Making a great cocktail requires many components, from a quality spirit to the right type of cocktail glass, but one factor that often gets less attention is the syrup. A good syrup applied in the right way will elevate a drink from bland to mind-blowing. There are two primary types of cocktail syrups: simple syrups and shrubs. The former prioritizes sweetness, while the latter prioritizes flavor. Let's discuss why these two are different and how each one should be used for the best possible result.
Of these two cocktail components, simple syrup is likely the one you are most familiar with. As its name suggests, this syrup is nothing more than equal parts sugar and water combined to make a sweetener. While it can be infused with flavor, simple syrup is more often used to complement other ingredients by giving them a boost of sweetness. This can highlight some flavors that don't naturally pop and mellow out others that might be too assertive on their own.
Meanwhile, shrubs are vinegar-based syrups that incorporate fruit, sugar, and occasionally other herbs and spices. They tend to taste significantly less sweet, have a thinner consistency, and have a much stronger flavor — some people even choose to enjoy shrubs, like those featuring apple cider vinegar, on their own as a non-alcoholic beverage. Due to these characteristics, shrubs are often utilized to add an extra layer of complexity to a drink, rather than to give the existing flavors an assist.
Which Type Of Syrup Should You Use?
When it comes time to choose between a simple syrup and a shrub for your cocktail, think about what you want to achieve by making this addition. A cocktail shrub, with its high acidity and punchy taste, will co-star with your spirit of choice as a central part of the drinking experience by noticeably altering the flavor profile of the cocktail, like in our spicy jalapeño shrub cocktail. As such, shrubs should be used when you want to bring a new element to a cocktail that would be missing something otherwise. However, they can quickly overwhelm a drink with acidity when combined with citrus, so be sure to consider the other flavors involved first.
Meanwhile, simple syrup's mellow taste — aside from its sweetness — blends into the existing flavors of a cocktail, acting like a spotlight for the other ingredients and helping them shine. If applied correctly, you will barely notice that the syrup is there; instead, you will just appreciate the other flavors more. For these reasons, simple syrups should be used when you want a low-profile way to amp up your cocktail's flavors without covering them up.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.