Simple syrup is a basic sweetener made from equal parts sugar and water that is heated together until the sugar dissolves. It is used to sweeten drinks like cocktails, lemonades, iced teas, and coffee drinks. Simple syrup comes in handy when you want to easily incorporate a liquid sweetener into cold beverages. But do you really need to store simple syrup in the refrigerator after making it, or can you keep it at room temperature instead? Here is a look at whether or not you need to refrigerate simple syrup.
What is Simple Syrup?
Simple syrup goes by a few different names – some refer to it as sugar syrup, bar syrup, or rich syrup. But whatever you call it, simple syrup contains just two ingredients:
- Granulated white sugar
To make basic simple syrup, you combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. For example, you would use 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. The mixture is heated over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar fully dissolves. Then the syrup is left to cool before using or storing.
You can tweak the ratio of sugar and water to make variations of simple syrup:
- Rich simple syrup uses a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. This results in thicker, sweeter syrup.
- Demerara syrup uses demerara sugar instead of plain white sugar, which gives it a light brown color and subtle molasses-like flavor.
- Honey syrup swaps the granulated sugar for honey, resulting in a syrup with more floral notes.
- Maple syrup is made using maple syrup in place of some or all of the granulated sugar.
- Spiced syrup has spices and herbs like cinnamon, vanilla, rosemary, or lavender added for extra flavor.
But the basic 1:1 simple syrup is the most versatile and commonly used in cocktails and other beverages.
Does Simple Syrup Need Refrigeration?
Simple syrup does not intrinsically need to be refrigerated. Since it contains high amounts of sugar, simple syrup is inhospitable to microbial growth. The high sugar concentration prevents most yeasts and bacteria from growing.
According to food safety guidelines, properly prepared syrup can be safely stored at room temperature. The density and acidity of simple syrup make it unlikely to spoil, especially if it is made with hot water and freshly washed equipment.
However, there are some potential advantages to refrigerating simple syrup:
- It may extend the shelf life beyond the standard 4-6 weeks at room temperature.
- The cooled temperature prevents any additional microbial growth once made.
- It has a thicker, more viscous texture when chilled.
- Cold simple syrup won’t dilute chilled drinks as much when added.
So while refrigeration is not strictly required for safety or preservation of simple syrup, it can be beneficial for maximizing shelf life and optimizing texture and functionality.
Shelf Life of Simple Syrup
When stored properly, simple syrup can last for 4-6 weeks at room temperature or up to 2-3 months when refrigerated.
To extend the shelf life as long as possible:
- Use freshly boiled water to minimize microbial contaminants.
- Thoroughly wash any equipment used to make the syrup.
- Let the syrup cool completely before bottling for storage.
- Store in an airtight container like a mason jar or bottle with a tight lid.
- Keep syrup in a cool, dark cabinet if storing at room temp.
Over time, syrup may start to crystallize as the moisture evaporates. This can leave behind a grainy or gritty texture. But crystallized syrup can still be used – simply reheat it gently to dissolve the sugar crystals.
If syrup develops any mold or smells or tastes off, it should be discarded. Otherwise, properly prepared simple syrup stays fresh for about a month without refrigeration, or up to 3 months when refrigerated.
Can You Use Simple Syrup after Refrigeration?
Yes, simple syrup will retain its quality and functionality after being refrigerated and removed from the refrigerator. The chill from refrigeration helps simple syrup maintain its consistency and viscosity.
Simple syrup that has been refrigerated can cause chilled drinks to become diluted if added straight from the refrigerator. To avoid excess dilution:
- Allow refrigerated simple syrup to come closer to room temperature before using. Letting it sit out for about 30 minutes will take off some of the chill.
- Warm the syrup container briefly in a bowl of hot water.
- Warm the syrup briefly in the microwave, taking care not to overheat.
- Add ice cubes to the drink itself to account for the extra dilution from cold syrup.
Aside from some potential dilution, simple syrup retains its flavor and function after being refrigerated. As long as it has not spoiled, you can continue using syrup even after storing it in the refrigerator for extended periods. Refrigeration will not otherwise alter the syrup’s properties.
