The Crafter’s Guide to Cocktail Syrups

Long ago, a rebellious free thinker decided to completely enhance their drinking experience to new levels of hedonism. What was once a bitter, tragic experience of drinking alcohol straight like a chimp was suddenly made better by the introduction of mixers, fruits, and, you guessed it - cocktail syrups.  

These viscous liquids have become a pivotal ingredient to crafting the perfect cocktail in the most convenient way possible. What was once a weird drink with bourbon, lemon juice, and egg whites becomes a delicious whiskey sour with the addition of some simple syrup. A mojito goes from 0 to 100 with regular (or flavored) cocktail syrup

You get what we’re saying here. Cocktail syrups are great, and if you’re into crafting drinks at home, you’re going to need some. You’ll also need a bartending kit to mix them with, and luckily for you, we here at Mixology & Craft have like 20 of those to choose from, all at great prices.

What is Cocktail Syrup?

Admittedly this is kind of a weird question, because you probably already know what it is if you’re here, but this blog has a character count that must be abided by. Cocktail syrup can be divided into 3 different groups of complexity: basic, complex, and advanced

Basic Cocktail Syrups

Basic cocktail syrup is syrup at its foundation: simple syrup - which is just a mixture of equal parts sugar and water. Don’t be fooled, though! In reality, all syrups are made from simple syrup (cocktail or not), and we’ll be talking about the more complex ones later. It’s ridiculously easy to make, and blends completely into any hot or cold beverage. You don’t have to heat it or cook it, and it stores easily. It’s honestly really good to have around, because it works well with tea, coffee, and of course, cocktails! 

Complex Cocktail Syrups

Complex cocktail syrup is syrup that has been infused with another flavor, adding another step to the process - but still easy to do! Complex cocktail syrups are most commonly infused with fruits like raspberry, watermelon, and apple.

The typical method to infuse a simple syrup is to muddle your fruit, add it to the simple syrup, stir, shake, and strain out the excess fruit pulp with a mesh strainer. Boom! Done! 

Advanced Cocktail Syrups

Advanced cocktail syrups take the most time, but get you the most flavor. These are typically wine syrups, shrub syrups, spice syrups, orgeat, and oxymels. You’re probably thinking ‘What the hell is orgeat? What are oxymels?’ Those are fair questions, because they sound like ingredients to a witch’s potion that if ingested turns your tongue into a snail.

  • Orgeat is a smooth, creamy syrup with an almond flavor. It’s perfect for tiki-themed drinks like Mai Tais, or for making alcohol suck less. All you need to make it is almonds, sugar, water, orange flower water, and vodka or rum, and you’re ready to rumble. 
  • Oxymels are the oldest (but least well known) cocktail syrups and are made at their base from honey, vinegar, fruits, and herbs. They are predominantly known for their floral infusion, and aren’t just for cocktails - they can be used for dressings, sparkling water, and even medicine, which is crazy. They take a long time to infuse once the ingredients are combined (usually in a mason jar), but once they’re infused, they’re absolutely delicious. 

How Many Kinds of Cocktail Syrups Are There?

Remember when we talked about how simple syrup is actually really complicated even though it has the word ‘simple’ in it? We’re getting into that now. All cocktail syrups come from 5 base syrups: 

Cane Syrup

This syrup is a cocktail transformer, to say the least. Similar to simple syrup (but not quite the same), cane syrup is made from actual cane juice, adding a note of toasted sugar to any cocktail. It’s made by pressing cane stalks for juice and boiling the juice in an open kettle, resulting in an earthy-yet-delightful syrup.

Popular cocktails that use cane syrup: Mojitos, Cava Sangria, Ti’ Punch.

Demerara Syrup

Coffee. Toffee. Molasses. These are the notes of Demerara cocktail syrup, and it completely kicks ass. Use it with dark liquors or beverages, or just drink it straight. Actually don’t, because that would be gross. But it tastes good. All you need to do is combine a two-to-one ratio of sugar to water in a pan, and simmer it until the sugar dissolves.

Popular cocktails that use Demerara syrup: 81 Old Fashioned, any bourbon, brandy, or coffee cocktails.

Palm Sugar Syrup

This fun little cocktail syrup is derived from palm trees, and is most commonly used in Middle Eastern, Asian, and North African countries. However, it’s gaining quite a bit of popularity in the ol’ US of A, as well. It comes in clumps, and has to be melted down to create a golden syrup with a cotton candy flavor that we are absolutely obsessed with.

Popular cocktails that use palm sugar syrup: Old Fashioned, Mai Tai, Daiquiri.

Honey Syrup

The name of this one almost sounds ethereal. It’s like something you would find in whatever forest Winnie the Pooh dicked around in. It’s easy to make and is most often used in light, floral cocktails. It’s a two-to-three ratio of honey and water, but can be muted with a one-to-one ratio if necessary.

Popular cocktails that use honey syrup: Gold Rush, Brown Derby, any floral or citrus cocktails.

Agave Syrup

Last but not least, we have agave! It’s the most common cocktail syrup for a good reason - it’s versatile, easy to make, and is perfect as a flavor-neutral sweetener. Just combine two parts agave nectar with one part hot water, and stir well.

Popular cocktails that use agave: Margarita, like a bajillion other ones

How Do You Use Cocktail Syrups?

Grab your bar tools, because you might need them to make excellent cocktail syrup-based drinks. Don’t have any? Heyyo, Mixology & Craft has a million! If you’re just starting out, we recommend this beginner bartender kit, which has everything you need to make almost any drink. It even comes with cocktail recipe cards, so you don’t have to constantly look at your phone while you're making drinks.

To answer the above header question, it really depends on what you’re making. Some recipes call for cocktail syrup to be added first, some call it to be shaken with the alcohol in a cocktail shaker, and some just tell you to let go and let God.

Okay, so maybe that’s not super helpful. BUT, we do have lots of cocktail recipes here that not only use cocktail syrup, but tell you how to use it as well: 

Best Cocktail Syrup-Infused Cocktails

The Apple Cider Whiskey Smash

This one uses cinnamon simple syrup, and is perf for colder months (though if you want to drink it in the summer we won’t be mad. Weirded out maybe, but not mad.)

The Raspberry Smash

Beat the heat with a drink that lets you beat the hell out of some fruit in a cup repeatedly. Very satisfying. Plus, all you need is regular simple syrup!

The Penicillin

Both a hangover creator and cure, the Penicillin uses honey syrup to create a deliciously sweet way to maintain a steady stream of alcohol into your system with no consequence.

The Tequila Sour

This one calls for simple syrup, but also egg whites, which if you’re new to the cocktail scene might gross you out. It’s mad good, though. Try it out. 

Those are some of our favorite recipes that call for some kind of cocktail syrup, and they all taste amazing. (We have lots of other recipes on our blog, too - so check it out!)

Final Thoughts About Cocktail Syrups

Hot damn, that was a lot of info. Hopefully, this has given you enough information to start your career in the lucrative syrup business. And if it hasn’t, we hope that it has at least helped you make some pretty good cocktails. If you’re looking for other fun facts, words of unsolicited advice, or just some cool bar stuff, check out our website!

Sayonara, syrup specialists!

Contributing Writer: Aurora Detor