Simple Syrup, Simply Essential

By Herb Gardener.

I squandered my mid-twenties in Bishop, California’s high desert splendor. Located on the jagged eastern escarpment of the Sierras, Bishop was then home to a modest population of indigenous Paiute Indians, rock climbers, mountain bikers, and other radical recreators. To support a trout fishing habit I tended bar. As I memorized and practiced drink recipes I learned that simple syrup is a key ingredient in many popular cocktails, the sweet note that harmonizes booze and sour/tart mixers into a pleasing orchestration.

Simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar heated and stirred until the sugar dissolves. Bakers who increase the sugar-to-water ratio for cake moistening may add a lemon slice to inhibit crystallization. Like a mother

sauce in French cuisine this basic formula provides mixologists and chefs a creative point of departure. That goes for weekend foodies, too.
An article in the August/September 2009 issue of ReadyMade magazine suggested two methods for home experimentation: changing the sweetener and manipulating flavors. An example of the latter from chef Jean-George Vongerichten calls for substituting lime juice for the water and adding fresh peeled ginger slices. The recipe is available at The resulting fortified syrup infuses mixed drinks and salad dressings with a delightful twist. See my application below.

Noodle around with aromatic spices and herbs such as cinnamon and thyme; try less refined or unrefined sweeteners like demerara or local honey for depth and complexity. Be open to adjusting proportions as honey, for example, is spoon-for-spoon sweeter than sugar. A New York Times newspaper article from August 18, 2009 How to Sip a Flower Garden, featured a lavender and rose water combination that demonstrates the versatility of the form. Can a smoked syrup be far behind? Take inspiration from Florida’s citrus groves and sugar cane fields and create your own original syrup concoction. Even if it just improves your iced tea on a hot Bishop or Sarasota afternoon you will be rewarded.
Pom Bomb Cocktail
This one packs an alcohol punch, a real cocktail versus a mixed drink.
1 1/4 oz. citron vodka
3/4 oz. pomegranate juice
1/4 oz. cointreau
1/4 oz. ginger-lime simple syrup
Pour the ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Serve
in a martini glass. Feel free to play with proportions.


Flavors and More Magazine – September 2009

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