How to Make Simple Syrup: Sugar and Water

Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener made from two ingredients: sugar and water. A popular ingredient in a variety of cocktails, simple syrup can also be used to sweeten cold drinks like iced coffee or iced tea, or in baking to moisten sponge cakes.

“I always tell people that simple syrup is almost like a bartender’s magic ingredient,” says Camille Wilson, the cocktail enthusiast behind The Cocktail Snob. “It goes in so many cocktails, but you can also use it for anything and everything. Put it in your coffee, put it in your tea, it’s just a really great ingredient to have always.”

Simple syrup is commonly made with white granulated sugar, but any sugar will do — while the process is the same, the taste changes slightly. “You can use brown sugar if you want to, but it’s going to have more of that rich, caramelized taste,” says Wilson.

Below, Wilson walks us through how to make simple syrup at home — it really is simple!

How to make flavored simple syrup

A glass jar of rosemary simple syrup sitting on a wooden cutting board

Steep herbs, whole spices, or fruit in simple syrup to flavor it.

AnnaPustynnikova/Getty Images

Flavored simple syrups are used to sweeten and add another flavor to a drink at the same time. They’re useful in cocktails and mocktails and can add a unique twist to drinks like lemonade or lattes. The process is similar to making regular simple syrup.

Here are a few ideas for flavored simple syrups:

Cinnamon simple syrup

Follow the steps for regular simple syrup. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, add two or three cinnamon sticks to the saucepan and bring to a low boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes, then turn off the heat and let steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Strain out the cinnamon and then use or store.

Jalapeño simple syrup

Prep the jalapeño by removing the stem and, if desired, the seeds. “Remove the seeds if you don’t want it to be too spicy, but if you’re not afraid of spice, you can leave the seeds in there,” says Wilson. Cut the jalapeño into slices.

Follow the steps for regular simple syrup; once the sugar is dissolved, add the jalapeño and bring to a low boil. Turn down the heat, simmer for five minutes, and then strain out the jalapeño. For one cup of simple syrup, Wilson usually uses one whole jalapeño, but you can use two for a richer flavor.

Mint simple syrup

Any herb simple syrup — like mint or rosemary — uses equal parts water, sugar, and herb. For mint, clean and remove the leaves from the stem.

Follow the steps for regular simple syrup; once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the mint leaves. Bring to a low boil, simmer for five minutes, and then turn off the heat. Steep with a lid on for a few minutes for a stronger flavor, or strain out the leaves immediately and use once cooled. For rosemary, you can use leaves or full springs, and Wilson recommends steeping for half an hour.

Peach simple syrup

Any fruit simple syrup also uses equal parts water, sugar, and fruit. They’re also a great way to use up fruits that you won’t be able to eat before they go bad, Wilson says. Prep the peach by removing the pit and slicing it.

Follow the steps for regular simple syrup; once the sugar is dissolved, add the peach slices and bring to a low boil. Simmer for five minutes, then strain out the peaches and use or store the syrup. This one’s great in iced tea.

Vanilla simple syrup

Unlike most flavored syrups, this syrup’s ingredients are not in equal parts — for a cup of vanilla simple syrup, you’ll need one cup water, one cup sugar, and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.

Follow the steps for regular simple syrup, and once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the vanilla extract. Turn off the heat and cool before using or storing.

How long does simple syrup last?

Regular simple syrup or rich simple syrup, when stored in a glass container with a tight seal in the refrigerator, lasts about three to four weeks. However, flavored simple syrups only last about two weeks under the same storage conditions. 

Wilson recommends a glass container for storage: “I feel like with plastic, you can start tasting it after a while,” she says.

You can also freeze simple syrup for about five or six months. Freezing doesn’t affect the flavor of simple syrup, which makes it a great option for when you’ve made a large batch.

Insider’s takeaway

Simple syrup, a liquid sweetener made from sugar dissolved in hot water, is a versatile ingredient used to sweeten a variety of drinks from cocktails to iced coffee. You can make it on the stovetop, in the microwave, or even with really hot water from the faucet. It’ll last in a refrigerated, airtight container for up to four weeks.

Flavoring a simple syrup only takes one additional ingredient and is a great way to use up herbs or fruits when they’re close to going bad. Flavored syrups also open a world of possibilities when it comes to enhancing a drink. “You can pretty much make a simple syrup out of anything,” says Wilson. 

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