So, what is a botanical syrup?
It’s a simple syrup (water and sugar) infused with any flavorful plant-based thing. You pretty much make an infusion or a tea with boiling water and your botanicals, let it steep to your desired strength (I did about two hours) then strain out the solids and mix the remaining solution with sugar to your desired sweetness.
A note about sweetness: simple syrup is often made in a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar. If you’re following any cocktail recipe calling for simple sugar that’s what you can assume they mean. I fully intended to follow that ratio but after adding just 1 cup of sugar to 2 cups of the first solution I found that I much preferred that lower level of sweetness. It let me use the syrup more as a mixer in place of juice or soda so each cocktail had a much stronger flavor and I didn’t need any other liqueurs to round out each cocktail. It also lets you make cocktails or homemade sodas with a lot more flavor without being so sweet.
There are lots of specific recipes for the exact amount of each botanical to add but my approach to almost all things in the kitchen is: use what have and make it work. So, that not only means use which things you have but also work with whatever amounts you have on hand. It may come out a little stronger or weaker in one flavor or another but I learn so much more effectively from just jumping in than by following someone else’s guidelines.
Ready to give it a try? Great! First take stock of what you have on hand: fresh herbs, dried spices (whole works best, more on that later), and fresh, frozen or dried fruit. Notice if there are any combos you really enjoy in other foods or drinks. Try to make combinations of two flavors for each then go back and see if any might taste good with a third botanical.
Here are the combos I used:
- frozen cherries, cracked black pepper, vanilla beans
- orange zest, cardamom, rooibos tea
(I used ground cardamom which is hard to strain out, whole seeds would be easier)
- fresh cranberries, green tea with dried citron in it
- lemon zest, fresh basil, cinnamon sticks
- fresh cilantro, lime zest, frozen ginger, fresh pineapple
I used 20 ounce canning jars, filled them loosely with the bulky botanicals like the herbs and cherries and added a tablespoon-ish of any of the dried spices like pepper or cardamom, filled them with boiling water and let them be for a couple hours. I really did all this on a whim and had no idea how delicious they’d be!
Then strain out the solids, combine the solution and sugar in a pan and stir over med heat until the sugar dissolves, let them cool, pop them in the fridge and they should keep for at least a couple weeks.