How to make sugar syrup for cocktails; and some creative herbs to infuse it with

You will, at some stage or other, need to make sugar syrup to use in cocktails. Don’t be tempted to use liquid honey because it will affect the taste, and also be too thick and therefore not mix in properly.

But making sugar syrup really isn’t too difficult.

I add vodka to mine to make it last longer – keep it in the fridge for anything up to six months.


Infuse your sugar syrup

Of course, you can infuse it, to provide a little discreet additional flavour. Try

  • lemon verbena
  • mint
  • thyme – lemon is good
  • rosemary
  • lovage
  • scented pelargonium

When you have finished making the syrup, take it off the heat, add the clean leaves of any of the above, and leave for an hour or so to cool. Then take the leaves out, and keep in the fridge.


Aiming to cut down on food waste? Make a sustainable whisky cocktail

Use infused sugar syrup to make a sustainable whisky cocktail as they do at Mr Lyon’s Studio. Make a one:one proportion sugar syrup and infuse with four apple cores, and four black cardamom pods. Simmer for three minutes, turn of heat, and add some mint stems. Agitate. Leave to cool. Pass through a sieve.

Mix 10 ml of this infused syrup with 45 ml of whisky (British, of course, to cut down carbon footprint), 10 ml of dry vermouth (British, of course, for the same reason – go to this post for a selection). And a dash each of Angostura and Reagan’s orange bitters. Add ice, stir, and serve with thin slices of apple.


Add salted caramel

Or, on a different tack, try making salted caramel syrup. Superb in a Moby Dick, with five times its volume of coconut-washed Johnny Walker Black Label, and a garnish of toasted coconut.


In any case, this is, basically, what to do to make rich sugar syrup. For simple syrup you simply (!) use 1 part sugar to 1 part water.


Recipe for making rich (2 parts sugar:1 part water) sugar syrup

To make about a cup


  • 120 ml/½ cup water
  • 200g/1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp vodka


  1. Pour the water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil.
  2. Add the sugar, and dissolve it into the water – stirring all the time.
  3. When the sugar has dissolved completely, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about ten minutes. Don’t cook too long or it will become too thick…and it might even begin to caramelise.
  4. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
  5. Pour into a sterilised bottle. Go here to find out how to sterilise bottles and jars.


Music to listen to as you create

You can listen to Nancy Sinatra’s 60s classic, Sugartown while you make this syrup – it will take (excluding simmering time) about the same time.


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