Simple Syrup-or is it?

sugarSimple syrup is just about the extent of my experience with making homemade cocktail ingredients. I completely agree with many cocktail bloggers out there who believe that the addition of homemade ingredients like fresh sour mix, grenadine, orgeat, and tonic water make a quality cocktail truly superior. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to sample the spectacular results of others’ hard work at home. For me, however, making cocktail ingredients at home is an issue because:


  1. I’m busy.
  2. If I’m not busy, I’m lazy. 

The one ingredient that’s been “simple” enough for me to whip up at home myself is Simple Syrup. I mean, why would you ever buy a bottle of premade Simple Syrup? That’s about as crazy as buying bottled water…oh wait.


Anyway, embarrassingly enough, it has come to my attention that I might have managed to screw up Simple Syrup. My mother would be proud. How can this be? Well, I’ve always done a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water for my Simple Syrup, but there are a lot of people out there telling me I’m doing it wrong. I figured I’d bring this matter on to the blog and ask everyone’s opinion—what is the right way to make Simple Syrup?


Bobby Flay has said 1:1, and then Natalie, the Liquid Muse, called him out on it. Paul Clarke provides a 2:1 recipe on Cocktail Chronicles, but Stevi Deter of Two at the Most uses a 1:1 simple syrup in her Pisco Sours. Jeffrey Morgenthaler is on the 1:1 side, while Darcy O’Neil of Art of Drink is all about 2:1 simple syrup in his homemade Sour Mix. Stop the madness! Who’s doing it right and who’s doing it wrong? Or could it be it’s just a matter of taste? Please, share your thoughts in the comments!


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19 responses to “Simple Syrup-or is it?

  1. I’m a bit of an ingredient geek, I keep the following on hand:

    1:1 Simple Syrup (Just combine and shake)
    2:1 Rich Syrup (Need a little heat to get these combined)
    1:1 Demerara Syrup (Awesome in Daiquiris)

    The one that gets used the most though is the plain old 1:1 syrup with white sugar.

  2. The advantage to 2-1 simple syrup is it has about the same sweetening power as the same volume of sugar. That is, 1 teaspoon of 2-1 is about equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar.

    The other advantage to 2-1 is that it is very shelf stable, even with fairly minimal sterilization procedures. Interesting floaty things tend to grow in 1-1 syrup if it has been around for any time at all.

    Most bars use 1-1, so likely if a recipe calls for simple that is the thing to use to get the right effect with a given recipe.

  3. Back in the 80’s Professional Bartenders School of America in Michigan taught 1:1. I believe that is also the standard in the Mr. Boston’s Guide – possibly the oldest bartending guide published.

  4. Well, 2:1 or 1:1 is a matter of taste really..i`m for 1:1 mysef as it pours easier and i keep my simples in the fridge and cold they are even slower to pour, so for me 1.1 is fine.

  5. 2:1 provides more texture to the cocktail. Most classic cocktails call for 2:1… and I’m a big fan of the classics. I don’t see it as easy as combining the sugar and water in the cocktail shaker. I think the simple syrup is best made in the kitchen. Just my humble 2-cents on the quality cocktail.

  6. I started off with 2:1 because the first recipe I saw used that ratio. However, I switched to 1:1 because I like my simple slightly less sweet and with a thinner consistency. But I think it’s really a matter of personal preference.

  7. Nathan

    I’ve often made 2 simple syrups, both are 1:1 ratios. The difference is one I bring to a boil, which gives it a slightly thicker texture. The other I disolve the sugar in hot (but not boiling) water, which makes a thinner sugar water that I feel works better in lighter, more refreshing style drinks

  8. I’ll give Erik a high five, as he beat me to nearly my exact answer.

  9. I’ll give Erik a high-five, as he beat me to nearly my exact answer.

  10. jess lofland

    simple is 1:1, others are just syrups. most certainly sweeter than true simple, though

  11. I’ve more or less abandoned 1:1 simple, and use a 2:1 ratio with unprocessed cane sugar. I just use less of it when simple is called for. Use (very) slightly more than half the volume called for. I know the math sounds wrong, but heres what I got with my measurements:

    1 cup H2O + 1 cup sugar = ~1.15 cups liquid
    1 cup H2O + 2 cups sugar = ~1.3 cups liquid

    I know that sounds absurd. Try it if you don’t believe me. Basically if you use half the amount of 2:1 instead of 1:1 you end up with the same cocktail but with a little less water in it.

    My only complaint is 2:1 crystalizes and needs to be reheated periodically if you don’t go through it fast enough.

  12. Bob Foster

    It’s over a year later, but the correct ratio is 1:1 By Weight. 500 mg. water + 500 mg. sugar will yield almost exactly 750 ml. of simple syrup. Guess what you can keep it in?

  13. chris

    I’ve been a cook for over 10 yrs, and I still don’t know which is correct. My opinion is that the ratio should be consistent with the use of the syrup. Lower viscosity should be used in drinks, italian ices, coffees, etc. The higher the viscosity syrups would be used best as glazes and poured on various foods. I’ve also found through experimentation ( I make alot of flavored syrups) that the viscosity is affected by two things. Sugar/water ratio, and if/how long it has reduced over heat. A 1:1 simple syrup can be made thick if boiled and simmered longer.

  14. Philly K

    I know that no one is probably paying attention to this thread anymore, but somehow landed here and what to through in my $.02.
    I just split the difference and make my syrup at a 3:2 ratio (I usually make 1 1/2 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water at a time).
    I find that this is sweeter than the 1:1 (I feel like 1:1 introduces too much water into a drink) and easier to make than the 2:1 (which I have accidentally made rock candy when preparing). I actually fooled around a lot with different ratios including 3:1, 5:2, 2:1, 5:3, 3:2, 4:3, 5:4, etc.
    The trick is to make it the same each time so you can learn how much you need in different drinks. For example, I make a daiquiri with 1/4 oz of 3:2 syrup. I have found that works best for me.
    There is no right or wrong, there is just what you like and what works for you!

  15. Alex

    I use a 3:2 ratio as well. 🙂

  16. Stephen

    So, i believe the explanation for the thicker 1:1 after boiling is that sugar in its crystalline form is a di-saccharide (carrying two sugars) and heat breaks the ionic bond between the glucose and the fructose.

  17. i don’t think there is a right or wrong just different. Its like Honda vs Toyota or Ford vs Chevy, they both get you to your destination, although in slightly different ways. Personally I prefer a 1:1 syrup and only use a 2:1 where it is specifically called for in a drink.

  18. I’ve heard 1:1 but ive heard also 2:1 and 3:1 water to sugar, which I imagine would be very thin and a bit weak. I came to find out as well, but I forgot if it was any ratio water to sugar, or sugar to water, if its so simple and cheap, I might as well experiment.

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