Give Me Some Sugar

Simple syrup, from basic to brilliant

Simple syrup is, as the name suggests, pretty simple to make.

The combination of one part granulated white cane sugar to one part water, heated on the stovetop over low heat  until the sugar dissolves and then cooled, yields a viscous sweetener that can be used in everything from iced tea to lemonade to cocktails.

If you use two parts sugar to one part water, you'll make "rich simple syrup," which can be used in drinks, but also to sweeten sorbet without sacrificing its texture. (The amount of water in a standard simple syrup turns the finished frozen product icy.)

Think of simple syrup as a blank canvas. To it, you can add fresh herbs like mint, rosemary, lemon verbena or rose geranium; add whole sprigs while the syrup is still warm. The heat will draw the oils out of the herbs and gently infuse the mixture. When it has cooled, strain the herbs and discard them.

For a ginger variation, cut a knob of ginger into thick slices and add to the warm syrup (or try this recipe). If using lemongrass, cut off the woody top of the stalk and cut the bottom into two-inch lengths. With the back of a cleaver or a heavy pan, smash the stalks, then add to the warm syrup. Let infuse until the syrup is as flavored as you'd like, then strain.

A batch of simple syrup made with the one to one ratio will keep, stored in a lidded container in the refrigerator, for up to a month; rich simple syrup for six months. If you'd like to store longer, add one tablespoon of vodka or grain alcohol for each cup of syrup.