Usually derived from sugar cane and sugar beet, sugar is a topic of many debates  in recent years and has been somewhat ostracised by new-age mixologists as an ingredient that cocktails can do without. However, sugar is an extremely important addition to most cocktails to achieve balance.

In the past, we’ve seen recipes of the original Mojitos and Caipirinhas using granular sugar in their recipes, In reality, this doesn’t work so well as in cold liquid, sugar has a ten to one dilution ratio. This means that in order to dilute 1 teaspoon of sugar, you will need to put ten teaspoons of liquid inside the drink. Cue the simple syrup, which is able to dilute immediately in hot or cold beverages.

Most cocktails use ingredients that are high in acidity such as most fruits and some vegetables, so we use sugar to balance the acidity of the ingredients and to bring out their flavours, much as chefs use salt in the kitchen. Understanding the quantities needed in each cocktail and exactly how to make a simple syrup is crucial to achieving a well-balanced and tasty beverage.

Table sugar or Sucrose, is a compound sugar and is made up two monosaccharides, Glucose and Fructose. Glucose is the most important part of sugar and is a short chain complex carbohydrate; in fact it’s the body’s number 1 source for energy.  Fructose is natural sugars found in nature also it is the sweetest, however it is also more lipogenic which means it converts into fat more easily than the other sugars.

Many establishments boil their sugar syrups and in the process, breakdown the sucrose into glucose and fructose which has an awkward cardboard-like after taste and besides that, your body naturally breaks down sucrose into glucose and fructose when it is consumed. The ultimate aim here is to create a thick sucrose sugar syrup to retain its smooth flavour and let your body do the rest of the work after its ingested.

After much trial and error, I believe I have come up with the simple syrup recipe and here we talk about a general white or brown sugar syrup. When crafting a great simple syrup, we need to essentially pasteurize it as opposed to cooking it so we will need the following tools and equipment:

  • Large pot
  • Wooden spoon
  • 350ml measuring cup
  • Digital thermometer
  • Empty 750ml bottle

To make the simple syrup:

  1. Place two measures of sugar of your choice and one measure of water into your pot and place on a hot plate.
  2. Keep on a low heat
  3. Stir constantly to avoid clumping
  4. While stirring, measure the heat constantly and when it reaches 70°C, remove the pot and place on a table top
  5. Allow the mixture to cool gradually and keep stirring until there are no granules of sugar remaining
  6. Use the funnel to pour the mixture into a bottle when you are done. Cap and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight.

Due to the high concentration of sugar, this syrup can last up to 6 months without turning and would recommend that you use only about 12.5ml per cocktail that you make. Happy mixing!

  • Keegan Smith
    Keegan Smith

    Keegan Smith from Barsmith Cocktail Co specialises in flair bartending, bottled cocktails and mobile bar services. He has almost 20 years’ experience in bartending, is a multiple SA flair bartending champion and founder of Flair for Life foundation. Get in touch with him for bespoke, on-site bartender training in bartending ethics, mixology and practical working flair. Email Keegan on hello@barsmithcocktail.com or phone 076 674 6357.

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Alto MPHS 2012World Cocktail Day