The Easiest Way to Spice Up Your Cocktail Syrups

Flavored syrups aren’t only for trendy bars

By Carey Jones and John McCarthy

Published on March 24, 2016

Read any modern-day cocktail menu and you’ll find syrups all over the place: cinnamon syrup, housemade vanilla syrup, handcrafted arugula-truffle syrup. (Okay, we haven’t seen that last one. But sadly we’re pretty sure it’s out there.)

The notion of making a syrup even before you break out the shaker is daunting to most at-home cocktail makers, and understandably so. But while some mixologists might like you to believe that crafting each of their ingredients is an arduous process, here’s their secret—making most syrups is as easy as making tea. In a very literal sense. Boil water, add spice, let sit for a while, stir in sugar, and you’re done.

When you’re looking to use spices in cocktails, your options are limited. Ground cinnamon or clove in a drink can get gritty, and the flavor generally isn’t too strong. Dropping a whole cinnamon stick in your cocktail shaker won’t really do much. Adding a whole vanilla bean might, but that’s about a $3 investment per cocktail (and a pretty inefficient one). A syrup is the best way of extracting these flavors. And once you’ve made one, it’ll keep for weeks in the refrigerator, ready and waiting for whatever cocktail you want to shake it into.

The Technique

Boil some water. Pour it over a few cinnamon sticks (or vanilla beans, or cloves, or cracked cardamom pods; the list goes on). Let steep around 10 minutes. Stir in your sugar (or honey, or maple, or agave). And you’ve got a syrup. There’s a good amount of flavor in there already, but refrigerating the whole mixture overnight before you strain out the spices will get you a stronger flavor still. Other syrup recipes will have you combine the water and sugar, before adding the spice; but we find that making a spice “tea” first results in a much more concentrated flavor.

Try it in This

Cinnamon and Honey Scotch Sour
Cinnamon and Honey Scotch Sour

A spicy-sweet take on the typical sour.

Cinnamon and honey are always friends, and a cinnamon-honey syrup has endless uses—sweeten your tea with it, pour it over ice cream, or drizzle on your oatmeal. In a cocktail context? Try it in a Scotch sour, where smoky blended Scotch and lemon make for a refreshing drink with the warmth of cinnamon and slight floral note of honey coming through. Once you’ve made the cinnamon honey, it’s just a three-ingredient drink, but tastes far more complex.

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