Syrups, though innocuous enough, are one of the more essential ingredients in cocktails. Our mixologist tells us more.
Cocktails may have a number of fancy ingredients like bitters, tinctures and amari, but what ultimately ties it together and gives it its unique flavour is the simple syrup. These flavouring agents or natural extracts help define a flavour for cocktails. There is a wide range of synthetic and non-synthetic syrups available. You can also make organic syrups with natural extracts.
The trend of using syrups in cocktails started way back in 1920 in the USA, during the Prohibition era. When cocktails came into existence, alongside came the use of alcohol-based syrups, which were prominently used as digestives. For instance, syrups like Sambuca, Cream De Mint and Ammeratto came up during these times. Sambuca is still a popular syrup to use in cocktails nowadays, but a number of other concoctions have come up over the years. Triple Sec, Blue Curaco, Mint, Granadine, and Cream De Mint are a few popular syrups that are used in cocktails today.
These days, organic syrups are also a rage, with natural extracts and a wide range of flavour essences available. Some syrups that I’ve made are kokum and curry leaf syrup, beetroot vanilla pods and basil, orange juice with clove and orange peel, orange juice with saffron and fresh ginger and south Indian coffee with star anise and dry ginger.
Just as certain cocktails go well with bitters, while others lend themselves to sweeter options, different syrups go well with different cocktails. A good mixologist recognises that not all syrups are compatible to all spirits. A perfect measure of syrup changes the taste profile of a drink. Flavouring your own alcohol isn’t an exact science. The process requires creativity, a Kilner jar and not much else. The components are twofold — a bottle of booze and a handful of something to infuse it with. Cover it in muslin and add it to a vessel and you’re on your way. Chilli vodka works with tomato juice. Try coconut rum with pineapple juice, or orange gin with grapefruit juice as a new take on the negroni.
Since syrups are an essential part of cocktails, it’s important to know how to store them as well. A slice of citrus, some cooling cucumber, clusters of herbs and plenty of ice are all that are recommended — you could even try flavouring your ice cubes by embedding basil or berries in their core.
Organic syrups are helpful when they are made in small batches, as per the need on the other hand the proprietary syrups, which are synthetic, have a better shelf life up till six months to a year.
Viju is a consultant mixologist at Kaama