Why You Shouldn't Use Simple Syrup For Frozen Cocktails

A well-made frozen cocktail always feels like a fun treat. But, sometimes when you're making the ice-cold boozy beverages at home, they're just not the same as those made by professional bartenders. Sometimes, the flavor balance isn't quite right. Other times, the texture can be disappointing. And while we all love a smooth, thick frozen cocktail, a drink that's too watery can feel like a real disappointment.

Often, many recipes can call for simple syrup, which is essentially made by mixing equal quantities of sugar and water; it can add sweetness to a cocktail that may otherwise be too tart. But adding extra water, which is a part of simple syrup, doesn't always give the best texture and can make some frozen cocktails too runny or overly diluted.

A quick fix is to reduce the amount of extra liquid in the drink, which can easily be achieved by using dry sugar rather than simple syrup. Removing the additional water in this way can give cocktails such as a frozen piña colada or a strawberry daiquiri that signature sweetness, but without compromising the drink's structure or making it taste too weak.

Dry blend frozen cocktails to limit extra water

This hack of adding dry sugar rather than simple syrup to the liquid ingredients in your cocktail before you blend them is known as "dry blending," and it's a technique that keeps the sweet flavor of the drink but doesn't add any further water.

There are many different kinds of sugar, and while regular white granulated sugar will do just fine for a frozen cocktail, there are other alternatives worth exploring, too. Superfine sugar will dissolve into the drink more easily than regular sugar, thanks to its finer texture, and it'll be less likely to result in any grittiness that may spoil the finished consistency. Or, try less refined cane sugars, such as turbinado or demerara, for a deeper, molasses-like flavor.

As for the optimum amount of sugar to use, it's worth remembering that dry sugar is sweeter than simple syrup, given that it doesn't have that additional water. As a rule of thumb, try reducing the volume of sugar to about two-thirds of the amount of simple syrup required. So, if a recipe calls for 1½ teaspoons of simple syrup, you'd only need a teaspoon of sugar.

Other substitutes for simple syrup in cocktails

If you're looking for alternatives to sugar but still want a sweet, flavorful note in your frozen cocktails, try adding neat agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup. Similarly, if a cocktail recipe calls for citrus juice such as lemon, adding the zest of the fruit rather than the juice will help to limit the extra liquid. The zest gives a burst of fresh flavor, too, but without making the drink too watery.

But what if you're a fan of syrup in a frozen cocktail, but just wish it was a bit less, well, simple? It's easy to ramp up the flavor profile and add new notes by swapping out the water in simple syrup for another liquid. Try mixing in black or green tea, brewed coffee, a variety of fruit juices, or even flat cola with sugar, honey, or agave to make a syrup that is much more complex.

Or why not incorporate more alcohol for an even bolder syrup? Gently heating equal parts wine and white sugar in a pan over a low heat will create a much more complex syrup that can be used in a number of drinks. Try an aromatic sauvignon blanc syrup in cocktails such as a frozen Aperol spritz, or intensify the flavors in frosé by adding a rosé wine syrup. The possibilities are truly endless.