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What is Simple Syrup?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Simple syrup is a liquid that is made by dissolving granulated sugar in hot water. This very basic syrup is used in a wide range of applications; it is common in bars, coffee shops, bakeries, and candy making facilities, among other places. Many markets sell it, and it is also very easy to make at home.

Classically, simple syrup is made with a mixture of two parts sugar to one part water. The water is brought to the boiling point, and the sugar is stirred in until it completely dissolves. Once the sugar is melted, the syrup is allowed to cool before it is bottled. It is also possible to make flavored syrup by adding extracts or essences to the syrup once it has been cooked. When making it at home, cooks should be sure to use a clean bottle so that the syrup does not crystallize or go off as a result of impurities. The easiest way to ensure that a bottle is clean is to boil it right before using it.

Obviously, simple syrup is extremely sweet, because of the sugar, and it is also rather dense. Barkeeps use it to sweeten and thicken drinks, as it also adds volume to the beverage. Some people refer to it as “bar syrup” because of this common use. In addition to being available plain, bar syrup can also be colored and flavored. Many popular drink recipes call for the syrup, and it is a must-have for people who want to create a fully-stocked bar.

In baking, simple syrup is often used to soak sweets like sponge and pound cakes. The syrup may be laced with alcohol or other flavorings to make it more exciting. It is also used as a base for making rock candy, a candy made with crystallized sugar, and coffee shops add flavored syrup to drinks. Flavored simple syrup is also the basis of some sodas; when mixed with ice and carbonated water, it creates a sweet, fizzy drink.

This sugar and water syrup tends to be very shelf stable, because sugar is a natural preservative. As long as impurities are not introduced to the syrup, it can be kept at room temperature for months. For convenience, many people fit bottles of it with nozzles that allow users to squirt the syrup out without having to uncap it. Some companies make specialized nozzles or pumps that dispense a precise amount at a time, making it easier to create mixed drinks with simple syrup.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon291858 — On Sep 17, 2012

I have been making a ginger syrup for my self and some friends who enjoy a ginger "martini" on occasion. My question is what can I add to my recipe to enable the bottled mixture to be shelf safe for a few months?

My recipe is a basic simple syrup with a cup of finely processed ginger root, lemon juice and lemon zest. It is well cooked then strained into a clean (boiled) bottle. I usually tell people to always keep it refrigerated, but I'd like to add a safe preservative to ensure it is OK to keep on the shelf.

By anon129877 — On Nov 25, 2010

My question is that why is sugar syrup added from liquid manufacturing and what is the purpose? Please give me answers. thanks.

By pharmchick78 — On Oct 12, 2010

I have to say, a mojito with mint simple syrup has got to be one of my favorite cocktails of all time.

If you really want to add an interesting not to a margarita, you can try making a blended margarita with mint simple syrup as well. For some reason it doesn't work so well for me doing it on the rocks, but the blended ones seem to take the syrup really well.

By FirstViolin — On Oct 12, 2010

I always like to use homemade lemon simple syrup for my baking, and also to use as flavoring for cocktails.

It's really easy to make -- all you do is to take four cups of water, two cups of sugar, and one cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (don't try the store-bought lemon juice, it doesn't taste nearly as good).

You heat your water and sugar together on a stove at medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Then bring it up to a boil, and let it go at a rolling boil for about a minute.

At the end of a minute, turn off your stove and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Then you can add in the lemon juice, stirring it in with a wooden spoon as you add it. And there you go -- homemade lemon simple syrup.

Just make sure you store it properly in a sanitary glass container, you don't want it going bad before you use it up.

By CopperPipe — On Oct 12, 2010

What would be the appropriate ratio of honey to water if I wanted to make a honey simple syrup to use for my coffee?

Is there any true set ratio for these things, or is it more of a "to taste" type of thing?

I really hate to buy simple syrup now that I know it's so easy to make, so could you let me know about how much honey I would need to make a liter of simple syrup?


Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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