I love to create in the kitchen. I don't have a Viking stove. I don't have Le Creuset cookware. I don't use the best quality brands, but I still want good favor and meaning. I want to serve something that I care about and in turn, cares for the people I love.
I want my table and kitchen to send a message, not of perfection but of substance; something that is real, crafted with my own hands.
But I can’t follow directions and as a consequence I can never make the same exact thing twice. I am a ‘done is better than perfect’ kind of girl. Easy over complicated. If I see 15 ingredients or 20 steps then the recipe has already lost me.
Cocktails were one of those hard and exact kind of creations that confused me and seemed hard to figure out. My husband would mix the drinks because I was afraid to mess it up. But as our lives are getting fuller and my husband comes home later from work, I had to try my hand at mixed drinks if we still wanted to catch any of the sunset from the roof.
Let me introduce my crafted-cocktail-buddy; simple, simple syrup. Simple syrup is one the easiest things in the world that I thought was complicated (maybe I am the only one). Simple syrup has endless possibilities when it comes to cocktails and I even throw-it in soups and salsa and baking to add favor.
Here are the simple syrup basics:
You need one-part water and one-part sugar; I usually do a cup of water and a cup of sugar. You can infuse your simple syrup with ginger, rosemary, mint, orange; there are plenty of other flavors to add to simple syrup but these are the ones that I do on a regular basis. I have read that some people add the ginger or whatever flavor they want to infuse once the sugar mixture it is done simmering over the stove, but I like to add my ingredient of choice before bringing the mixture to a boil, making for a stronger infusion of flavor.
I am a visual learner but obviously not an artist. This is how I wish all recipes were done. I want to know in 10 seconds if this recipe is manageable for me. Yes, I painted one nail to snap this photo and I am still in my plaid PJs, but I do have my leopard flats on.
I bring the sugar, water and ‘whatever you want to infuse’ to a boil and then let simmer, stirring frequently, over medium to low heat for 20-40 minutes depending on how thick you like your simply syrup. While hot, I strain out the ‘infused ingredient.’ The hardest part for me is that I usually remember to make simple syrup about an hour before the guests are arriving. It takes time to cool, so making simple syrup the day before is optimal. But if you are like me, just throw it in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour to help it cool down.
Guidelines for different infused simple syrups:
Ginger: with a cheese grater, finely grate 3-4 one inch nubs of ginger and add to sugar-water mixture.
Mint: drop 8-10 small sprigs (stems and all) into the sugar and water.
Rosemary: drop 8-10 small sprigs (stems and all) into the sugar and water.
Orange: this one can have a strong rind taste. I take a whole orange, remove the peel and chop up the meat of the orange and add to mixture.
Get creative. I want try cranberry, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon next. I imagine that vanilla and cinnamon would be amazing in coffee. You can also skip any infusion for a plain simple syrup.
Here are some of my favorite ‘crafted’ cocktail ideas:
Warning: most of these drinks I make to my own liking and I am not a mixologist by any stretch of the imagination. The first time I ever really measured what I actually did was to write this blog post. I normally just splish-and-splash a little more of this and little more of that. You might like less liquor and more simple syrup, so adjust to your taste-buds. Start with less and add more as you go. These are just guidelines.
Ginger-Lime Gimlets with Vodka, Gin or Whiskey- 1.5-2 ounces of liquor (about 3- 4 tablespoons), two small limes squeezed (about 1.5-2 tablespoon), 1.5-2 tablespoons of ginger simple syrup, 3-4 small ice cubes and I add soda water to taste (usually 3-4 tablespoons). I have also made this drink more like lemonade, which is actually what the tradition gimlet is like; without the soda water, just add more lime and simple syrup. Garnish with a few slices of ginger if you have time.
Rosemary-Lemon Gimlets with Vodka or Whiskey. I have haven’t tried with Gin- Same concept as above, different ingredients. 1.5-2 ounces of liquor (about 3-4 tablespoons), 1 lemon squeezed (about 1.5-2 tablespoon), 1.5-2 tablespoons of rosemary simple syrup, 3-4 ice small cubes and I add soda water to taste with a sprig of rosemary for garnish.
Mint Julep- You can use mint simple syrup to make a mean mint julep: Check out this recipe.
Mango Margaritas- three mangos cut up and frozen the day before, about 8-10 limes squeezed (depending on how big they are), a tablespoon of ginger simple syrup and a tablespoon of orange simple syrup all blended in the blender. Sometimes I add a few ice cubes in blender for crunch. Then add Tequila to taste. You are probably asking where the triple sec is? I don’t think you need it with the simple syrup.
I like to have simple syrup on hand when cooking too. I add a tablespoon of ginger simple syrup to coconut chicken curry, creamy tomato soup, fajitas, homemade salsa, apple crumble, the sauce for orange chicken, zucchini bread and pretty much anything else I want to add a zingy-candied flavor to.
I hope this gives you ideas for how to get creative with simple syrup in your kitchen.