[The Monthly Mixer is a new column by M. Quinn Sweeney, who writes about crafting cocktails at LibationLab.com]
Simple syrup, is called simple for a reason. It is the easiest way to sweeten a drink, and blends into a cocktail much easier than plain sugar. You can make it at home in five minutes and store it in the fridge for weeks. In a pinch, you can even mash in some fruit and pour it over pancakes.
To create simple syrup, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan and cook until sugar is dissolved and water just starts to boil. Then just let it cool and pour it into a bottle before refrigerating.
Brown sugar syrup can be made the same way, and rich simple syrup is made by combining 2 parts granulated sugar with one part water and following the same procedure as above. Alternately, maple and agave syrups are already the right consistency for cocktailing, and honey works well, but must be diluted with equal parts water in order to be mixed.
With a bottle of booze and fresh citrus, you have everything you need to make a great cocktail like the ones below:
Collins (Tom, John or Vodka)
1 ½ ounces London dry gin, bourbon, or vodka
1 ounce simple syrup
¾ ounce lemon juice
Shake spirits, sugar and lemon juice with ice, strain into a tall, chilled glass and fill with soda. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
1 ½ ounces white rum
¾ ounce simple syrup
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a small cocktail glass.