Simple Syrup: It's Good to be Rich
August 03, 2009
This post lists the spoilage times for different simple syrups. You can use it to determine how long until simple syrup will spoil.
Simple syrup is never just that simple. Some people make it 1:1 sugar to water. Others make it 2:1, and call it "rich simple syrup."
One-to-one simple syrup is easy to make- put equal amounts sugar and water in a bottle and shake it up. No heat is necessary. For rich simple syrup if you shake and wait and shake and wait you can get it into solution without heat, but most people heat up the water first on the stove and the sugar dissolves almost instantly (but then you have to wait for it to cool before using). Either way, you need to plan for it.
So why would anyone bother with rich simple syrup? Because you can use less of it in a drink to get the same amount of sweetening, but more importantly it lasts longer before spoiling in your refrigerator.
To test this, I made up four syrups and decided to wait to see how long it was until they spoiled. For each ratio, I added a tablespoon of vodka, as this is another method of making syrup last longer before spoiling.
- 1:1 simple syrup
- 1:1 simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka
- 2:1 rich simple syrup
- 2:1 rich simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka
Then I put them all in the refrigerator and waited. Eventually, the syrup would become cloudy then that cloudiness would start to mold. I stopped the experiment when the cloudiness appeared.
- 1:1 simple syrup lasted One Month
- 1:1 simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka lasted Three Months
- 2:1 rich simple syrup lasted Six Months
- 2:1 rich simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka lasted more than six months
So depending on how fast you go through simple syrup you may want to adjust the syrup that you make. Of course, you'll have to go back and adjust all your drink recipes too.
I tried switching from 1:1 to 2:1 a few months back so my infused syrups would last longer. I still haven't gotten used to it though, and it feels like most published drink recipes are written for 1:1 syrup, so I think I'm going back to 1:1 + a teaspoon of 95%.
Posted by: Nathan | August 03, 2009 at 08:19 AM
That's interesting. I made a batch of syrup last night, but I was out of regular sugar and used brown instead. It actually worked very well for the drinks I was making, adding a richer, almost sweeter, flavor.
Posted by: Jeremy Brooks | August 03, 2009 at 09:25 AM
I've started using Pectin and Xanthum in my simple syrup and cutting out the arabic gomme. Xanthum doesn't mask the flavors as much as arabic gomme, but still has the same effect.....it's a modern day update to gomme!
Posted by: kevin diedrich | August 03, 2009 at 09:26 AM
Great experiment, and very useful data. I'm glad to see more people making their own syrups, even simple syrup - the bar syrup I've bought is pretty tasteless compared to sugar + water.
Posted by: AlchemistGeorge | August 03, 2009 at 09:57 AM
Curious. Thanks for the findings! What kind of sugar did you use -- refined white sugar? Does the cloudiness factor work for different sweeteners like agave syrup and evaporated cane juice?
I've heard different theories about boiling the syrup versus not. I would think that boiling would increase the shelf life (perhaps I'm wrong), but I don't know what other effects it would have.
Posted by: Vanessa | August 03, 2009 at 10:08 AM
I used refined white sugar for this experiment. The cloudiness I think is the start of mold, so it could very well take on a different form/color with non-clear syrups. According to Jennifer Colliau of Small Hand Foods, there is a technical difference when something becomes a syrup (heated to a certain point and it changes) but I'm using the common sugar+water definition of it here.
Posted by: Camper English | August 03, 2009 at 10:15 AM
Kevin- very cool. i've heard a lot of the molecular mixology people are looking into these other sweeteners. Also Darcy's sweetener presentation from Tales is downloadable- you may want to have a look:
Posted by: Camper English | August 03, 2009 at 10:23 AM
I love your experiments. Always so fun to read. :)
Posted by: Jamie | August 03, 2009 at 02:42 PM
Camper, thank you, that's very useful information. I always like to have a squeeze bottle of simple syrup in the fridge to use as needed, so the heating and cooling time isn't an issue. Thanks!
