As previously discussed in our Syrups 101 blog, the main things to consider when flavouring syrups are time, consistency and volume.
If any of these are an issue, then definitely reach for a commercial syrup as they happily oblige with all the above. However, if you have the inclination or raw materials (botanicals) are in surplus, then by all means, make your own!
However, there are a couple of keys things to take into account:
- Syrup Potency: How potent do you want your infusion?
- Mise en Place: How much time do you have before the event?
- Authenticity and provenance: How close to the original flavour must your syrup be?
- SYRUP POTENCY
This is a hard one to achieve consistently due to the variance in the ingredients throughout the year; however, it is important to understand that different botanicals will impart their flavour using different methods and will achieve varying levels of potency. Some of the key factors in this are heat and time. These factors can dramatically change the flavour of botanical.
Let’s take raspberries for example. When using fresh raspberries, they have a very fresh and vibrant flavour; however, when heat is applied, this changes to a more jammy flavour and aroma profile. To retain the fresh flavours of berries, we infuse at low temperatures.
The opposite could be said for hard spices like cinnamon, vanilla and allspice (to name a few), which benefit by being infused at higher temperatures as this helps to release more complex flavours, faster into your sugar syrup.
- MISE EN PLACE
Means “putting in place” or ensuring all the elements are prepared before service for a clean, smooth and enjoyable service.
Time: Ensure you allocate enough time for infusions to reach their full potential, or if time runs outlook, at commercial alternatives. There are different methods of speeding up infusions, two of which we will look at briefly.
- SOUS VIDE
This method is the age-old trick of boil in a bag. However, the immersion boilers that we use to keep the water baths at temp are now very, very accurate and now, thankfully, affordable! These allow you to create large batches of syrups and walk away to do something else. If you run it overnight, it is a truly hands-free technique!
Hot or cold you can create an array of different flavours using vacuum pack bags or Ziploc bags by immersing the bag up to the seal in the water bath and allowing the water to displace the air in the bag. Not as efficient as the vacuum machine method but does allow you to work with liquids.
- NITROUS INFUSION
This method is incredibly quick. In fact, it’s so quick that you can incorporate it into regular service. So, how is this possible?
Simply allow the guest to pick a particular botanical and spirit they love,and then infuse them using nitrous gas. This is done in a cream whipper or an ISI whipper. Just pour the allocated spirit (no more than half the overall volume of the whipper) and your chosen botanical into the whipper, ensure it is securely closed, and charge with a single canister.
The key thing is to take into account the botanical being used. If very fresh, the time needed is quite short. However, dried botanicals may need an additional couple of minutes. It is very important to release the gas in one go. So, be brave, and place a glass on top of the nozzle. With the whipper held upright (opposite to the position where cream would come out), depress the trigger in one short, sharp fashion and allow all the gas to be released in one go. It’s a bit noisy, but this adds to the theatrics! Then simply strain off the liquid and use it as you see fit. The obvious issues are the cost of the nitrous canisters and we’re talking about the little tiny ones!
- SOUS VIDE
- AUTHENTICITY AND PROVENANCE
These factors can (and do) add value to the drinks you make. You may have relationships with local community farms or even grow the produce yourself. If so, then let your guests know about the journey your ingredients go on. However, certain flavours are very difficult to perfect yourself, and you may find that using a commercially made product is far quicker and more affordable to use.
For instance, vanilla. For the very best vanilla pods, you could be paying nigh on £1 per gram. Or you could of course use extract or essence, which are considerably more affordable, but in my mind, the flavour profiles of these two are very different compared to the pods.
So, what is an easy middle ground? Well, there is a whole range of sugar syrups on the market. You just need to find one that fits the flavour in your head and, of course, your bank balance! Our go-to brands are Monin and Funkin as their core range (vanilla, passionfruit, strawberry and raspberry) are awesome, and their additional flavours are varied and very good. A particular favourite is bubblegum (yes, I know! But it makes a mean overproof Daiquiri!).
- SYRUP POTENCY