quality.

Photo by OakleyOriginals / CC BY

Purees

Purees are basically just the result of adding simple syrup and your flavoring ingredient to a blender and blending it all together. This is a good option for fruits or vegetables with a high water content, but is not recommended for herbs or spices.

Making Purees:

  • Cut your fruit into small enough pieces to be easily blended. Add to blender.
  • Add simple syrup and, if needed, acid to balance the sweetness.
  • Liquify.
  • Fine-strain

Shelf Life:

Purees don’t last as long as syrups, and should definitely be kept in the refrigerator. Plan to use these within 1-2 days, or freeze the remainder for later use.