I’ll go ahead and declare 2015 as the year of the cocktail – they’re finally getting their due, as bartenders think beyond gin & tonics and rum & Cokes to create a whole new world of flavours and textures using ingredients you might even have in your kitchen. One thing you can have on hand in the fridge to doll up your own cocktails (or to make your own lower sugar sodas) is simple syrup; as the name implies, it’s simple to make, and will keep in your fridge indefinitely. Simmer equal amounts of sugar and water (or lemon or lime juice) with some citrus zest, sliced fresh ginger, loose tea, vanilla beans or any combination of flavourings you can dream up, strain and stash in the fridge to raise the bar (at your bar).
All this talk of cocktails made us think of cocktail-inspired songs, like these – a suitable playlist for your next cocktail party:
The Living End – Bloody Mary
Beastie Boys – Brass Monkey
Rev Horton Heat – Martini time
Judas Priest – Painkiller
T-Rex 20th Century
White Stripes – Screwdriver
Flavoured Simple Syrup
Use any quantity of sugar and water, so long as you use the same amount of each. Adapted from Gatherings, by Jan Scott and Julie Van Rosendaal (Whitecap)
Your choice of flavours:
thinly sliced fresh ginger
a handful of fresh mint leaves
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with the tip of a knife
grated zest of an orange or lemon
loose tea leaves
a couple cinnamon sticks
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or basil
a small handful of fresh lavender
Bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add your flavouring of choice and simmer for a few minutes, then remove from heat and let cool – the syrup will steep as it cools, intensifying in flavour.
Pour the syrup through a strainer or sieve into a jar, cover and store in the fridge for up to a few months.
Makes about 1 ½ cups.