Not-so-simple syrups

The recent aquisition of a Soda Stream device has dramatically expanded our thinking on drink making. When we are not using it to charge up some of the best tap water in the world, ideas for custom sodas and carbonated cocktails come to mind.


A lot of these drinks are based on a simple syrup of some sort. While we usually have ginger syrup handy, it’s quite non-technical to make your own. The key is to understand what makes that ingredient / mixture work. Here a few experiments we’ve tried.

Meyer Lemon Syrup

While the juice of this lemon/orange hybrid is fair enough, it can be approximated with a 50/50 combination of lemon and orange. The essence of this fruit is carried in the zest. It’s a note that is highly floral, and somewhat tropical, and unlike any other citrus out there. That’s what you want represented in your drink.

Understanding this, we can prep our syrup thusly:

  • Juice of 2lb meyer lemons
  • Zest of 2 lb meyer lemons
  • 1/2 cup sugar (to taste). White sugar is best.
  • 1/2 cup water

Follow the typical simple syrup procedure – dissolve your ingredients in medium-heat water, stir and watch until the mixture reduces 50% or more.

Note on the water/reduction – If you’re making a simple syrup for cocktails, you will want to reduce the syrup a bit more to make it more essential. A cocktail will usually provide the water in the form of ice cubes or other ingredients.

With the meyer lemon zest, you’ll likely want to filter that out before pouring the slightly cooled mixture into a squeeze bottle. Store that in the fridge and it will last a long time.


Earl Grey Syrup

Any tea syrup can be made nearly the same way you’d make standard simple syrup, except with the addition of tea bags. My only tips for these are:

  • Use decent tea
  • Use lots of tea bags
  • Try not to over extract

If you over extract, tannin flavours will become more predominant in your resulting syrup, especially in lower-quality teas.


Whiskey Cherry Syrup

  • 1-litre container of 100% pure black cherry juice (eg Knudsen’s)
  • few shots of Jameson’s or equivalent
  • Angustura bitters (5 – 10 dashes)
  • Optional – sherry vinegar (1 tsp)

Reduce the cherry juice/vinegar/Jameson’s to half or less. Let cool a bit. Add in the bitters. The use of vinegar is purely optional. I haven’t tried this with booze but gin comes to mind.

Reduced Vinegar

Popular in Japan for a while now, flavoured vinegar sodas pack satisfying levels of sour heat tempered with sweet, often fruit flavours. For more convenient drink making, and punchier flavour, reduce your vinegars and have on the ready. I’ve played with apple cider mostly since it’s quite versatile, however barrel aged vinegars would be really interesting in cocktails. Be careful- the higher quality vinegars can reduce to a nearly unusable, or evene brittle product so watch your reduction. Also the process releases a lot of acetic acid – avoid inhaling large amounts of steam.

Apple Ginger Sour

Here’s a recipe using your reduced apple cider vinegar.

  • Tablespoon or so of reduced apple cider vinegar
  • Ginger simple syrup
  • Lime zest

Normally for this type of drink I’d suggest lime juice but there’s more than enough acidity from the vinegar. If you’re adding booze, I’d try a Havana Club (blanco or 3-year), vodka, or maybe gin.