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In the summer heat, it’s a great idea to cool down with a refreshing spritzer or cocktail. Instead of mixing and matching flavors, a simple herb-infused syrup can elevate various drinks and beverages with a crisp freshness. 

Making your own herbal syrup is easy no matter what herbs you choose. Once you learn how to steep the plants and extract their characteristic tastes and aromas, you can make a myriad of delicious libations. 

Simple vs. herbal

The result of dissolving white granulated sugar into an equal amount of water is a simple syrup. Add your favorite fresh herb, and you have an herbal simple syrup.  

Both of these concoctions are perfect for flavoring and sweetening cocktails and other beverages, like spritzers and teas. You can find them online or in stores, but it’s easier and more cost-effective to make them yourself. 

[Related: Smart gardens for people who can’t keep plants alive]

Because they have no preservatives, homemade syrups only last two weeks when refrigerated, but you get the benefit of knowing exactly what you’re drinking and creating a syrup that caters to your specific taste. 

How to make your own herbal simple syrup

Before making any herbal-infused syrup, you’ll need to choose what herbs you’ll be using. Here are some classic options to get you started. 

Mint

Easy to grow and buy, mint is a classic cocktail herb. It comes in a variety of shapes and forms, and if you plant it, you’ll see it grows like a weed. 

  • Pro tip: Great for mojitos, lemonade, and iced tea.

Lemon verbena

This will add light citrus flavors to your cocktails, giving them a refreshing twist. It also makes a nice tea and is beautiful in your garden. 

  • Pro tip: Goes well with gin.

Lavender

This herb will provide both flavor and a violet hue to your cocktails. You can either add a flower on top as a final garnish or create a lavender syrup to add a fresh, floral touch to any drink.

  • Pro tip: Excellent addition to sparkling wine or champagne. 

Rosemary

With its purple flowers and fresh scent, both your garden and drinks will appreciate this herb. It also makes a great garnish.

  • Pro tip: Elevates a classic gin and tonic

Make your own herb-infused syrup

Stats

  • Time: About 30 minutes
  • Cost: Between 35 cents and $2 per 8 ounces
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 type of fresh herb—the amount will depend on which one you’re using:  
    • 5 fresh basil sprigs (5-6 inches long), about 2 ounces
    • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs (5-6 inches long), about 2 ounces
    • 5 sprigs of mint, about 2 ounces
    • 6 fresh thyme sprigs (4-5 inches long), about 0.5 ounces

Tools

  • Two saucepans
  • Whisk 
  • Bowl with ice water
  • Fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth)
  • Tongs
  • Empty bottles
  • Funnel
  • Labels and a marker

Instructions 

1. Make a simple syrup. Boil the water in one saucepan. Add the sugar and whisk until it is dissolved. Take the pan off the heat. 

2. Prepare your herbs. Carefully wash and rinse your herbs clean with water.

3. (Optional) Blanch your leafy herbs. If you’re making lavender syrup, you can skip this, but if you’re using green herbs such as mint, rosemary, or thyme, you’re going to want to blanch them so they retain their color. 

Bring another small saucepan of water to a boil. Gather your herb sprigs by the stem ends and plunge the leaves into the boiling water for 15 seconds and then immediately submerge them in ice water for one minute. Pat them dry on a clean kitchen towel.

[Related: Three tricks to make your fresh herbs last year-round]

Most recipes suggest going straight to steeping fresh herbs in hot simple syrup. This is not wrong—forgoing the blanching process won’t affect the flavor. But steeping herbs like mint and basil prompts oxidation, making bright green leaves turn an unappetizing brown. When you blanch the leaves, you deactivate the plant’s enzymes, while plunging them into ice water stops the cooking process and helps them retain their bright color.

4. Add the herbs to the simple syrup. Place a lid on the pot and allow the herbs to steep for 15 to 30 minutes. The longer you steep, the stronger the flavor will be.

  • Note: We highly recommend you use only one type of herb per batch of syrup, as this will make it easier to fix drinks later. Think of it as having primary colors you can mix later into whatever you want.  

5. Remove the herbs. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the herbs from the syrup.

6. Strain and bottle. Eliminate any loose herbal bits by pouring your syrup through a fine-mesh strainer and into a bottle or glass jar. Label your containers with the name of the herb you used and the date you made your syrup. Keep them refrigerated for up to two weeks.

  • Pro tip: You can use any bottle, jar, or glass container you have on hand, but bottles with an airtight seal or a swing top easy cap, will be better at keeping air out and preserving your syrup.

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