It starts out easily enough: Combine one part water with one part granulated sugar, boil until dissolved, chill.
Here’s where we make it interesting: Simple syrups can be as varied and diverse as any other food stuff. By mixing in spices, herbs, fruit—truly anything your little heart can imagine, you have instant flavored sweetener. And it’s not just for cocktails. Drizzle on a simple butter-rich pound cake for a seasonal flavor boost, pack several bottles onto an ice cream sundae bar for a (gluten-free) birthday celebration, add a splash to whipped cream for sweet spice, stir into your morning coffee or tea to cut out the mermaid-logoed middle man, or, yes, use it in all manner of cocktails for a tinge of sweet flavor.
In general, you can expect infused simple syrups (ones that extract flavor from herbs and spices before straining) to last up to 3 months—often longer (as long as it smells good, it tastes good). Syrups that incorporate purées or juices however, won’t last as long: more like 2–3 weeks. But just think of all the raspberry lemonades you can have in that amount of time!
Here’s a collection of some of our favorite simple syrups, from the spiced to the spicy to the floral to the herbal, and everything in between.