Dont' get us wrong. We're still super into infusing liquors. We recently had a SUPERB cinnamon-infused vodka from our friends over at The Banquet, we wrote up a great recipe for habanero-infused tequila last fall, and we've even got a farm-fresh lemongrass vodka going right now. But sometimes a homemade flavored syrup can go a long way with your fancy-pantsy drinks, especially if, say, you're hosting a party for all your friends and realize you don't quite have the week or two necessary to fully infuse a liquor. So next time you want to mix up some nice cocktails, give a syrup a try. In most cases, you can just add a dab of these flavorful fillers to your favorite simple drink—say a vodka/gin + soda, margarita, or manhattan.
There aren't many hard and fast rules to stirring up a simple syrup—basically, you can just heat some water stovetop while you add a healthy amount of raw cane sugar, allowing the mixture to slowly thicken in the pan (non-stick). It can boil, if you're in a huge rush, let's say, but watch that it doesn't boil over and DEFINITELY make the mixture doesn't get too too thick and cause the sugar to burn. That's a mess. Trust me. Once you get that to a stable place—a gentle boil, let's say—you're ready to start experimenting. Our last party, we went with a brown sugar + cinnamon syrup (great with whisk(e)ys), a ginger + lemon syrup (nice with a citrus-based vodka drink), and a lavender + sea salt syrup (superb with gins). The winner of the night in my view was the lavender syrup. We just got the syrup itself going, added a healthy amount of seas salt (maybe 1 or 2 tsp.), and then threw in 10 or so spring of lavender that we had drying for a month or so and let everything cook down for about 10 or 15 minutes. It was a mad hit. The ginger + lemon syrup, as you might or guessed, just involved adding a couple tablespoons of lemon juice and some cut fresh ginger to the cooking syrup. And with the brown sugar + cinnamon, we'd just recommend switching the cane sugar with brown sugar and using real cinnamon sticks rather than the powdered kind. Some powdered cinnamon has a tendency to be so refined that it can form a weirdly textured semi-solid in the syrup that can be less than appetizing for anyone hitting the bottom of the container.
Another bonus with syrups over infused liquors? You're non-drinking friends/random kids form downstairs can stir up a flavored soda. Sweet!