Basic Cooking: How to Make Simple Syrup

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We’re kicking off our Basic Cooking series with a toast! (The makings of a toast, to be more precise.)

Simple syrup is gloriously useful stuff. It’s one of the building blocks of many cocktails—from classic to contemporary—and, really, it couldn’t get any simpler to make.

Also known as “sugar syrup,” “simple sugar syrup,” and “bar syrup,” it’s quite literally sugar water. It can also be used as the basis for flavored syrups.

Why bother making simple syrup?

Keeping a bottle of simple syrup on hand allows you to make sweetened drinks on the fly—without worrying about whether your sugar has dissolved completely.

What can I do with simple syrup?

Great question. Use it to make dozens of classic libations, or:

+Sweeten freshly brewed iced tea, coffee, lemonade, or limeade
+Stir into hot oatmeal
+Drizzle a little over freshly cut fruit
+Mix with seltzer and crushed berries for a refreshing and non-alcoholic spritzer

Making simple syrup is about as basic as it gets

Most traditional recipes for simple syrup combine one part sugar and one part water. (Some recipes call for two parts sugar to one part water.) Just bring the mixture to a boil, then cool it and use at your leisure.

Almost all bars have a bottle or two of this on hand. I make a batch and stash it on the door of the fridge. It keeps for a long time, and is great to have on hand for spur-of-the-moment cocktail inspiration.

What kind of equipment do I need to make simple syrup?

You’ll need a medium-sized saucepan, a whisk, and a funnel. You’ll also need an empty bottle with a tight-fitting cap or cork to store your syrup once it’s cooled.

I use an old Johnnie Walker Black bottle that I washed out with a little soap and rinsed thoroughly. I like it because the rectangular shape is fairly space efficient in our fridge.

An empty wine bottle—or even a large canning jar—would work well, too. Just make sure it’s clean, and pick a size and shape that won’t get in the way.

Simple Syrup

2 cups granulated white sugar
2 cups water

Put the sugar in a medium-sized saucepan.

Stir the sugar around with a whisk and break up any lumps.

Add the water.

Whisk well to combine.

Set the pot on the stove over high heat. Bring the mixture up to a boil, whisking frequently to dissolve the sugar as the water heats up.

As the water heats up, the sugar will almost completely dissolve.

Before it comes to a boil, you should notice that there are still a few, stray sugar crystals on the bottom of the pot.

Bring the mixture up to a full, rolling boil.

Let the mixture boil, uncovered, for 1 minute.

After a minute, turn the heat off and remove the pan from the heat.

At this point, you can toss in some fresh ginger, orange/lemon peel, cloves, peppercorns, etc. for a flavored syrup, if you like.

Let the syrup cool in the pot, uncovered, until it’s at room temperature.

When the syrup has cooled, you’re ready to bottle it.

If you’ve added any flavorings, fish them out now with a slotted spoon.

Set a funnel in the mouth of a clean bottle.

Carefully pour the syrup through the funnel and into the bottle.

Cap your bottle and pop it into the fridge.

What’s your favorite cocktail?

And how about you? What would you use this stuff for?

Me, I’m partial to an old-fashioned or a gin and tonic (or any kind of jammy red wine). The Angry Chef loves a good kamikaze (equal parts fresh lime juice, triple sec, and vodka).

Now it’s up to you to see what kind of concoction you can whip up. Enjoy! (And cheers!)

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. I've always wondered how long simple syrup will last? Indefinitely? My favorite cocktail is probably a gin martini with olive. Very traditional.
  2. You know, I feel like I've read it's good for about 6 months in the fridge. The Angry Chef says about 3 months. That said, we usually use it up before then. I'd use your eyes and snout after a few months. If it looks or smells funky, toss it. And yum, gin martinis! +Jessie
  3. Wow, you guys don't mess around. A whole Johnny bottle worth of simple syrup! Party at the Mouse House! I have also made simple syrup with herbs like basil or even with cucumbers. Makes your martinis interesting.
  4. I only wish I could say I love martinis or something but I've stopped drinking cocktails for years now so I don't even know what I like anymore... The Food Critic at home is fatally allergic to alcohol so the only alcohol we have at home are red wine *gifts from friends* and cooking wine. Sigh... ~Foong~
  5. Thanks, guys! Fumi--Party at the Mouse House indeed! Come on down! :D Foong--Oh noes! Ah well. This stuff is great all around though...Iced tea, etc. Jo--Thanks so much! You're so very, very sweet. Totally appreciate all your support, hon. Mamaboolj--Oh, you should! And, yum! Love mojitos! Natasha--Oh noes. I feel like it can get funky if you don't keep it in the fridge. Good luck! Duo Dishes--Yum again on the mojito! What would you put in your syrup? :D +Jessie
  6. Thank you for this, I have been wondering about it. I recently purchased a couple nice little bottles to store the sugar water in. I went to a bar and had a cocktail called an El Mariachi. Ice 1/2 pair (crushed in mortar and pestle) 1 x shot white rum 1 x shot spiced rum 1 x shot sugar water (cinnamon sticks in the bottle to permeate through sugar water) It was delicious, the bar tender gave me the recipe since I kept ordering them. Once he ran out of pair, he used blood oranges, it was good, but not as good as the pair. Looking forward to making these for xmas ;))
    • Give this a shot: 2 cups simple syrup 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 cups water Mix that all up and pour it into a pitcher of ice to chill. (Also, fabulous with a little vodka in it!) If it's too sweet, toss in a litle more lemon juice. Cheers! +Jessie
  7. Just came across your site for making simple syrups while looking for a recipe & have a question for you regarding such. I saw a segment on tv where they made a (sort of) cheesecake using simple syrup, lemonade, strawberries, cream cheese & graham crackers but they did not give the recipe! It was all mixed together, put into sundae glasses (not frozen) with the graham cracker "crust" sprinkled on top. Best I could remember of the steps was simple syrup, strawberries & lemonade were mixed in a blender then added to and mixed with creamcheese. Sounded delish & I wanted to try it put could not find a recipe anywhere! Any suggestions? It was called "Strawberry Lemonade Cheesecake". I can follow a recipe like a champ but am all bungles when trying to figures out how much of this & that on my own! Hope you can help!!