The Unconventional Ingredient That Will Elevate Your Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a refrigerator staple for many cooks and cocktail lovers. It's easy to make: Just equal parts water and granulated sugar simmered stovetop. It also keeps for weeks in the refrigerator, and simple syrup can be used to sweeten practically anything — cocktails, tea, coffee, fruit salad, and even oatmeal. Basic simple syrup — just sugar and water — can be an all-purpose sweetener, but when you make an infused simple syrup, you're leveling up.

A spiced simple syrup, for example, can introduce complex, natural flavors to your cocktails. Infused with a cinnamon stick and allspice berries, it is particularly delicious with brown spirits like whiskey and rum. Botanical ingredients are ideal for infusing into simple syrup, like fresh sprigs of rosemary, star anise, and ground cloves, all of which combine to make a festive holiday mocktail. 

One of our new favorite and unexpected ingredients for flavoring simple syrup is something you probably already have in your kitchen, just waiting to be infused.

Tea leaves deliver amazing complexity to simple syrup

The Kitchn suggests using tea bags to flavor simple syrup, yielding a delightfully aromatic and versatile ingredient that can flavor iced or hot tea, lemonade, homemade soda, and, of course, cocktails. The best part about using tea to infuse your simple syrup is that you can use absolutely any kind of tea — herbal, black, green — and you can use it in any form, whether in tea bags or loose tea.

Simple Loose Leaf suggests making your tea first — extra strong. Once your tea has steeped in hot but not boiling water, just add it to your water and sugar for the simple syrup and let it reduce a bit. You can achieve an astonishing range of flavors from tea-infused simple syrup, from bergamot notes with Earl Grey, to smoky flavors from lapsang souchong, and refreshing mint or soothing honey notes from a variety of herbal teas. You could even go super-luxe with a spendy simple syrup infused with Da Hong Pao tea from China, which sells for around $1,400 per gram.