Posted by: Elsewhere | August 03, 2009 at 10:26 PM
You win for a cool science article that's not Darcy's. I'm slightly surprised that the small amount of vodka extended the shelf life - any idea how much longer? I used to do that all the time before I made 2:1 syrups, and now that I've gone that route I don't bother. Though, to be honest, the only syrup I have more than 6 months is orgeat, and that's because I make so damn much since it's annoying.
Posted by: Rick | August 05, 2009 at 02:42 PM
Since I started sterilizing the bottle before adding the 2:1 (boiled) syrup, I haven't had any mold or cloudiness. I no longer even refrigerate the syrup as I find cold 2:1 pretty thick to work with. To sterilize I bake the bottle in a toaster oven (>180°F) for 15 minutes. h/t:eje However, I don't think I've had the same syrup for 6 months.
Posted by: Sylvan | August 05, 2009 at 03:19 PM
I make 2:1 syrups and i go through them fairly fast so i don´t need to add any vodka. As for the orgeat, its here too the one that i keep longest in the fridge just bec i make much when i make it as its a bit burdensome to make it.
Great experiment, very useful and i love your qute glassware.
Posted by: Tiare | August 08, 2009 at 07:21 AM
We've been debating that - and now we know. We tend to make an assortment of flavored simple syrups (like ginger and lemon; basil and lime) and don't use them that fast. I shouldn't think adding those flavors will affect the spoilage, but we will make 2:1 + vodka to prolong their lifespan. Thanks. www.28pans.wordpress.com
Posted by: Scott | August 12, 2009 at 12:02 PM
It would be interesting to know if spice infusions (or other flavored syrups) affect the spoilage rate of simple syrups.
Posted by: Robert | December 16, 2009 at 07:06 AM
This is very helpful-- thanks!
Posted by: Chris | January 31, 2010 at 12:29 AM
Jim says...when making 2:1 simple syrup and you are planning to store it for a while, it's best to sterilize the storage container because the liquid sugar is highly susceptible to bacteria (not good to blow your breath over it either). LOL
Posted by: Jim Skiles | February 17, 2010 at 01:02 PM
This is an awesome experiment, I was trying to figure out a good way to taste this myself. I've tried to figure out how long a vodka might add to the stabilization process because a few of our viewers from our show have asked.
Posted by: Derrick Schommer | February 28, 2010 at 09:28 PM
I recently began making my own Sour Mix for my cocktails using Rich Simple Syrup and I have found that the amount of sugar you start with (2 cups) is usually an indicator of how much finished syrup you'll actually end up with, mostly due to using 1/2 the amount of water (1 cup) to sugar.
So, the 2:1 sugar to water ratio will render you 2 C of thick syrup (I also measured it out using standard measuring cups after making several batches).
If you wanted to make HALF the amount of Rich Simple Syrup for whatever reason without losing the thick consistency, you'd cut everything in half (1 C sugar to 1/2 C water). This would give you 1 C of syrup and so on.
Whatever amount of sugar you start with, simply add 1/2 the amount of water and you'll keep that thick consistency intact no matter what.
Here is my recipe for Sour Mix using Rich Simple Syrup:
1 1/2 C rich simple syrup, cooled
1 C fresh lemon juice
1/2 C fresh lime juice
Just add the the lemon and lime juice to 1 1/2 C of cooled rich simple syrup and you have sour mix :) If you want a larger batch, just double all of the ingredients.
Posted by: Andrew | July 23, 2010 at 01:07 PM
Thanks for your recipe Andrew- I'm sure folks will find it useful!
Posted by: Camper English | July 23, 2010 at 01:13 PM
How would you use this make this a cherry syrup? Just found this sight...love it! Going to sterilize the glass container and use the vodka for shelf life. Patti
Posted by: [email protected] | July 25, 2010 at 01:20 PM
There are probably lots of cherry syrups already on the market, but I suppose it can't hurt to try making your own. I would pit and de-stem cherries, and add them to a syrup heated on the stove near boiling for 20 or so minutes. I'm guessing it will be very thick and gloppy. Strain the syrup as much as you can and add vodka as a preservative and also so that the syrup isn't so thick it won't pour. I did a similar thing with cranberries but my result was closer to Jell-O than flavored syrup. Good luck!
