How to make infused syrup
If you’ve visited Hey Big Splendor before, you know I’m really into two things – fresh herbs and cocktails. Infused simple syrups combine those things in a wonderful way. It’s easy (simple, even <cough>) to whip up these flavorful syrups and they add a fantastic pop of flavor to cocktails, mocktails, iced teas and recipes. While I’m going to focus on making infused syrup with fresh herbs, you can easily add fruit to these. Read on to learn how to make infused syrup.
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What do you need to make infused syrup?
Pretty much just sugar and water, plus the herbs, flowers or fruits you want to include. A simple syrup is really just a proportional mix of water and sugar. It’s heated to ensure the sugar fully dissolves. That’s really all there is to it!
Basic simple syrup recipe
Combine equal parts sugar and water in a sauce pan. Bring the water the water to a low simmer. Let the mix cook while gently stirring the pot. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, turn off the heat.
The basic simple syrup is useful on it’s own – it’s a key ingredient in cocktails like the Whiskey Sour or the Mark Twain. I keep a squeeze bottle of it in the fridge so I always have it on hand. It keeps for about a month, longer if you add an ounce of vodka to the squeeze bottle.
Making infused simple syrup
This is where it gets fun. Follow the above directions to make simple syrup. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat to the lowest possible setting.
Add chopped fresh herbs to the syrup. The more herbs (or flowers) you add, the stronger the flavor. As a general rule, I like to add about 1/2 cup of herbs per two cups of syrup.
So that formula would look like this:
- 2 cups of water
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh herbs
You can also use dried herbs. Their flavor is more concentrated, so use about half the amount of fresh herbs.
Some herb infused syrup ideas
- Mint Madness – (perfect for juleps or mojitos (including my Bourbon Mojito): 1/2 cup very lightly crush spearmint or peppermint (or both!) leaves + syrup
- Lemon – 1/2 cup lightly crushed lemon balm leaves + syrup
- Lemony Lemon – 1/2 cup lightly crushed lemon balm leave + 1 tablespoon lemon thyme + syrup
- Citrus Mint – equal parts lightly crushed lemon balm and spearmint leaves + syrup
- Thyme to Kill – 1/2 cup thyme (leaves and stem) + syrup (great in gin cocktails)
- Basil Blast – 1/2 cup lightly crushed basil leaves + syrup
- Basil Betty – 1/2 cup equal parts crushed sweet basil and crushed cinnamon basil leaves + syrup
Some flower or herb+flower infused syrup ideas
- Chamomile – 2 tablespoons dried or 1/2 cup fresh chamomile flowers + syrup
- Violet – 1/2 cup fresh picked violet flowers + syrup
- Anise – 2 tablespoons dried or 1/2 cup fresh anise hyssop flowers + syrup
- Violet Thyme – 1/2 cup fresh picked violet flowers + 1 tablespoon of thyme (leaves and stem) + syrup
- Lavender – 2 tablespoons lavender flowers (fresh or dried) + syrup
- Rose – 1/2 cup rosehips or fragrant rose petals + syrup
- Lavender Sage – 1 tablespoon lavender flowers (dried or fresh) + 1/3 cup fresh sage leaves + syrup
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Finishing and Storing Infused Syrup
After adding the botanicals to the warm syrup, let them simmer together for at least 30 minutes. For a stronger flavor, let them steep long. It’s important to keep the syrup warm during the infusion but it shouldn’t be hot. If the syrup boils or is very hot, it will cook the botanicals instead of extracting their subtle flavors.
Many stoves have a low simmer burner, which is ideal for infusions.
How to tell when infused syrup is done
The easiest way to is to taste it. If they botanical flavors are as strong as you’d like, it’s done. If not, let them infuse longer or add a bit more herb or flower.
Once the flavor is to your liking, let the syrup cool completely. Pour through a strainer to remove the botanicals. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a month. The easiest way to store and use simple syrup is in these squeeze bottles. They make it very easy to dispense the syrup without making a mess.
To extend storage time, add an ounce of vodka to the bottle. This will obviously render the syrup alcoholic, so employ this trick only when alcohol consumption won’t be an issue.
For longer term storage, freeze the syrup in a flexible ice cube tray and thaw as needed.
Using infused syrups
You can use an infused syrup in any recipe that calls for simple syrup or any time you want to sweeten and flavor something. Because it’s liquid, simple syrup is the ideal way to sweeten any cold or room temperature liquid.
They’re a great way to add flavor to the preparation but they can also be a way to supply herbal flavor when you don’t have any fresh or dried herbs.
For example, mojitos are made with an ounce of simple syrup to balance to tart lime and help marry the mint and citrus. Use a mint simple syrup to bump up the minty flavor OR use it if you don’t have fresh mint on hand. Use a dash of lavender syrup to sweeten a cup of Earl Grey tea – lavender and Earl Grey are fabulous together.
The syrups are very sweet, of course, so it’s best to add syrup gradually, unless you’re working from a recipe.