Signs Your Simple Syrup Has Spoiled
Simple syrup has an extended shelf life due to its high sugar content. But it can eventually spoil, especially if not prepared and stored properly. Signs that your simple syrup has spoiled and should be discarded include:
- Mold growth – Any fuzz, spots, or unusual cloudiness likely indicates mold. Toss syrup at the first sign of mold.
- Fermentation – Fermented syrup may be fizzy or have an alcohol smell. Yeast or bacteria can cause fermentation.
- Strange odor – Syrup that smells off, rotten, or unpleasant should be tossed.
- Change in texture – Crystallization is normal, but complete separation of sugar and water is a sign of spoilage.
- Change in taste – Syrup should taste sweet. Sour, bitter, or funky flavors mean it has spoiled.
- Change in color – Normal syrup is clear or pale yellow when made with white sugar. Darkening, graying, or separation of colors indicates spoilage.
Remember that simple syrup can grow mold even if the liquid still looks okay. If in doubt at all, it is best to just discard the syrup and make a fresh batch.
Can You Make Simple Syrup without Refrigerating?
Yes, you absolutely can make simple syrup without needing to refrigerate it right away. The key steps are:
- Boil water first, then mix with sugar until fully dissolved to create the syrup.
- Allow the hot syrup to cool to room temperature.
- Bottle the room temperature syrup in airtight containers.
- Store in a cool, dry cabinet away from heat and sunlight.
As long as best practices are followed in terms of sanitation, adequate cooking, proper cooling, and storage in clean sealed containers, syrup can safely be kept at room temperature for 4-6 weeks.
Refrigeration can extend the shelf life further and may result in a better texture, but it is not essential. Many bartenders and beverage professionals keep simple syrup out on the counter or bar for ease of access when making drinks.
Tips for Making Simple Syrup without Refrigeration
Follow these tips for the best results when making simple syrup without refrigerating right away:
- Use hot freshly boiled water, as this helps destroy potential microbial contaminants.
- Thoroughly wash and sanitize any pots, utensils, funnels, jars or bottles that will contact the syrup.
- Always use clean containers to store syrup.
- Allow the syrup to cool fully before bottling.
- Fill containers as full as possible to limit oxygen exposure.
- Use smaller containers for quantity needed before syrup is used up.
- Store syrup in an area between 50-70°F if possible.
Simple syrup prepared with care using sanitary practices can keep for up to a month at room temperature when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you store simple syrup at room temperature?
Yes, simple syrup can be safely stored at room temperature for 4-6 weeks if prepared properly. Use hot boiled water, allow it to cool completely, and store in a clean airtight container. Keep it in a cool, dark cabinet between uses.
Is simple syrup safe without refrigeration?
Properly prepared simple syrup is safe for consumption when stored without refrigeration for the duration of its shelf life. The high sugar concentration prevents microbial growth. Follow best practices for sanitation and storage for food safety.
Do restaurants refrigerate simple syrup?
Most restaurants do not refrigerate simple syrup. They typically make large batches and go through it quickly. Restaurant bars often keep room temperature simple syrup in squeeze bottles for convenience. Any leftovers may be refrigerated overnight.
Does simple syrup need to be stored in the fridge?
Simple syrup does not need refrigeration for food safety, though it can extend the shelf life. Refrigeration gives it a thicker consistency and prevents dilution of cold drinks. Many people find it convenient to refrigerate syrup, but it can safely be left at room temperature.
Can old simple syrup make you sick?
Simple syrup stored past its prime can potentially cause illness. Yeast, mold, and bacterial growth in old syrup can cause health issues. Discard syrup if its appearance, smell, or taste seems off. Properly stored syrup has a long shelf life, but should still not be used if expired.
While refrigeration can help extend simple syrup’s shelf life and result in a thicker product, it is not strictly necessary. Simple syrup can safely be stored at room temperature for up to a month when prepared properly using sanitary practices. Many bartenders keep room temperature simple syrup on hand for convenience. As long as it is stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot, simple syrup can be made and kept without refrigeration during the period of normal usage.