Posted by: Camper English | July 26, 2010 at 02:08 PM
OK, I'm more a wine uy than a cocktail guy, so take this with a grain of salt...
I have some strong simple syrup I made in January of 2008 for Mai Tais in honor of the inauguration of our first Hawaiian President. The simple syrup is still good. (I still like this president too, but that's for some other place.) It was a bit stronger than 2:1 and I used a dash of pure vanilla extract. I put it into a 12 oz screwcap bottle that had been run through a dishwasher (but probably not sterilized. Kept in refrigerator. No cloudiness or mold, but there are some crystals at the bottom of bottle.
Still tastes good.
Posted by: Mike B | September 09, 2010 at 01:28 PM
someone just linked to this so sorry for the lateresponse....
it was unclear to me if you heated/boiled it to get thesugar todissolve.
if you are using heat for the rich sugar, it may be the heat that's helping to stave off spoilage. even without reaching boiling, heating will kill a lot of 'spoilage' organisms. the syrup with less sugar may keep longer if you boil the water, addthesugar and quickly transfer it to the storage container (to also heat the container). even better if you can store it in the container used for boiling...
Posted by: th | December 18, 2010 at 09:27 PM
Hi- Nope, in this experiment no heat was used. I suppose I could do an experiment comparing heated vs. non-heated syrups but this is pretty non-scientific as it is. There is a slight textural/viscosity difference between heated and room temperature syrup- I think Jen Colliau addressed this here:
Posted by: Camper English | December 18, 2010 at 09:37 PM
Very cool... I like the various suggestions. While i'm quite late to the conversation, i'm interested to know more about the Turbinado and Demerara Syrups.
I make a very small commercial production of a type of vermouth (Chinato D'Erbetti), using a simple syrup of 3:1 (trying to reduce the amount of water added). I tried a 4:1 ratio, but it readily comes out of solution. I haven't yet quantified how much sugar will stay dissolved and for how long, though the 3:1 recipe has given me little trouble (if heated and amended with a touch of grape neutral spirits) other than being viscous to the point that it is difficult to quantify/measure/pour.
My question is this: If I'm looking to get a darker, richer flavor (like in Carpano & Punt E Mes), or if I'm looking to reduce the overall water), will the Turbinado or Demerara make a better simple syrup for this purpose? Anyone have any experience with this???
Posted by: Pedro | March 16, 2011 at 10:25 AM
Hmm interesting question. Typically the size of the sugar crystals in turbinado/demerara sugars is larger than than of white sugar, so you may have some difficulty getting it into solution at the same ratio.
Heating the sugar/water will allow more of the sugar to go into solution I believe, but this changes the consistency of the syrup. Jen from Small Hand Foods has probably written about syrups heated vs. non:
Finally, yes the browner sugars will have a more robust, natural flavor, but more earthy. I believe (and could be wrong) that the sweet vermouths use caramelized sugar to add both a darker flavor and color.
Posted by: Camper English | March 18, 2011 at 12:55 PM
TypePad HTML Email
Thanks for your reply Camper!
I do heat the water before adding my sugar,
which is why I have been able to get a 4-to-1 solution, only to have it destabilize
to roughly 3-to-1 when it cools. Alas…
I definitely had my suspicions about
caramelized sugar in some of the vermouths, though our government would require
me to state on my label that “caramel coloring” was used if I add
caramelized sugar (even of my own making). I think I’ll experiment a bit
with some turbinado… I’ll let you know how it goes.
Thanks for the tips!
Posted by: Pedro | March 23, 2011 at 12:33 PM
Lovely article, appreciate the information, BUT...
Most of the time these recipes list ratios and not volume, since the volume does not matter when everything is listed as a ratio. However when you add a tablespoon of vodka, now the volume suddenly matters.
