How To Make Flavored Cocktail Syrups

Cameron Carnes
Cameron Carnes

With cocktails, even some of the simplest flavor combinations can be combined for a whole new effect. If you’re willing to put in the time and risk making a mess in the kitchen, you can create some syrups that will add pizzazz to your next signature cocktail.

Flavor Saver

Like with most cocktail-related things, there are quite a few different ways to make syrups. However, many flavor and aromatic compounds are delicate and will break apart when exposed to heat. Others aren’t water soluble, which means that they won’t be transferred if the ingredient is put in water for the syrup.

Luckily, there are a few ways to get around these difficulties. One such method is to combine your flavorful ingredients (like citrus zest, ginger root or thin cucumber slices) and sugar in a sealable plastic bag. Let it rest for several hours, and let the ingredients liquefy. The resulting liquid is called an oleo sacchrum, and was traditionally used as the base for punch. It can be quite thick, so to thin it out, add a bit of water to the bag and squeeze until dissolved.

It would appear that, in most of these cases, osmosis—the tendency of a fluid to pass from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration—is the science at play (it’s a bit more complicated with the citrus oils, but it follows a similar process). By adding sugar and sealing the ingredients together, sugar draws out the liquid and taste compounds. If contained in a sealed area, all of the delicious aromatics and flavor molecules are preserved.

This approach is especially good for ingredients like ginger. Uncooked ginger contains gingerol, a spicy taste molecule. If the root is exposed to heat, gingerol degrades into zingerone—not so spicy—and shogaol, which gives ginger tea its recognizable burn.

Unfortunately, this approach to syrups does have its downside. Though it doesn’t take much prep time, it’s not as shelf-stable as a syrup that’s been heated. To prevent spoilage, refrigerate after completing the syrup.

Hot Stuff

The more traditional way of making simple syrup is to heat water and sugar in a pan. Boiling the mixture breaks the sucrose (sugar) down into fructose and glucose, two simple sugar molecules. The resulting syrup is slightly sweeter than what you may be used to, so adjust your recipes as needed.

However, you can also make syrup by combining a 1:1 ratio of sugar and other liquid in a sterilized glass container and shaking it periodically. For fruit juices and similar liquids, this approach doesn’t destroy the aromatics or flavor compounds. But like the oleo sacchrum method, cold batching doesn’t kill off bacteria or other nastiness that might be lurking inside your container. As a result, your syrup may not last as long.

Hit The Lab

If you’ve ever bought grocery store grenadine, you’ve probably been profoundly disappointed to find that it was just red sugar water. But traditionally, it was pomegranate-flavored, adding a subtle tartness and deep flavor to the drink that complimented its sweetness.

The availability of Pom and other pomegranate juices makes this syrup easy to make. Some recipes suggest nuking the juice until only about half is left. Other, simpler recipes call for equal parts Pom and sugar and 1 tsp of vodka. To combine, measure all three ingredients into a sterilized glass jar. Shake until no sugar remains on the bottom. Set on a countertop out of direct sunlight, and shake every 45 minutes or so until no sugar settles to the bottom.

One of my favorite cocktails to make with grenadine is the Ward Eight. Essentially, this cocktail is just a whiskey sour made with grenadine instead of simple syrup, but the substitution adds a pleasant earthiness that the original lacks.

As one of the only classic Boston cocktails, its devotees are smitten with their own recipes. In fact, during the 1940s a New York Sun writer put out a call for readers to submit their recipes for the cocktail. He received more than 500 replies. So, if this recipe doesn’t pique your fancy, tweak it until it does.

Ward 8

1 tsp - .75 oz grenadine (to taste)
1/2 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz orange juice
2 oz whiskey (rye or bourbon will work)
Lemon wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Add ice and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds or until cooled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with the lemon wheel.

Wasps Are Getting Drunk and Terrorizing People in England

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iStock

Go home, wasps. You’re drunk.

Thousands of “boozy wasps” are terrorizing the UK after imbibing the nectar of fermented fruit and cider left behind at pub gardens, Travel + Leisure reports. Experts warn that there’s a greater risk of getting stung at this time of year, especially while boozing outdoors or eating sweet foods.

The sudden change in diet highlights an issue with the insects' food supply: Wasps typically drink a kind of sugar-spit produced by larvae, but the hive queens have already stopped laying larvae by this time of year, and wasps have been unable to get their fill. They also carry a genetic trait that makes them go crazy for sugary foods and alcohol, and other factors have escalated the problem. For one, last year's cold winter translated to an early wasp season, which allowed them to build larger-than-normal nests.

"Wasps have built absolutely massive nests and, now that all the larvae have grown up and the queen has stopped laying eggs, the colonies have a workforce with nothing to do—and nothing to eat," pest control expert Shane Jones told the Daily Mail. "So they go down to the pub, obviously."

What they really want is sugar, which can be found in fermented fruit, cider, and fruity beers. Because wasps are lightweights, just one sip will get them drunk—and you don’t want to see them when they’re tipsy. "Wasps can't handle their booze, so they get tanked-up and fighty—like lager louts,” Jones says. Alcohol can make the insects more irritable and more likely to sting people.

The best way to avoid the problem, according to Dee Ward-Thompson, technical manager at the British Pest Control Association, is to keep the sugary goodies they're craving out of sight. “Maybe the most influential factor on wasp numbers is when people do not dispose of their waste properly, especially food with a high sugar content, such as fruit," Ward-Thompson told the Nottingham Post. “We always advise waste to be securely bagged and held within a clean container, away from where young children might play.”

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

This Country Has the Most Expensive Beer in the World

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iStock

Iceland may be more affordable than many other European destinations, but if you want to save money, don't spend too much time at the pub. That's because a bjór there will set you back $12.75, making it the world's most expensive destination for beer, according to an infographic created by UK-based appliance manufacturer Amica.

Using data from The Wall Street Journal and cost-of-living information from numbeo.com, Amica set out to determine how much beer you'd get in bars around the world for $1. In Iceland, apparently, it's not very much. For $1, you’ll receive 45ml, or “barely a sip,” as Amica puts it.

The high price of alcohol in Iceland has much to do with taxes. Alcohol is taxed by volume, so the state would collect 94.1 percent of a bottle’s retail price for a one-liter bottle of vodka priced at $66, according to Iceland Magazine. Next to Iceland, the most expensive countries to order a pint in are Norway, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and France.

The U.S. isn’t significantly better off, though. On average, $1 will get you 83ml of beer, or about two shot glasses full. Of course, there are notable exceptions, depending on the quality of the beer and the type of establishment you find yourself in.

As for the cheapest countries for beer, Paraguay and Vietnam are your best bets, followed by Ethiopia, Ukraine, and Nigeria. In parts of Vietnam (primarily Hanoi), you can sit outdoors on a low plastic stool and order a type of fresh, preservative-free beer called bia hoi (literally “gas beer”), which sells for less than 50 cents per glass.

Check out Amica's infographic below, which uses a 568ml pint glass to help people visualize the amount of beer they'll get for a buck.

An infographic of beer prices around the world
Amica

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