What is a syrup base?

A syrup base is a concentrated, flavored liquid that is diluted with water or other liquids to create a syrup. Syrup bases are used in a variety of beverages and desserts to add sweetness, flavor, and viscosity. Some of the most common types of syrup bases include:

Simple syrup

Simple syrup is made by combining sugar and water over heat until the sugar fully dissolves. It is the most basic syrup base and can be flavored in endless ways by adding extracts, herbs, spices, citrus zest, fruit purees, and more. Simple syrup is used to sweeten everything from iced tea and lemonade to cocktails and snow cones.

Fruit syrups

Fruit syrups are made by infusing simple syrup with real fruit juice, fruit purees, or flavor extracts. Common fruit syrups include raspberry, strawberry, peach, mango, and many more. Fruit syrups add vibrant flavor and color to drinks, desserts, pastries, and yogurt.

Gomme syrup

Gomme syrup, also called gum syrup, is simple syrup that has been thickened with gum arabic. The gum arabic prevents the sucrose molecules from crystallizing, creating a silky, viscous syrup. Gomme syrup is commonly used in craft cocktails to provide a smooth mouthfeel.

Honey syrup

Honey syrup is made by mixing honey with hot water to thin out the consistency of the honey. The result is a syrup with the flavor of honey that more easily incorporates into drinks. Honey syrup brings natural sweetness to cocktails, lemonades, teas, and coffee drinks.

Agave nectar

Agave nectar is a syrup made from the concentrated sap of the agave plant. With a neutral flavor profile, agave nectar provides sweetness without overpowering other ingredients. It dissolves easily and is commonly used in margaritas, daiquiris, and other cocktails.


Grenadine is a vibrant red syrup made from pomegranate juice and sugar. It has a tart, fruity flavor profile. Grenadine is essential for cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise and Shirley Temple. It can also be drizzled over ice cream sundaes and fruit salads.

Orgeat syrup

Orgeat syrup has a rich, nutty almond taste. Traditional orgeat is made from almond milk mixed with rose water or orange flower water, but non-dairy versions are also common. Orgeat syrup is used in tiki cocktails like the Mai Tai.

Spiced syrups

Spiced syrups feature flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom, cloves, and allspice. They are very versatile and can be added to coffee drinks, mixed into cocktails, and drizzled over desserts. Pumpkin spice and chai syrups are especially popular in the fall.

How are syrup bases made?

The basic process for making syrup bases is:

  1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. The ratio can vary, but 1:1 is common. For richer syrup start with a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water.
  2. Heat the mixture, stirring frequently, until the sugar fully dissolves.
  3. Once dissolved, bring the mixture just up to a simmer. Do not boil.
  4. Remove from heat and add flavorings like extracts, herbs, spices, zest, juice, etc.
  5. Allow to cool before bottling. The syrup base will thicken as it cools.
  6. Store in the refrigerator. Syrup bases will last 1-2 months refrigerated.

To make a fruit syrup, start by making a simple syrup. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat. Add fruit juice, purees, or finely diced fruit and allow to infuse 30-60 minutes. Strain out solids before bottling if desired.

For herb and spice syrups, add whole herbs, toasted spices, citrus zest, vanilla bean, etc. directly to the simple syrup mixture. Allow to steep 15-30 minutes while cooling. Strain before bottling.

To thicken syrup into a viscous gum syrup, whisk in gum arabic after removing the mixture from heat. Use 0.5-1 teaspoon per cup of simple syrup.

How are syrup bases used?

The primary uses of syrup bases include:

  • Beverages – Syrups can be diluted with water, juice, soda, alcohol, etc. to sweeten and flavor drinks.
  • Desserts – Drizzle syrup over cakes, ice cream, waffles, and other desserts.
  • Cocktails – Syrups mix into both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Coffee drinks – Sweeten and flavor coffees, lattes, frappes, and espresso drinks.
  • Food glaze – Brush syrup onto meat and vegetables before grilling or roasting.
  • Cereals and oatmeal – Stir syrup into hot or cold cereals for added flavor.
  • Yogurt parfaits – Layer flavored syrups into yogurt and granola parfaits.

The possibilities are endless! Syrup bases are wonderfully versatile. Mix and match flavors to create custom combinations. Dilute syrups to taste preferences with anything from water to milk, juices, spirits, wine, sparkling water and more.

What are the standard syrup ratios?

There are a few standard dilution ratios used to turn syrup concentrates into ready-to-use simple syrups:

Dilution Ratio Standard Uses
1:4 (one part syrup to four parts water) Iced tea, lemonade, and soda fountain drinks
1:5 Snow cones and Italian ice
1:8 Coffee and espresso drinks
1:10 or 1:12 Cocktails and mixology

For bar use, syrups are often diluted 1:4. Soda fountain or frozen drink machines use syrup diluted around 1:5. Coffee shops commonly use a 1:8 syrup ratio.

