Simple Syrup (also known as Bar Syrup or Rock Candy Syrup) is a mixture of sugar and water. Usually combined in the ratio of one part water to two parts sugar, it is very simple to make and useful to have around. It is the perfect sweetener for iced tea and other cold beverages as the sugar is already dissolved and will mix into a cold liquid without leaving undissolved sugar granules on the bottom of your glass. It is also used in mixed drinks, baking, and candy making. My favorite use is making sweet tea, though.
To make a simple syrup you first bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and gently stir. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool. Do not let the liquid boil for too long or it may become too thick, or caramelize, or a host of other problems that make for bad simple syrup. The resulting liquid is easily stored in the refrigerator in a plastic squeeze bottle or jar which should make it easy to add to beverages as necessary.
You may see recipes for simple syrup using a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. While this will certainly work, it will spoil much more quickly, and since I like to have a lot around, particularly in the summer for iced tea, I find that the 2:1 sugar to water ratio is a better solution (pun intended). If you have problems with crystallization, add a small amount of honey or corn syrup when you are dissolving the sugar to help make the syrup more stable. The presence of different types of sugar (fructose, for example) in the mix will help prevent the sugar (sucrose) from crystallizing during storage.
By adding any kind of spice or flavoring during the heating you can make interesting syrups to have around for any occasion. Vanilla, cranberry, cardamom, lavender, there is no end to the flavors you can add. Pretty much anything you can imagine may be used to flavor simple syrup, so don’t fear to experiment.
Tip #1 – 2:1 sugar/water is the best ratio for storage.
Tip #2 – Don’t over boil.
Tip #3 – Add a touch of honey or corn syrup if crystallization is a problem.
Tip #4 – Add flavors for fun.