This week our kitchen has become a mixologist's haven - flavour after flavour of cocktail syrup bulge from the crowded fridge door, the bottles cheek by jowl with cherry jam, mustards and chilli bean paste. I'm busy scrabbling around for small bottles, sniffing pans infusing, tidying split bags of sugar. There's little that hasn't been infused. From Sichuan peppercorns, to rose, jasmine, chillies, and hibiscus.
And these colourful bottles are not just great for cocktail syrups - I'll use them in ice-creams, to drizzle over cakes, stir into butter cream, ganache, or - just simply - to mix with a little fizz.
Infusing is pretty much the same as making a cup of tea. To work out the initial quantities, I weighed a teabag, saw how much water is in a cup, and then swapped out the tea leaves for pretty much anything else - and hey presto - you've got something quite interesting. Remember the flower syrup recipe needn't be a concentrate if you're adding the syrup directly into a drink - it wants a good, though not overpowering flavour.
As with oranges in marmalade making, if the sugar is added too early, the fruit or flowers won't soften. You may prefer to keep some of the petals when the liquid is strained and add them back into the syrup, especially for use with cakes. For cocktails I discard the flowers - except perhaps with hibiscus where the flower heads look very pretty in the base of a glass of sparkling wine. If the flower syrup is to keep in the fridge for more than a few days, add 3-5g citric acid per litre to help preserve it for longer.
It's useful to keep the proportions in the flower syrup recipe as a 1:1 ratio of liquid to sugar, i.e. a "simple syrup" then they can be used in any cocktail recipe that calls for a syrup. The first cocktail created followed the classic cocktail rule-of-thumb:
2 parts spirit : 1 part lime or lemon juice : 1 part simple sugar syrup
Let's call her a Rosy Lady: 50ml gin, 25ml lime juice, 25ml rose syrup. 15ml of egg white would have been a good addition. The rose syrup replaces the grenadine in a classic pink lady - pale pink, light, refreshing, with a hint of rose - and just a little more grown up. Stunning on a hot day. I'd love to pour another now.
How to Make an Infused Syrup
- Pour the boiling water over the flowers or spices, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Leave to continue infusing for an hour or so and strain. If in a rush, remember the tea analogy: use a few more flowers, and strain directly after the simmer.
- Weigh the quantity of strained liquid, and add to a saucepan with an equal weight of white sugar.
- Heat until the sugar is dissolved and simmer for 5 minutes. Leave to cool, and bottle.
Hibiscus syrup Serves: 10
- 40g hibiscus flowers
- 500ml water
- 40g sugar (use the same weight as the strained infused liquid)
Rose syrup recipe
- 15g dried rose petals
- 500ml water approx.
- 400g sugar (use the same weight as the strained infused liquid)
Sichuan pepper syrup recipe
- The taste is a touch bitter, but the lip tingle excites. Only simmer for a minute or two, and leave to cool
- 5g Sichuan peppercorns
- 150ml water approx.
- 125g sugar (use the same weight as the strained infused liquid)
Sichuan long chilli syrup recipe
- 15g Sichuan long chilli
- 350ml water approx.
- 300g sugar (use the same weight as the strained infused liquid)
Nicola is co-founder and CEO at Sous Chef. She has worked in food for over ten years.
Nicola first explored cooking as a career when training at Leiths, before spending the next decade in Finance. However... after a stage as a chef at a London Michelin-starred restaurant, Nicola saw the incredible ingredients available only to chefs. And wanted access to them herself. So Sous Chef was born.
Today, Nicola is ingredients buyer and a recipe writer at Sous Chef. She frequently travels internationally to food fairs, and to meet producers. Her cookbook library is vast, and her knowledge of the storecupboard is unrivalled. She tastes thousands of ingredients every year, to select only the best to stock at Sous Chef.
Nicola shares her knowledge of ingredients and writes recipes to showcase those products. Learning from Sous Chef's suppliers and her travels, Nicola writes many of the recipes on the Sous Chef website. Nicola's recipes are big on flavour, where the ingredients truly shine (although that's from someone who cooks for hours each day - so they're rarely tray-bakes!).