Simplicity = Versatility: Ginger Syrup

Warm weather is on its way (well, it’s come and now gone for a bit, but I’m 99% sure it will return). Warm weather means cold drinks. And simple syrups are a superior way to spruce up your cold drinks.

Simple syrup is merely water and sugar, boiled together very briefly. The sugar dissolves, which means that when you want to sweeten your beverage you can just add syrup and not have to deal with that nasty grainy sludge of sugar at the bottom of your glass which not only fails to adequately sweeten your drink, but is also a annoying and sticky to clean if you have to wash all of your glasses by hand because you live in the typical NYC apartment that sadly does not have a dishwasher. But I digress. The syrup – not very thick – blends easily and uniformly with all other liquids.

This ginger syrup takes less than 15 minutes to make, and will keep for at least 2 weeks. It will start to lose its zing after that time, but will only weaken, not go bad. It turns a lovely pale pale gold. Tomorrow I’ll post a few suggestions for use.

Simple Ginger Syrup


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1″ fresh ginger


Peel the ginger – this is most easily done by scraping the skin off the ginger with the back of a spoon. Grate or microplane the ginger into a small saucepan. Add sugar and water, and heat over medium. Stir gently just to dissolve the sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain syrup to remove ginger particles, and store in the refrigerator.

How I screwed up so you don’t have to: Well, it’s not called a “simple” syrup for no reason. But mistakes can be made. Overstirring the syrup while it cooks can lead to crystallization when it cools. This is especially a problem if any sugar crystals end up on the side of the pan – those crystals will encourage the sugar in the syrup to take crystal form. When I make syrup, I do increase the water quotient a little bit (traditionally, syrup is a 1:1 ratio) – this also helps prevent crystallization (but that’s not a guarantee). By the way, if you don’t have a zester, you can also thinly slice the ginger. Of course you can also increase or decrease the amount of ginger – I like to flavor my syrups strongly, so that when I mix I add a lot of the flavor without as much of the sweetness.

I like to store my syrups in clear plastic squeeze bottles, which you can buy at most craft stores, usually for under a dollar a piece. I keep several on hand, especially in the summer, for mixing cocktails, iced teas, iced coffees, etc. They are a very cheap and quick way to add a little ‘zazz. An iced peach tea sweetened with ginger syrup? That Platonic ideal of liquid refreshment almost makes me wish I had a lawn to mow.


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