Simple syrup gifts

I love homemade food gifts. The best ones are interesting pantry staples that I haven’t gotten round to making myself. My friend Emma once gave me a jar of preserved lemons, and I loved them.

My favourite easy homemade gift are flavoured syrups. Starting with a simple syrup made from sugar and water, you then add ingredients to steep and then strain them out.  If you have fruit flies, like I do, I’d suggest putting a plate on top of the cooling syrup – nothing like sugar to attract flies!

All that’s left is to package them in pretty bottles and you look like a genius! They’re especially easy to do in big batches, so you could make two or three and put them in small bottles. I like to make pretty labels with suggestions on how to use them – especially if you go for the more adventurous flavours.

Simple syrup
Makes approximately 220ml, increase as desired

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (use half and half brown sugar for a golden colour)
  • 1 cup water
  1. Put sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, and once dissolved turn heat to high and bring to a boil.
  2. Boil for 5-10 minutes uncovered, until the liquid has reduced by about one third. Take off the heat and add any flavourings to steep. Leave until completely cool.
  3. Decant into a clean container.

Here are some flavour combination ideas to get you started. Adjust quantities if you’ve doubled or tripled the recipe above, though smell as you go – ingredients like cloves are strong enough not to need doubling or tripling.

For the coffee lover

  • Double vanilla Use both vanilla extract and a split vanilla bean, and for a triple vanilla use vanilla sugar (sugar stored with a split vanilla pod you’ve used for something else)
  • Mint Great for mochas! Add a bunch of clean mint leaves, then strain before decanting.

For the tea lover

  • Double vanilla Lovely for making chai tea lattes and London Fogs, details above
  • Earl Grey Not for use in tea, but over ice cream or to drizzle over sponge cake. Add three good quality Earl Grey tea bags.
  • Chai Use two chai tea bags, or place loose tea in a muslin bag.

For Christmas time

  • Cinnamon, nutmeg and clove Use a whole cinnamon stick broken into large pieces, two passes over a microplane from a whole nutmeg (don’t use the powdered stuff – this is miles better if you can find it), and a couple whole cloves. Strain before decanting.
  • Ginger Slice an inch of whole ginger root into 3mm thick rounds and add to syrup. Strain before decanting. Excellent for sponge cakes, as well as hot chocolate, and cocktails.
  • Orange and cloves Zest a clean orange with a vegetable peeler so you get wide sections of peel, taking care to only get the peel and none of the pith (white stuff). Add to syrup with a few whole cloves.

For the food obsessed

  • Thyme Add a large bunch of thyme, removing the woodiest stalks. Thin flexible ones are fine. This tastes amazing with tonic water over ice, and even better with good gin.
  • Basil Add a bunch of fresh, clean basil. Lovely mixed as a drink with tonic water, or over ice cream.
  • Lemongrass and cardamom Peel back tough outer layers of lemongrass stalk, break off a few pieces and bash with the blunt side of a knife to bruise it. Bash a few cardamom pods, also with the blunt side of a knife, add to syrup.


A note on the labels and bottles

I bought these little bottles from my neighbourhood dollar store, though many I checked didn’t stock anything like this. They are cute and made of glass, but the lids do not close well at all. IKEA has a load of small bottles in their Marketplace area, and a party store I visited had some as well, though they were massively overpriced! I made the labels with a tiny letterpress kit on Japanese washi tape.

4 thoughts on “Simple syrup gifts”

    1. No I haven’t tried, though I thought about it while I was making these. Stevia might be difficult as it’s got such a distinctive taste in itself. I’ve heard good things about using xylitol? I’m really wary of sugar substitutes (stevia excluded as it’s a plant in its own right) – especially with my son. I’d rather feed him a bit of a real sugar until I know more about the other ones, if you know what I mean! (That being said, I’ve totally used splenda in my coffee for years, off and on!)

  1. I love this idea! When I was in Victoria I had a lovely Earl Grey martini, with tea-infused gin. I bet that adding the Early Grey simple syrup the gin with a squeeze of lemon would give much the same effect.

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