When it comes to keeping a well-stocked home bar, it doesn’t get much more basic than simple syrup.
Along with bitters, simple syrup is one of the most fundamental (and essential) ingredients in any bartender’s tool kit.
Even though it’s nothing more than sugar dissolved in water, it creates a sweetener that mixes more easily and completely than granulated sugar.
I’m sure many of you have ordered a traditional Old Fashioned and finished the drink with a half dissolved sugar cube still floating around in the bottom of the glass. Simple syrup solves the problem by fully dissolving the sugar before it hits your drink.
Since the recipe for simple syrup is so, well, simple, it’s easy to create interesting and tasty variations. One of my favorites is to use demerara sugar instead of white sugar.
What is Demerara Simple Syrup?
Some quick background…
In its simplest form, demerara syrup is a mixer made from equal parts demerara sugar and water. White cane sugar is the base for most common simple syrups. So, what is demerara?
Demerara is a caramel-colored sweetener that gets its name from the place where it was originally manufactured and shipped – the port of Demerara, in British Guyana.
Demerara sugar crystals are slightly larger than white sugar crystals and are a bit sticky to the touch. The flavor tends to be richer and more “molassesy” than white sugar which contributes to the warm, caramel notes in its flavor. The darker the demerara sugar, the more molasses and minerals it has.
Demerara sugar is also less processed, unlike white sugar, which goes through several cycles of processing until it becomes super fine and snow white. Demerara sugar undergoes just one cycle. The syrup of the sugarcane is dehydrated to form crystals and that’s it.
Why Use Demerara Sugar?
Probably for the same reason you might use craft bitters or premium tonic water… It takes something ordinary and moves it up a couple of notches.
Although basic simple syrup will work just fine in most cases, the extra richness of demerara stands up better to stronger spirits and adds a distinctive and more interesting flavor to your favorite drinks.
Where Do You Get Demerara Sugar?
Most supermarkets stock one brand or another in the baking aisle, and you can always grab it from Amazon. Personally, I’ve found the best prices are at Walmart, where it’s often half to a third the cost of other outlets. But if you want to keep it easy, you can buy it here:
Why Make Your Own Simple Syrup?
2 reasons: cost and simplicity.
Buying premade regular simple syrup at your local supermarket is in the neighborhood of 3 or 4 dollars for a small bottle. If you get it at your nearby liquor store it will probably be even more expensive.
Buying premade demerara syrup can get crazy expensive (and chances are pretty good you won’t find it at all at your nearest Safeway). I’ve seen craft demerara syrups go for upwards of $2 an ounce!
If you shop around you can find raw demerara sugar for just over $1 a pound. With the syrup generally being 50% water (free!), well, you do the math.
The even better news is that it’s incredibly simple to make. Can you boil water? Then you can make your own demerara syrup.
It's a lot cheaper if you go to someplace like Walmart, but this about the best we've seen on Amazon. Still much less expensive to buy this and make your own demerara than to buy it pre-made.
How to Make Simple Syrup
This recipe works regardless of what kind of simple syrup you make. Feel free to use regular white cane sugar, for standard syrup, or if you’re ahem, slightly pretentious, use demerara.
- 1 cup Demerara sugar
- 1 cup water
Steps to Make Simple Syrup
- Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir until sugar is dissolved avoiding “over boiling” which changes the ratio of sugar to water by boiling off disproportionate amounts of liquid. If you want to get a little more scientific and create a more consistent syrup, boil the water separately and then add a measured amount to your sugar.
- Let cool, then pour into a container with a sealed top and keep in the refrigerator.
- Some people like to use a screw-top glass jar but I prefer a plastic squeeze bottle purely for convenience when it comes time to dispense it.
- Generally speaking, demerara syrup will keep, refrigerated, for about one month.
What Cocktails Use Demerara Simple Syrup?
Although you can use regular and demerara syrup almost interchangeably, here are a few of our favorite drinks we think really benefit from the extra richness of demerara:
- Old Fashioned – This is the cocktail where you’ll notice the biggest difference between regular simple syrup and demerara simple syrup.
- Whiskey sour – Nearly any whiskey drink works well with demerara.
- Daiquiri – I’ve found daiquiris taste fantastic with demerara. Especially if you try some of the variations like a Stiggins Daiquiri which uses a darker rum. Just note you’ll get a darker color when using this vs a clear simple syrup.
- Tiki Old Fashioned – A nice spicy bent to the traditional old-fashioned.
How to Get Creative With Your Simple Syrup (And Why You Should)
Once you get the basics down, the ability to make different and interesting variations is almost endless.
One of the easiest is rich demerara syrup. The typical rich recipe features two parts sugar to one part water for a sweeter syrup that adds a little more oomph to your cocktails
You can also combine the sugar with fruits, herbs and spices to create infused syrups based on the flavor profile you want to achieve.
Looking to add some extra zip to your Old Fashioned? Steep a couple of jalapeño slices or cinnamon sticks in your syrup. Want to give your drinks a kick of vanilla? Vanilla demerara syrup is the answer. Like a bit of ginger flavor? Well, you get the idea!
So the next time you’re looking to up your game a bit, consider making your simple syrup a little less simple, you’ll be glad you did!