From the first of May until late September, warm drinks lose their relevance. During this period of oppressive heat, the only good drinks are iced drinks. Every hostess worth her salt will have a pitcher of iced tea or lemonade sitting in the refrigerator ready to refresh a wilted guest. These days even the classic hot coffee, is being replaced by her chilled sister. Don’t pick a drink without the some heavy beaded condensation!
Now that you have got your perfectly chilled drink, what can you do with that sugar or sweetener? Even the lightest artificial sweetener has trouble dissolving in a glass of ice-cold liquid. The solution? It’s simple! Whether you are trying to start your morning with a coffee, or serve the pre-dinner cocktail, the key is simple syrup!
The basic simple syrup, or sugar syrup, is made of equal parts sugar (or artificial sweetener!) and water. Combine sugar and water in a pot, bring slowly to a boil, and then cook at a boil for a minute or so. This recipe is sometimes called a “thick” or “rich” syrup. It is the most commonly used syrup for cocktails and drinks like Sweetened Tea.
There are also “thin” syrups—three parts water to one part sugar—and “medium” syrups—two parts water to one part sugar—these are used to glaze cookies and cakes, and for lighter sweeteners.
After you mastered the basic equation, it’s time to have some fun! Infusing simple syrups with your favorite flavors is as easy as boiling water! All you need is sugar, water, a pot, a strainer, and a sealable glass jar. Herbs and fruit make particularly good syrups. Mix and match your flavors, and experiment with the proportions to make it your favorite drink. (Maybe a mint-lime-strawberry-soda, or thyme-blueberry-lemonade?) The more fruit/herb you add the stronger it will be, but be careful to strain it well to remove all the clumps, leaves, and stems. Start out with an equal amount of water, sugar, and herb/fruit, and then add or subtract to perfect your flavor!
Some Extra Tips from the Test Kitchen!
*For a richer, darker flavor, substitute brown sugar in for white. Try this Vanilla Coffee Syrup in your next cup of joe. (This is also a great craft for storing your new syrup!)
*For lemonades and limeades, you can sub lemon or lime juice for half of the water to create a lemonade concentrate, like in The Lady and Sons Lemonade.
*Store any of these syrups in your refrigerator in a tightly sealed glass jar for up to a month.