How to Make Simple Syrup at Home (the Vegan-Friendly Kind)


A bottle of mint and lime-zest infused simple syrup. | Patrick J. Hurley
  • A bottle of mint and lime-zest infused simple syrup. | Patrick J. Hurley

The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.

Interesting fact: That snowy white granulated sugar you buy at the grocery store is not strictly vegetarian. While it doesn't contain animal products, it's bleached using a natural charcoal-filtration system that employs cattle bones. Luckily, it's easy enough to get animal-free alternatives.

That's a good thing because simple syrup, which is little more than sugar dissolved in water, is a key ingredient in a lot of very delicious cocktails. The Drunken Vegan makes his own simple syrup at home; read on to learn how to make yours cruelty free as well.

See also: Three Potable Bourbons for Less Than $20 at Starrs, Schnucks and Randall's

Making simple syrup is incredibly easy, and it doesn't take much time. Even if you're not vegetarian -- even if you hate vegetarians -- you should still make your own simple syrup because your homemade cocktails will taste so much better. The nice thing is, you can make small batches of syrup that are infused with all kinds of herbs and spices -- and here's where you can really up your at-home cocktail game.

The mojito is a popular summer drink. Its primary flavors are lime and mint. Sweet and tart are balanced, while white rum supplies the necessary boozy kick. Soda water lightens it up, but you can subtly exaggerate those lime and mint flavors by incorporating mint leaves, stems and lime zest in your simple syrup. Here's how.

Simple syrup is aptly named. Just combine equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, lower the heat and stir gently until the sugar is dissolved. The Drunken Vegan uses Florida Crystals, which is organic Florida cane sugar, certified vegan.

Vegan Sugar | Patrick J. Hurley
  • Vegan Sugar | Patrick J. Hurley

It is slightly off-white and will impart a tint to your syrup, but infused syrups generally take on the color of whatever you steep with them. Take three dozen or so spearmint leaves (along with their stems) and add them to the saucepan along with one cup of sugar. Add the zest of one lime. That green skin contains oils that are intensely flavorful (careful though -- the white pith beneath it, not so much). In addition to bright lime flavor, the zest also imparts a delightfully spicy note.

Just add water. | Patrick J. Hurley
  • Just add water. | Patrick J. Hurley

Now pour in a cup of water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat, stirring the solution until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it cool in the pan. You can let it rest longer if you wish, but it will have a great flavor by the time it has just cooled. Find a clean jar or bottle to store it in. Use a funnel with a strainer over it to keep the solids out of your syrup. You will want to line the strainer with cheesecloth to keep the bits of disintegrated lime zest out. (Those solids will cause your syrup to spoil more quickly if you leave them in.)

Finally, label it and date it. Keep it refrigerated and it should last a few weeks, which we kind of doubt: The mojitos you make with it will be so good, you will run out sooner rather than later.

Mojitos: South city porch or South Beach club? | Patrick J. Hurley
  • Mojitos: South city porch or South Beach club? | Patrick J. Hurley

Hmmm. Maybe you should make a double batch next time.

Follow Patrick J. Hurley on Twitter at @VeganDrunkard. E-mail the author at

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