What is rich simple syrup, and why do high-end bartenders love it so much?
“Rich simple syrup” almost doesn’t sound like a real ingredient when you first hear it (maybe muttered behind the bar at your favorite watering hole).
Maybe you’ve heard of simple syrup, the classic 1:1 sugar-to-water mixture used in drinks and, occasionally, desserts. Perhaps you’ve shaken or stirred simple syrup into a drink or two. It is an easy way to add sweetness without the grittiness of sugar. These days, though bartenders and home cocktail fans tend to reach for rich simple syrup, called “rich simple” for short, instead. Here’s why.
When you shake or stir a cocktail with ice, you’re diluting it. The longer you shake or stir, the more you dilute your drink. Regular simple syrup adds a good bit of water to a cocktail, too. As I realized while making a daiquiri, this can be frustrating, as you can end up with a diluted concoction.
The daiquiri is a simple drink—just lime, sugar, and rum—but sugar shaken directly into the cocktail wasn’t dissolving. Regular simple syrup was producing an overly diluted drink. I texted my cousin, an excellent bartender in upstate New York, who immediately responded that my issue was that I wasn’t using the right simple syrup.
When you add half the water, you create a much more luxe mouthfeel in a simple syrup, and of course a sweeter flavor. Crucially, too, you’re not diluting your drink as much. (In fact, if you wanted to really nerd out, you could weigh out your ingredients, which some experts recommend.) I kept it simple, using volume measurements, and used my cousin’s recipe, (below):
Note: Sweet tooths might prefer a full ¾ ounce of simple syrup.
- 2 ounces of rum
- 1 ounce of fresh lime juice
- ½ ounce rich simple syrup*
1. Shake all ingredients together with ice until very cold. Strain into chilled coupe, and serve neat.
* Rich simple syrup: Over heat or at room temperature, dissolve two parts sugar into one part water.
And my daiquiri? The texture was luxe, the drink balanced, and the rum not overly diluted. It was summery and bright-sweet—the ideal balanced drink.
Turns out, rich simple is just the thing for my bourbon sours, which I make with fresh lemon juice, too. The 2:1:0.5 ratio of spirits to citrus to rich simple is “the golden ration for sours,” my cousin informed me. You can apply it to any base spirit.
Now I keep a tiny bottle of rich simple in my fridge, though you could keep yours at room temperature if you’re not a city slicker worried about pests! It's the easiest fancy home bar accessory, and a bartender trick the average cocktail fan can happily add to her arsenal.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Bon Appétit, and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen.