Fresh Fig Syrup Is The Secret To Sweet, Bold Cocktails

Unless you happen to live in California, which produces 98% of America's commercially grown fresh figs, per California Figs, you may have a hard time finding or making fresh fig syrup. But it's still entirely possible to create those sweet and bold figgy cocktails you crave. The same warm, sun-strewn regions of California hosting 9,300 acres of fig trees also dry and package those figs for year-round use. That means you can make your own "fresh" fig syrup any time the mood strikes or occasions call.

Rather than refined sugars in typical simple syrups, fig-sweetened syrups potentially offer a healthier cocktail alternative. Figs have long been tied to health and prosperity in warm-weather regions such as the Mediterranean and Middle East, explains WebMD. They bear symbolic associations with Greek and Roman deities such as Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture and fertility. Health advocates today note significant health benefits, including the reduction of high blood pressure, improved digestion, and increased bone density.

Though pre-made fig syrups exist, it's easy to create your own versions with a bit of experimentation.

Fresh fig syrup for bold cocktails

Depending on location, you could be fig-lucky with nearby trees to pluck your own fresh figs. But most people make fig syrups using dried versions available in supermarkets and specialty health-food stores. You'll typically cook or steep the syrup to bring out the essence of the fruit, explains Cocktail Contessa. Figs substitute well in fruit-forward or extra-sweet cocktails, infusing an earthy, natural flavor that ignites the tastebuds. Many whiskies already contain fig flavors and aromas, particularly ones that have rested in sherry casks, notes Whisky Advocates. This makes fig syrups a natural fit for whisky-based cocktails and ones containing lemon or orange citrus fruits.

Cocktail Contessa recommends making a homemade fig syrup from 1.5 cups of dried figs, 1 cup of water, three quarters of a cup of raw sugar, a teaspoon of lemon juice, and a dash of vanilla. Just simmer the ingredients on the stovetop for about 15 minutes, let it cool for an hour, strain to remove any residual chunks, and refrigerate until ready to use. It will reportedly keep for weeks if you add a splash of vodka.

More figgy cocktail secrets

In addition to using fig syrups, you can create cocktails using fig jams, dried figs, muddled fresh figs, and fig-infused cognacs or tea syrups, explains A warm option for chilly nights is to mix dried figs and raisins with mulled red wine for a Scandinavian-style Glögg drink. Spiked punches offer simple ways to hydrate groups of friends, including the Two-Hit Fig Punch in which you muddle fresh figs with a pre-made simple syrup. This releases the intense flavors before adding complexity with whiskey and spiced rum. The whole mixture gets brightened with a tarty touch of citrus, using both orange and lemon juices, and then sprinkled with nutmeg for an aromatic finale.

If you're more of a grab-and-go kind of person, no worries. Plenty of commercial fig syrups exist, many using the same fresh or dried California figs. Liber & Co. explains how they use low-temperature vacuum concentration to caramelize natural sugars in two separate fig varieties from California's San Juan Valley. The result is a ready-to-use caramelized fig syrup made in Austin, Texas. 

The company suggests using it in cocktail recipes with names like Bay of Figs, Foggy Sleigh Rye'd, and The Notorious F.I.G.