There's a lot about cocktail-making that may sound mysterious or tricky (spoiler: it's not), and we'll leave the bitters- and apperteif-making to the professionals. However, there is one crucial cocktail ingredient that you can absolutely, always make at home.
It takes only a few minutes — my last batch took me four minutes and one second, according to my stopwatch — and it is just as good, and far cheaper, than what you'd buy at your neighborhood liquor store. Homemade simple syrups are also easily customizable, from your sugar choice, to its viscosity and even its flavorings.
Here's how to do it right this minute:
Pull out your sugar stash. You can use any type of granulated sugar you'd like. I, personally, prefer to use unrefined cane sugar for fuller flavor, but you can really use all kinds of sugar here. Turbinado, Dixie Crystals, anything.
Put a cup of your chosen sugar in a small saucepan, and add water. The most versatile simple syrups are made with equal parts sugar and water, but, again, this is up to you. If you're into tiki drinks (who isn't, these days?) try reducing the amount of water by half to make what's called a "rich syrup" or "double simple" in the biz. So, for traditional syrup, pour in 1 cup of water; for a thicker syrup, add just 1/2 cup.
Place the pot over medium heat and watch the pot. You can stir as the sugar heats and melts into the water, or don't. I can't handle not fussing with things cooking on the stove, so I always stir. All you're looking for here is for the sugar to melt and dissolve completely into the water. It doesn't need to come to a boil or a simmer or anything. We're just melting sugar here.
Depending on the heat of your stove and the amount of water you've added, this step will take between three and five minutes. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and pour the syrup into your favorite simple syrup storage vessel. (Mason jars work great.)
Let the syrup cool to room temperature before mixing into your favorite cocktails. That's it! You did it!
If you're looking for some great ideas for variations on simple syrup, here are some of Southern Kitchen's favorite sweeteners. Go to town:
Demerera Simple Syrup
Blackstrap Molasses Simple Syrup
Cinnamon-Vanilla Simple Syrup
Ginger Simple Syrup
Lavender Simple Syrup
P.S. Please store your simple syrup in your refrigerator to keep it fresh — and the perfect temperature for cocktails!