Have you ever added sugar to a glass of iced tea, stirred vigorously to dissolve it, only to find a puddle of semi-dissolved granules at the bottom of the glass? The same goes for making lemonade and a variety of other cold beverages and cocktails, but there is a simple solution…
…and it’s called simple for a reason! Simple syrup is nothing more than equal parts of two basic ingredients–sugar and water. It’s super easy to make and has the potential to elevate drinks and desserts in a way that plain old sugar can’t.
This liquified version of sugar has the same sweetness of granulated sugar, and it’s the secret ingredient in the best cold beverages from lemonade to Mojitos. It’s much easier to stir in the clear liquid than it is to add sugar directly, because the granules have already been dissolved.
By adding one basic flavor–in this case vanilla–to what, in its basic form, is an indispensable ingredient for lemonade, ice tea, and cocktail making, the uses for the syrup expand. Suddenly, coffeehouse-worthy lattes are within reach, and without the unnatural taste of many bottled varieties. Someone I know even likes to make his own vanilla Coke. ; )
Simple syrup, whether flavored or not, can also be used to add moisture to layer cakes–simply brush over the surface after baking. The vanilla option will further enhance the taste of baked goods that already carry the vanilla flavor. Additionally, simple syrup works well in dressings and vinaigrettes that require a bit of sweetener and are ideal when you want some sweetness with a neutral flavor… i.e., you’re not seeking out the more robust flavor of a liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup and you don’t have agave syrup on hand.
So think of simple syrup in the following ways:
- No grittiness: simple syrup will incorporate easily into cold beverages, dressings, etc.
- It offers the most neutral sweet flavor profile in liquid form
- It’s easy–just two ingredients
- It’s versatile–vanilla or another flavoring of choice may be added
Do you have any other delicious ways to enjoy?
Yield: 1+ cup of syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Continue to cook at a rapid simmer until the mixture thickens slightly, about 8-9 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and cool to room temperature. Transfer to a glass jar or bottle and refrigerate. The syrup will last for two weeks or more. Eventually, the sugar will begin to crystalize on the side of the jar or bottle, but the taste will likely still be fine.
Vanilla Simple Syrup is delicious in hot and cold lattes alike. For an easy how-to on making cafe-worthy lattes at home, click here.
Beyond DIY versions of hot and cold lattes (coffee or tea versions), think Frappuccinos, vanilla Cokes and other fountain drinks, cakes, and more. Vanilla is my personal favorite, but you could experiment with other flavorings like almond, hazelnut, and peppermint.