What is Sugar Syrup?

Brendan McGuigan

Sugar syrup, also known as simple syrup or bar syrup is a very basic combination of sugar and water. It may also include some sort of flavoring, especially when used to make flavored drinks like those found in a coffee shop. Making this ingredient at home is very easy, although the texture can be grainier than commercial versions.

Mint juleps typically use sugar syrup.
Mint juleps typically use sugar syrup.

The basic ratio for making sugar syrup is to use two parts sugar to one part water. The water should be brought to a boil in a pan of some sort, and then the sugar should be added. The sugar is then stirred regularly as it dissolves, to ensure that it all dissolves into the water. Once it has dissolved completely, the mixture can be removed from the heat and allowed to cool completely. Once cooled completely, the syrup can be bottled for later use.

Sugar syrup is simple combination of sugar and water.
Sugar syrup is simple combination of sugar and water.

It is important to make sure that the sugar is totally dissolved, otherwise the sugar syrup will have a grainy consistency that will make it unusable for many applications. It is a good idea to do relatively small batches at a time, to make sure all of the sugar is dissolved. If massive batches need to be made at once, it can be done, but proper care must be given to stirring the entire mixture, and it can take significantly longer for everything to dissolve.

Sugar syrup is often used to sweeten flavored coffees.
Sugar syrup is often used to sweeten flavored coffees.

A good sized large batch is a seven cup yield (1.7L), and can be achieved by combining four cups (950mL) of water to one pound (0.45kg) of sugar, which is roughly equal to 2.28 cups (540mL). The mixture can be changed in order to change its consistency as well. Thin sugar syrup is usually made by using three parts water to one part sugar. Heavy versions are usually made by using equal parts water and sugar, while very thin syrups are be made by further diluting the mixture.

Sugar syrup is a necessary component to any bar, as it is used in a wide range of drinks. It's used in making everything from the Sour Kiss to the Mint Julep to the Long Island to the Scorpion to Jell-O® shots. Because granulated sugar doesn’t mix well with alcohol or generally with cold drinks, sugar syrup acts as a perfect vehicle for the intense sweetness of sugar in liquid. It may also be used to make flavored sweet drinks, like flavored coffees or Italian sodas; and can be added to fruit to make sweet toppings for things like waffles or crepes.

A variation of this ingredient is gomme syrup. It is roughly the same as sugar syrup, except that it has gum arabic added, which acts as an emulsifier. As a result, gomme syrup can have even more sugar added, while still retaining its smooth texture. To make gomme syrup one follows the same steps as to make sugar syrup, but adds gum arabic powder while the water and sugar combination is boiling.

Sugar syrup is often offered on a complementary condiment bar in a coffee shop.
Sugar syrup is often offered on a complementary condiment bar in a coffee shop.

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Discussion Comments


A really good, easy recipe for a homemade mint sugar syrup is to take four cups of water, one two cups of sugar, and a two cups of loosely packed mint leaves.

The mint leaves must be fresh, so pick them off the stem yourself; the dried ones won't work.

You put your water and sugar together in a bowl, then put it on the stove at a low heat. Keep stirring until the water warms up and the sugar dissolves completely. As it starts to dissolve, add in your mint leaves.

Then turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Depending on the thickness you want, let it boil for one to two minutes, stirring all the time to keep it from sticking and burning.

Then turn off your stove eye and let the mixture cool down to room temperature. Once it's cool, put the liquid through a strainer to remove the mint leaves, and put the remaining liquid in a clean container.

Glass is best, but plastic will work if you're not planning on storing it for a long time.

This makes an excellent addition to mint juleps, mojitos, and even margaritas.



If yo're stuck without a stove and need some simple sugar fast, you can use this old trick.

You take a bottle with a screw top cap, then fill it with water and sugar. Shake it vigorously until all the sugar is dissolved, which will take a few minutes.

This will give you a low-density sugar syrup that definitely works in a pinch.


I love using homemade sugar syrup for cocktails -- it really does give them such a better taste, and it's so easy to make that it doesn't make sense to buy sugar syrup at the store.

You can get all the materials for making a high end sugar syrup for less than it would cost to buy one.

I know a friend who even makes "no sugar" sugar syrup, out of natural sugars like agave and yacon root. Of course, that's a bit out of my comfort zone, but she loves it. She calls it her "eco-cocktail" secret ingredient.


when you say heavy sugar syrup, does it mean a thicker end product?

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