Imagine a fancy craft cocktail bar, with its mirrored or dramatically lit shelves full of liqueurs, elixirs, and other boozy potions. Bartenders swizzle, shake, stir and strain beautifully hued cocktails into fine, heavy glassware. The ice is made from purified water and served in impressive chunks and spheres; occasionally a blue flame kisses a citrus rind or rears up over a drink in a dramatic show of skill.
Of all the pomp and theater of the craft cocktail bars that have sprung up everywhere (we’re not complaining), the singular revelation that’s stayed with us is the subtle power of infused simple syrups. So many kinds of cocktails have at least a tiny splash of sweetener in them, and flavors woven into those syrups add layer upon layer of nuance and sophistication to drinks. Barkeeps in these type establishments have dozens of housemade syrups lined up neatly in squirt bottles along the bar rail, ready to be measured by the half jigger into an awaiting concoction.
Even if you don’t call yourself a “mixologist,” making these exact sorts of infused simple syrups is a great way to upgrade your home bar. Plus, it’s ridiculously easy. If you can make tea, or heat up a can of soup, you too can make infused simple syrups that will breathe new creative life into your drinks and impress the heck out of your guests. In our Spring ’17 issue, contributor Karolina Wiercigroch includes a recipe for raspberry rosemary simple syrup for a sparkling cocktail. Here are 3 other gorgeous infusions to try out.
Begin with fresh simple syrup: bring equal parts water and white sugar to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. While the sugar water is still hot, add in the other ingredients. Allow them to steep for at least 10 minutes before straining.
Note: the ingredients below are measured for 1 cup of simple syrup.
Blueberry Lemon Thyme Simple Syrup
Put 1/4 cup of fresh blueberries into a bowl and lightly crush with the back of a spoon to release some juices. Roughly chop 2-3 tablespoons of fresh lemon thyme. Add to the simple syrup and steep for 10-15 minutes before straining.
Pear Star Anise Simple Syrup
Roughly chop 1/2 cup of organic dried pears and add along with 1 pod of star anise to the simple syrup. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain.
Mandarin Ginger Simple Syrup
Using a microplane, grate a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, reserving any juice. Peel a small mandarin orange (clemetines work great) and add half the peel to the syrup. Put the segments of the orange into a bowl and lightly crush with the back of a spoon. Add to the syrup and allow to steep for 10 minutes before straining.