It may not actually matter that much, as the vodka is rather potent, but are these all one cup batches or what?
Posted by: AIL | April 26, 2011 at 12:04 PM
Good point! Actually it's been so long I don't remember for sure, but looking at the jars again, it looks like half cup portions. (1:1 is half cup of each)
Posted by: Camper English | May 01, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Odd, most people just use sugar and water: no thickeners. Seems unnecessary to me, and unappetizing.
Posted by: scoop | December 03, 2011 at 10:30 PM
Great to know! I wish I had known it before I just made the lemon verbena infused simple syrup. I will not go through the quart very quickly. Do you know if the simple syrum can be frozen? I was thinking as ice cubes, to thaw for drinks.
Posted by: scoop | December 03, 2011 at 10:43 PM
I think sugar will prevent it from freezing. Or maybe the water will freeze and the sugar won't, which might not turn out well.
You could always add some vodka or more sugar to make it last longer...
Posted by: Camper English | December 04, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Yes--I did the same with cranberries; it must be that they have a high pectin concentration. Do you have any ideas about freezing simple syrup? I have made some flavored syrups, and I tend to do them 1:1 so they pour better; I was wondering if freezing might affect the taste.
Posted by: BC | December 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I haven't heard of anyone freezing syrup. My guess is that it would be directly dependent on how the ingredients in the syrup hold up under freezing. Another thought is that it seems more space-economical just to freeze the ingredients rather than the syrup. You can always add sugar and water later...
Posted by: Camper English | December 30, 2012 at 12:59 PM
This was so helpful Thank you.
Posted by: Julia | June 02, 2013 at 09:20 AM
So I made a lemon basil syrup last night and forgot it on the counter. It's been at room temperature for about 8 hours. Do you think its still ok to serve to my guests today?
Posted by: Mitch | July 04, 2013 at 06:09 AM
Hi - Obviously I'm too late to answer your question in time for the party, but yes I'm sure it would have been fine.
Posted by: Camper English | July 12, 2013 at 10:12 AM
Great tips on making simple syrups last longer - it's great to have guidelines on different ratios expiration dates.
Posted by: Broke & Thirsty | July 22, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Is Camper English your real name? That is probably the coolest name I've ever heard.
Posted by: JC | August 04, 2013 at 07:42 PM
There is no mention of how oxygen affects the spoilage rate, I usually cover fruit syrups that I go through slower with plastic wrap to avoid that terrible space between the top of the container and the ss level. I've found this to extend the life of ss to at least three months.
Posted by: Daniel | August 12, 2013 at 10:37 AM
I have a few questions/thoughts...has anybody tried storing the SS in a bottle that can have the air vacuumed out of it such as a wine bottle & a vacu vin product or add an inert gas to displace the air in the bottle? All things still starting out sterile of course. Also, what if you make the SS in the end storage container while it is in a hot water bath? Reducing the chances for contamination. Just a few thoughts especially for the more tedious less frequently used infusions
Posted by: Megan | January 28, 2015 at 09:52 AM
I don't know enough about canning and sterilizing to say for sure, but it seems that jam and syrups aren't that different, though perhaps the acids in the fruit in jam helps preserve the contents as does the sugar.
Posted by: Camper English | January 30, 2015 at 03:17 PM
Do you have to refrigerate the simple syrup?
Posted by: [email protected] | June 27, 2015 at 02:42 PM
It will definitely last longer that way.
Posted by: Camper English | June 27, 2015 at 03:03 PM
Some time ago I made a batch of simple and a batch of spiced simple - using mulling spices. The spiced simple far, far outlasted the plain.
Posted by: Suzette | May 25, 2016 at 06:43 AM
That is very interesting. I wonder if the spices do something to inhibit bacteria growth.
Posted by: Camper English | May 26, 2016 at 02:25 PM
Great article and super useful comments! I'm also curious about infusions (peppercorns, ginger, fruit, etc). Has anybody noticed if they make the syrup last a shorter or longer time? Thanks so much!
