You’ll find a lot of cocktail recipes often call for a “simple syrup” — basically a 1:1 mix of sugar and water cooked on the stove to boiling, then allowed to cool for a variety of uses when you need a liquid sweetener as opposed to granulated sugar.
The beauty of a really good cocktail is the layering of flavors, just as in any well-composed entrée or dessert. A really interesting cocktail may have some kind of a fruit element, a sweetener (honey, agave nectar, simple syrup, etc.), an alcohol (or two, or three…), a textural element (this could be anything from carbonated water to slices of fruit to muddled herbs), and some kind of finishing contrast, like bitters.
A simple syrup, like a good bitters, can be complex, thereby adding more depth to your drink. They are quick to make and can be kept on hand indefinitely in a jar or squeeze bottle; experiment with different flavors — a fennel-infused simple syrup could offer an interesting contrast to a throat-burning grappa, or a caramelized grapefruit simple syrup could help deepen the flavor of a whiskey sour. All it takes is a little sugar and water and your imagination.
Blackberry Lavender Simple Syrup
This nod to summer’s bounty bears the addition of black peppercorns and a pinch of salt — a bit unusual, perhaps, but it helps to bring the flavors together and adds to the overall complexity of the syrup. You’ll also find this to be an important element in our next Friday’s Tipple!
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup blackberries
3 stems dried lavender
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
pinch of salt
Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is simmering briskly. Lower heat slightly, then add blackberries, smashing them gently with the back of a spoon to release the juices. Add lavender stems, peppercorns, and salt, and let simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then strain liquid and store in a jar for future use.