Love coffee cocktails? Not sure how to create your own? Never fear: designing cocktails isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. In fact, if you start using carefully chosen simple syrups, I’m confident you’ll soon have a menu full of unique, fun, and delicious drinks.
However, when using simple syrups, there are some common mistakes that people fall into. So from choosing your flavours to how much syrup to use, here are three key things to consider.
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An endless choice of flavors. Credit: Heydrienne via Flickr
When it comes to syrups, if you can dream it up, you can make it happen. Experiment with edible flowers, spices, herbs, seasonal fruit, and even candy to create unique flavors. Don’t be afraid to get specific, either: honeycrisp apple syrup is a popular autumn hit at my café, Three Crowns Coffee.
Of course, with all these options, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by choice. So if you’re working on a syrup for a specific drink, start with the coffee’s tasting notes. Opting for a syrup that highlights or complements flavors already in the coffee can lead to an incredible drink.
Remember that the flavoring agent isn’t the only thing affecting the flavor, either: try different types of sugar for different syrups. A clear, “straightforward” syrup will probably suit white sugar. But if you want added complexity and an undertone of molasses, try raw sugar or one of its variants. For added floral impact, use honey. And if you’re really feeling adventurous, melt down some candy in some water.
What flavor would these add to your syrups? Credit: Elisa Azzali via Wikipedia
Just as weight is incredibly important in making coffee, it’s also important in making syrup. And consistency is only possible when you weigh out your ingredients every single time. This is particularly important because you’re dealing with sugar; since sugar is granulated, just like coffee, it tends to sit unevenly. Visually estimating the weight in a measuring cup will produce different results in every batch.
But consistency isn’t just about weighing the ingredients before you begin. It’s also about how you cook them. So never bring your water to a boil. This will evaporate it, which will then throw off the ratio of sugar to water. If you’re worried, then technically you could make simple syrups with cold water – but the sugar will melt much faster and much more consistently in hot water. I normally set my hot water kettle to 205℉/96℃ for this reason.
Consistency allows you to control the strength and sweetness of your syrup. Credit: Dvortygirl via Wikipedia
Knowing when to use simple syrups can be just as difficult as knowing what flavors to create – and just as important. Get to know your customers, both as a demographic and as individuals. If they like particularly sweet drinks, then lean toward the sweet. If they don’t, then be careful not to overdo it with the syrups. That being said, don’t be afraid to be a little heavier handed for customers new to specialty coffee who want something sweet to drink.
As for what is “too much”, ultimately balance is the key. Especially when creating specialty drinks. Simple syrups are a powerful way to infuse flavor into a drink, and rarely is more than an ounce needed. Often half an ounce will suffice. Don’t forget to take into account the size of the drink, too.
Consider the other ingredients in the drink, as well. If you use cocktail bitters, then you’ll almost certainly need a sweetener to counteract the otherwise bracing bitterness. But if you’re simply trying to sweeten a latte or cappuccino, you’ll likely need less.
Although this may be difficult to begin with, it’ll get easier with practice. Study classic cocktail recipes for some direction, and learn by trial and error – soon you’ll have an almost instinctive grasp of what will work.
Using these will require sweeter syrups – or a heavier dose. Credit: Scott Schiller via Flickr
Flavor, consistency, and balance: the three crucial factors for a successful syrup-based cocktail. Remember these and, no matter how creative or experimental your drinks become, they’re bound to be a success. So start mind-mapping ideas, and have fun!
Still not sure where to begin? Start off with our recipe for lavender syrup – we’ve even supplied a cocktail recipe to use it in.
Edited by T. Newton.
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