Bar syrup is a funny thing. It is way better than sugar in a cocktail as bar syrup adds no grit to the drink. The flip side is bar syrup adds no flavor. For me, that is a catch twenty-two situation. I want everything in a cocktail to add substance and meaning to the drink. The layering effect is everything. Tiers of flavoring rolling over the tongue and the lingering undertones are what make a cocktail memorable. So why not customize bar syrups for some of our favorite cocktails? Some of the hippest bars across the nation do this very thing.
Take for instance the restaurant Piedmont in Durham, NC. Their cocktail list boasts the Rose Marie. This drink uses freshly made rosemary syrup concocted by the chef expressly for one specialty cocktail.
2 ounces Gin
1 ounce Fresh Grapefruit Juice
1/2 ounce Rosemary Syrup
1 Rosemary Sprig for Garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker two thirds full of ice. Add gin, juice, and rosemary syrup. Shake for ten to fifteen seconds. Strain into a well-chilled martini glass. Garnish with the rosemary sprig. This rosemary cocktail is named after Chef Drew Brown’s favorite Slim Whitman song “Rose Marie.”
If you flipped through a book and found this recipe you might be tempted to glance over it without attempting it yourself. After all, rosemary syrup is not readily available on store shelves. But really this rosemary syrup is only one added step to basic bar syrup. Another name for bar syrup is simple syrup. It is called simple for a reason.
Bar Syrup / Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently allowing the sugar to dissolve completely. This takes approximately five minutes depending on your heat source. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Store bar syrup in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 Four inch Rosemary Sprig
Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently allowing sugar to dissolve completely. This takes approximately five minutes depending on your heat source. Remove bar syrup from heat source. Place rosemary spring in a heat proof bowl. Pour hot bar syrup over rosemary sprig. Let cool completely. Strain into an airtight glass container. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Today I played around with some of my own flavored syrups by adding fresh fruits; blueberry, raspberry and lemon. This is something you can play around with and try at home as well. Make your syrup with fruit that complements a favorite cocktail you make at home that calls for bar syrup in the mix. Using the basic Bar Syrup Recipe above I added a half cup of blueberries cut in half, a half cup of whole raspberries or three lemons sliced in thirds (exclude the ends) to the water/sugar mix before it began to boil. Be sure to allow the mixture to cool and then strain into an airtight glass container.
You can find information about Piedmont at http://www.piedmontrestaurant.com/ and find out what is on their menu tonight, join the mailing list or take a look at their Flickr Site.
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Cheri Loughlin is the Omaha writer and photographer behind www.intoxicologist.net and author of Cocktails with a Tryst: An Affair with Mixology and Seduction. You can email Cheri with comments and questions at str8upcocktails at gmail.com.