For maximum versatility, dilute syrups in small batches as needed. Adjust ratios to achieve the desired sweetness and flavor balance.

What types of sugars can be used?

Simple syrup most often uses regular granulated white sugar. However, many types of sugar can be substituted:

  • Brown sugar – Adds a hint of molasses flavor and tartness.
  • Coconut sugar – Has a caramel and coconut nuance.
  • Demerara or turbinado sugar – Imparts a light molasses note.
  • Honey – Provides floral complexity.
  • Maple syrup – Has a distinctive maple flavor.
  • Agave nectar – Is subtly sweeter than sugar.
  • Date sugar – Offers a rich, slightly exotic flavor.

The same basic process can be used to make syrup with any of these sugar sources. Heat the sugar and water, dissolve, simmer briefly, and flavor. Keep in mind alternative sugars vary in sweetness, so adjust ratios accordingly.

Can syrup bases be made sugar free?

Yes, sugar-free syrup can be made by replacing the granulated sugar with a zero-calorie sweetener. Some options include:

  • Stevia extract
  • Sucralose
  • Aspartame
  • Saccharin
  • Monk fruit extract
  • Sugar alcohols like erythritol or xylitol

Keep in mind that artificial sweeteners vary widely in sweetness intensity. Carefully follow package instructions for sweetness equivalencies and dilution ratios when substituting for sugar.

Sugar-free syrup may have a slightly different mouthfeel and flavor balance. Some adjustments may be needed to recipe ratios when using artificial zero-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar.

Which flavors work best for syrups?

Both simple and complex flavors can be used to create syrup concentrates. Some top flavor options include:

  • Fruits – Strawberry, raspberry, peach, cherry, pineapple, mango, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, pomegranate
  • Herbs – Mint, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender
  • Spices – Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves
  • Flowers – Rose, orange blossom, elderflower, hibiscus, chamomile
  • Other – Honey, maple, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, matcha, chai

Feel free to mix and match multiple flavors. For example, strawberry-basil, lemon-lavender-ginger, and cinnamon-orange-clove would all make tasty combinations.

When layering flavors, start with the lighter flavors first. For example, infuse simple syrup with floral notes like chamomile or lavender before adding deeper flavors like honey or maple.

Can you make hot syrup for coffee drinks?

Yes, syrup concentrates can be adapted for use in hot beverages like coffee and tea. The keys are using a thicker simple syrup ratio and selecting flavors that work well heated.

For hot syrup, cook sugar and water in a 2:1 ratio. The higher sugar content keeps the syrup viscous when heated. Flavor with extracts like vanilla, almond, coconut, hazelnut, or caramel instead of raw fruits or herbs.

Start with a pump-style dispenser designed for hot beverages. Dilute the thick syrup concentrate 2:1 with very hot water before pumping into the drink. The water dilution prevents the syrup from hardening and clogging the pumps.

When making flavored lattes and other heated drinks, always add the syrups after heating the espresso or milk. Pouring hot liquid over syrups can cause flavors to break down.

What are the best practices for syrup safety?

When making syrup concentrates, proper safety practices are important:

  • Use bottled, filtered, or boiled water. Do not use tap water which may contain bacteria.
  • Bring syrup mixtures to just under a simmer when cooking. This pasteurizes the syrup by heating to at least 180°F.
  • Allow syrup to cool before bottling to avoid pouring hot liquid into bottles.
  • Sanitize bottles, caps, funnels, and other bottling equipment thoroughly first.
  • Keep unopened bottles refrigerated for maximum freshness and shelf life.
  • Refrigerate opened bottles and discard if any mold appears.
  • When diluting, use clean water, ice, and equipment to prevent contamination.
  • Do not mix double batches in the same container. Keep each batch separate.

Being diligent with sanitation ensures your syrups stay safe to consume. Syrup made with care using the proper techniques can last 1-2 months refrigerated.

Should you pasteurize syrups?

Pasteurization is recommended when preparing syrup concentrates, especially for commercial use. Heating the syrup mixture to at least 180°F effectively kills any yeasts, molds, or bacteria present.

Bringing the syrup just to a simmer accomplishes pasteurization. Do not boil vigorously, as this can impart off flavors. Cool pasteurized syrup quickly before bottling.

Refrigeration slows microbial growth even without pasteurization. However, pasteurization provides an added layer of safety and extends the shelf life significantly.

If avoiding heat, prepare syrup using very clean equipment, filtered water, and high sugar concentrations. Store in small bottles fully filled to the top to minimize air exposure.


Syrup concentrates offer a delicious, versatile way to add flavor, color, and sweetness to all kinds of beverages, desserts, and other foods. With countless flavor possibilities, syrups can be customized to suit any taste. Following proper preparation and storage techniques will ensure your homemade syrup bases are safe and stable for use in both hot and cold applications.

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