I’m thinking about making my own housemade ginger syrup, and maybe others, for the bar. Is it worth the effort?
– Restaurant Manager, New York, NY
What makes housemade bar syrups worth the effort is that they require minimal work once you’ve developed recipes that you love.
I like bar syrups based on a simple syrup of two parts sugar to one part water as a base. Bring water to a boil, add sugar and cook just until sugar is dissolved (or longer if you want it thicker), and chill. For a no-cook, thinner syrup, use a one-to-one ratio of sugar to water. Plain simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks or months.
When flavoring syrups the shelf life can be shorter since you are including additional ingredients and may have some discoloration or lose the potency of the flavor over time. I’d say make them at least weekly and keep below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe. Tanner Kok, manager of Miel Patisserie in Philadelphia recommends adding 1% of citric acid to help with preservation.
Once you have made syrups, you can infuse them with virtually anything—spices, chile, edible flowers, citrus peel, tea, vanilla, herbs, and so on. You can also use other sugars—demerara, honey, or brown sugar adds additional interest.
Jason Wilson, author of Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure and the Overrated in Spirits says, “Whatever syrup you use, it's got to be housemade. I would always rather muddle fresh ginger in simple syrup than to create ginger syrup. I'm not really a fan of syrups beyond the classics: simple syrup, honey syrup, grenadine (pomegranate), and perhaps pineapple syrup. Usually, I would suggest using a liqueur, which has a high sugar content to add other flavors: Cointreau for orange, King's Ginger for ginger, Chartruese for herbal, and so on.”
If you find a commercially available syrup that you just can’t replicate, go for it. But if you have time to play around to find a winning recipe, housemade syrups can make for a distinctive bar program.