Yeah, this is kind of long. There are recipes to reward you for reading the blather.
I have been using this blog less than I'd like, because I can't take good food pictures these days; my tripod seems to be on permanent loan somewhere else. So the photos in this post are mostly old ones that are not entirely relevant...
I'm on a simple syrup blitz. It started a year or so ago, when I could no longer easily find Stirrings Clarified Key Lime syrup. So I made up my own syrup with limes, water, and sugar. Later, I made some with fresh mint added to it.
Then I tried it with lemons. And I've been making it now and then ever since, though I sometimes use the juice rather than the fruit, as in the recipe below.
A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try a new cocktail recipe that included grenadine. Most store varieties aren't real grenadine, in any way, so I found out how to make it. It's just pomegranate juice and sugar, so that's simple. We made a modified Clara Bow cocktail* with it, which was delicious, and I've been experimenting with simpler cocktail recipes that combine the syrup with lime juice or vermouth.
Today I made syrup with some blueberries that were turning a bit mushy. Then I made mint syrup with fresh peppermint & spearmint, and then more lime syrup. I was on a roll! Wanting to branch out a bit, I had a look at what Google offered me, and found a recipe for brown sugar ginger syrup. So that's on the stove right now.
You can make syrup thin or thick, depending on your sugar to liquid ratio, and how long you let it simmer. A thicker syrup is nice for cocktails and hot drinks. The mint syrup I made today will primarily be used in iced tea, and that's thinner than the others, since we want it to stir in easily and well.
I've used heat-resistant plastic storage containers for the syrups, because all the jars I'd set aside to use later were put into the recycling bin by some well-meaning offspring. ::sigh:: That would have made a pretty photo.
Also, my herb garden was shot to Mercury this summer with the dry heat, or I'd be trying more herb syrups. But I think I'm going to do a rosemary one, possibly with orange. I also have cinnamon basil and lemon thyme to try. Stay tuned for the report on that.
You can keep all these syrups in the refrigerator for several months: the blueberry & pomegranate for two months, the others up to six. They will thicken when they are cold.
For a cold fizzy drink, use about 1/4 cup of syrup for a cup of sparkling water, and add ice. That's just a guideline. To flavor hot tea or coffee, well, that's really up to you, 1-2 tbs generally.
As I try out the syrups in more cocktails, I'll post some recipes. But basically, you can do a 4:1 balance of alcohol to flavoring with bourbon, gin, or vodka for a good drink. Measure, shake, strain, garnish with something pretty or tasty or both.
Blueberry Syrup (altered from an Alton Brown recipe)
2 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp lime juice
Bring to boil, then simmer blueberries and water in medium saucepan, 15 minutes. Pour the mixture through a strainer or cheesecloth-lined colander into a large bowl, let it cool for awhile. Squeeze out as much liquid from blueberries as you can. Return the juice to the pan with sugar and lime juice. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. This makes about a cup of thick syrup.
Mint Syrup (this is a process, not a recipe…)
2-3 large handfuls of mint, very lightly rinsed
6 + cups water
2-3 cups sugar
Put all three in a dutch oven and bring to a boil. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Strain out the leaves and bring to boil again, simmering until it's reduced by half. Add a couple of wedges of lemon during the second simmer, if you like. This will make around 3 cups of thin syrupy tea. Strain and cool, then use 2-4 tbs per glass of iced tea.
1 cup lime juice
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
Bring to boil, lightly boil for about 10 minutes, then cool. 1 1/2 cups medium thick syrup.
Brown Sugar Ginger Syrup (from coffeetea.about.com)
I made double their recipe, so:
2 cups semi-packed brown sugar
2 cups water
2 1 inch chunks of peeled ginger (I cut them in half and made 4)
Combine in a saucepan, bring to boil, simmer for 30 minutes. (Keep an eye on this one!) Strain and cool. You'll have about one cup of thick syrup. (I'm adding a tsp of vanilla extract to mine.)
Pomegranate Syrup (Grenadine)
2 cups POM pomegranate juice (The POM website says this takes 46 pomegranates!)
1 cup sugar
Combine in saucepan, bring to boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes until reduced to one cup. This one you also have to stir frequently. Remove from heat, cool and store. Fairly thick syrup.
*Clara Bow recipe found here. We substituted Maker's Mark for Bulleit and lime juice for the lemon. I'm thinking if you used Bulleit, the lemon would match better, but the lime is great with Maker's. We also shorted the St-Germain slightly, but I think most people would be happy with the amount given.