Though the official start of summer is still six weeks away, sultry days are already, albeit sporadically, showing up. After thirteen years in Northern California, you’d think I would have learned by now that the weather is both fickle and extreme. Come late May, I often leave the house at eight wearing a down jacket and jeans, only to shed three layers by noon, leaving me in a tank top that was never intended to be viewed by the public, with wool socks stuffed into my handbag. Pale, awkwardly exposed, and thirsty, I ponder how to plan better for the predictably unpredictable weather as spring transitions to summer. Aside from remembering to wear cuter base layers, my thoughts turn to the most satisfying ways to revel in the heat while still keeping cool. Cocktails! (Or mocktails, of course.) With a little planning, hot-weather refreshments can be so much more than just a means to hydration. Last summer I didn’t discover how easy it is to make infused simple syrups until far too late to truly experiment with all their applications, so this summer I’m determined to plan ahead (for once) and make up a batch every few weeks to play around with in everything from sangria and spritzers to lemonade and Italian sodas.
Perhaps even my children can raise the bar for neighborhood lemonade stands with a little infused simple syrup mixed in to their pitchers. Before you write that idea off as far too fancy, remember that simple syrup is cheap—after all, it’s just sugar and water simmered into a syrup (hummingbird food, really!), with a few herbs or petals tossed in for a fun twist.
All it takes is a little planning ahead—and the desire for subtle flavors to turn up in summer drinks. When guests drop in, it’s fun to serve up a signature cocktail—virgin or not—using an element that’s both delicious and conversation worthy. I plan to try the following six infusions, storing (and gifting!) them in cute little hermetic bottles.
1. Herb-Infused Simple Syrup
I love the recipe and ideas for creating herb-infused simple syrup from The Burp! They suggest using mint, lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, sage, basil, or tarragon to create an herb-infused simple syrup that’s ideal for mixing with cocktails, sweetening iced tea, dressing fruit salad, or drizzling over cake.
2. Rose-Infused Simple Syrup
To make rose-infused simple syrup, just boil up some sugar, water, and rose water, which is available at many grocery stores or Persian markets. Frugalicious Me offers up a simple how-to, plus three fabulous recipes for raspberry and rose lemonade, sweet rose iced tea, and a rose cosmopolitan.
3. Lemongrass-Infused Simple Syrup
To make lemongrass-infused simple syrup, Teroforma reveals the trick: simmer a stalk of lemongrass in sugar water for ten minutes. Nothing with lemongrass has ever been this easy! They also include a cocktail recipe that’s refreshing and unique—the Spring Breeze, made with cucumber vodka, lemongrass-infused simple syrup, and limejuice.
4. Vanilla-Infused Simple Syrup
Perfect for sweetening iced tea and iced coffee, vanilla-infused simple syrup just requires a single split vanilla bean, sugar, water, and a little vanilla extract. The Sweet Life shows how it’s done.
5. Ginger-Infused Simple Syrup
Add a little edge to drinks featuring peach, apricot, lemon, or pear with ginger-infused simple syrup. It has all the oomph of ginger, but is balanced with a heavy dose of sweetness. Let your kids try it in lemonade and see what they think! You might be surprised to find that they like the natural spiciness as long as it’s cut with some sugar.
6. Chamomile-Infused Simple Syrup
With its subtle floral taste and calming qualities, it’s understandable why chamomile is synonymous with the nightly ritual of drinking herbal tea. But subtlety and calm also have their place in daytime pleasures—and chamomile-infused simple syrup is one way to experiment. Pink Apron recommends mixing it with yogurt, freezing it into popsicles, or shaking it up with a cocktail.
Do you have any infused syrup recipes of your own? Any special cocktails or spritzers you use them in?