Sake Gumi
After another late Tuesday night filled with drunken cocktail tinkering for today's Happy Hour column, I'm back with the 2nd installment of the two-part primer on simple syrups. In case you missed last week, you can check out Part I here. Last week I showed you how to infuse simple syrups with fresh herbs and spices. This week the attention is turned to fruits, showing you how to infuse the flavors of fruits in your syrups so you can have a great two-punch combo of flavor and sweetness to add to your cocktails, lemonades, and iced teas--or if you're a fan of the perennial hood favorite known as sugar water, you can upgrade yourself a la Beyonce and add infused syrups for flavored sugar water.

Today I'll show you how to prepare four different flavored syrups: mixed berry, rambutan (cousin of lychee fruit), Meyer lemon, and honey (because it's too easy to pass up, even though it's not a fruit). I'll also share a recipe for a refreshing spring-beckoning beverage that incorporates the Meyer lemon syrup. I'll start with the honey syrup first because it's so easy.

Honey Syrup
Dissolve an equal part of honey in an equal part of warm water. That's it. You can keep it in the fridge, and it makes using honey in cocktails much easier than if you were to pour the honey straight into a shaker with ice.

Berry Simple Syrup (pictured below)
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 pints fresh or frozen mixed berries (I used frozen blend of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

Combine sugar and water over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat up to medium (or med-high if using frozen berries) and add berries. Using a muddler or spoon, crush the berries to extract their juice. Turn heat to low and allow mixture to steep for 20 minutes. Next, press mixture through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer lined with cheesecloth. The point is to strain out as much of the seeds and solids as possible. Allow to cool, strain again if necessary, and pour syrup into a bottle.

You can add an ounce of vodka to fruit-based syrups to extend their shelf life, though I wouldn't plan on keeping it around for more than a month anyways.

Rambutan Simple Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 20 oz. can of rambutan (you can use fresh ones if you can find them, and if you're a fan of arduous labor)

Combine sugar and water over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then cool to room temperature. Pour entire contents of canned Rambutan (syrup included) into a blender along with the sugar syrup and puree until smooth. Press mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard solids and pour strained syrup mixture into a bottle and refrigerate. As with the berry syrup, you can add an ounce of vodka to extend the syrup's shelf life.

I didn't infuse the rambutan the same way as the berries because the rambutan has a subtle flavor which doesn't impart as easily as the berries, so I blended it to really get its full flavor--which is also why I used the whole can along with its own syrup, to get as much of the fruit's flavor as possible. That's also the reason for the lower ratio of of sugar to water.

Meyer Lemon Syrup
1.25 cups sugar
4 cups water
1 cup strained fresh Meyer lemon juice (it's near the end of their season so get these while you can)

Combine sugar and water over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature, stir in lemon juice, cover and chill in refrigerator until cold. Keeps in fridge for a few weeks up to a month.

You may be wondering what gives with the totally different sugar to water ratio than all the other syrups I've shown you so far. This is simply because I'll be primarily using this syrup as a base for a lemonade in which the syrup is the main component, so rather than adding more water later, I'm basically doing it now. It's still very sweet and concentrated as a syrup should be, but not as concentrated as a traditional sour mix which would be more appropriate for cocktails. For a Meyer lemon-based sour mix, simply follow as directed above but instead use a ratio of 1.5 parts sugar, 1 part water, 2.5 parts Meyer lemon juice.

If you're as ready for spring as I am, you'll enjoy this next recipe which incorporates the Meyer lemon syrup and sparkling sake for an amazingly refreshing drink I call a Sparkling Sake Lemonade.

Sparkling Sake Lemonade
3/4 cup Meyer lemon syrup
Sparkling sake to fill (Trader Joe's has an inexpensive variety appropriate for this drink)
Meyer lemon wedges

Glass: 24 oz. Mason jar (pictured above)

Fill jar with ice and lemon wedges. Pour in the Meyer lemon syrup and top off with sparkling sake. Give it a light stir and enjoy!

I used mason jars because I think they're the perfect aesthetic complement to drinks like lemonade, but you can use any receptacle you wish, and simply adjust your ingredient ratios accordingly.

There you have it. Everything you ever wanted--and needed--to know about simple syrups. Of course I have cocktails planned for the other syrups I showed you today, but I'll be sharing those with you later in the coming weeks.

Remember, you can infuse virtually anything, as I've practically demonstrated. I have plenty of syrups on hand now, but once I run through these I'm thinking about making some saffron or hibiscus flavored syrup for my next batch. I'm interested in hearing your novel ideas as well. See you next week. Cheers!

Come back every Wednesday for Paystyle's weekly Happy Hour column.

Photography by Vanessa Bahmani
Column: Happy Hour


  • Pat – Thanks for reading. As far as where I got my bottles: Tallest one on the left is from emptied bottle of French sparkling lemonade (I forget the branch) that runs about $4-5 or so. The one containing the Meyer lemon syrup is from a milk bottle. The remaining smaller ones with the rubber stoppers were bought from the Container Store.

    As far as cleaning goes, while you certainly could go the extra mile to sanitize them, I think simple cleaning with soap and hot water is sufficient. I sometimes used the dishwasher, but one word of caution with that: sometimes small particles get trapped then dried inside the bottles when you use the dishwasher, which then become a pain to remove.

    Paystyle on

  • great articles, thanks! One question… where did you get your bottles? And do you sanitize them in any special way before bottling or just run them through a dish washer?

    Pat on

  • Kayce – That’s hilarious! But honestly, unless you refrain from drinking b/c of serious issues like alcoholism and such, I think you’re missing out on one of life’s great pleasures. Nothing wrong with a little indulgence every now and then, as long as it’s in moderation!

    And if you think it’s hard on you, think about me, and having to drink on monday or tuesday nights (assuming I haven’t figured things out over the weekend) in order concoct and perfect for wednesday’s posts. Not being one to waste, I end up taking several to the head before I have the recipes perfected. That’s what led to cutting my finger in the first place, b/c I was trying to cut onions while drunk for a midgnight dinner, LOL!

    Paystyle on

  • ok, i seriously drink VERY RARELY (less than a handful of times a year, no jokes), but you and these articles are going to drive me to drink… the pretty strawberry sage one from last post and now you are serving sake lemonade in a MASON JAR… :D as any southerner will tell you, EVERYTHING tastes better out of a mason jar, LOL. great stuff, paystyle!

    kayce. on

  • Thanks for such tasty simple syrup recipes. I love your photos.

    Lynnylu on

  • the brand of the sparkling lemonade (first bottle)is lorina

    ben on

  • Love this guy!!!

    kayoko on

  • Lynnylu – You’re certainly welcome, and thank you for reading. If you like gin, return tomorrow for some gin cocktails. Even if you don’t, return anyway.

    Paystyle on

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