Posted by: Stu | November 16, 2016 at 02:45 PM
Hi - I've learned a bit since I originally did this post. A lot of the lasting power of syrup has to do with how much water activity (among other factors like acidity) is in the syrup - and also in the ingredients *in* the syrup. A common example used in food safety is garlic in pesto sauce, which has caused botulism from the garlic suspended in the oil if I remember correctly. LONG STORY SHORT - yeah if your syrup is rich and fortified but you have say, whole strawberries suspended in it, it could greatly shorten the lifespan and cause problems.
Posted by: Camper English | November 17, 2016 at 08:17 PM
I made elderflower syrup last year using 1:1 ratio and some citric acid and lemon juice, but it lasted only a month or so in the refrigerator . Then a viscous, cloudy substance formed on the bottom. This year I canned my syrup, but the cloudy substance is already showing. Any ideas?
Posted by: Mifoodtraveler | July 03, 2018 at 06:23 AM
Are you sure that the cloudy substance is it going bad and not just something settling out of solution over time? Beyond that I don't really have any trick other than increase the sugar or adding alcohol.
Posted by: Camper English | July 03, 2018 at 09:03 AM
I make simple syrup for cocktails. I use a 1:1 ratio and I always heat it up on the stove. I don't know why, but my syrup is never clear. It always comes out tea colored. It also develops dark, wispy spots after only a week or two in the fridge (vodka added or not). Do you have any idea what my problem could be?
Posted by: Will L | August 10, 2018 at 08:09 AM
It's probably not clear because you're using an organic or less refined sugar, so it has more particulates in it including ash and other bits from from burned cane. THat's what happens when I use less processed sugar- it's kind of a dirty, ashy grey-brown tinge.
Not sure about the quick-spoiling but it could be those same particulates make it go bad faster. Perhaps for scientific experiment reasons you could try some corporate white sugar and compare?
Posted by: Camper English | August 10, 2018 at 10:51 AM
I just read that 1:1 syrup freezes at 22F and home freezers are colder than that. You could make large batches of syrup and freeze part of them for later, thawing when you need to refill your bottle. But you wouldn't be able to store the bottle n the freezer and use on the fly.
Posted by: Mike G | October 11, 2019 at 01:56 PM
True, but for regular simple syrup it would be faster to make more than to let frozen stuff thaw out.
Posted by: Camper English | October 11, 2019 at 06:32 PM
You only want it to be near boiling. It'll come out darker if you're cooking it. The color is caramelized sugar.
Posted by: Libjim | July 13, 2020 at 04:52 PM
Why do people say things like, "add a tablespoon of vodka" without specifying what to add it to?!? A pint of syrup? An ounce? A gallon? A carboy? Frustrating...
Posted by: Paul in ETWi | July 15, 2020 at 02:51 PM
Hi to all, beautiful article. But I didn't understand one think, does the amount of syrup produced affects the ratio of vodka that I will use? In that experiment I didn't find the quantity of syrup produced.
Could someone explain me this thing?
Posted by: Francesco | November 14, 2020 at 11:40 AM
@Francesco - You're right, I didn't give proportions. But adding vodka to simple syrup makes it last longer. More alcohol or higher proof means it will last longer.
Posted by: Camper English | November 15, 2020 at 05:03 PM
Glad to have found this article, thank you! Very informative. I’m trying to get the 2/1 ratio plus vodka for one gallon of syrup. I’m absolutely stymied at the quantities and how much vodka to add. Can anyone help?
Posted by: Cindi | August 02, 2021 at 05:56 AM
I am curious to know how much vodka do you add to 1 gallon of simple syrup? As a preservative. Thank you
Posted by: Edith | October 27, 2021 at 08:58 PM
I skimmed through this relatively quickly but it seems everyone is settled on either 1:1 or 2:1. I found that a 1.5 to 1 works best for me - sweet but not syrupy. It works for a great daquiri! I suppose it would have other uses, too...
Posted by: Rick Klevorn | May 16, 2023 at 03:58 AM