Floral syrups have a very easy base - the classic simple syrup, made by simmering equal parts sugar and water until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens. Adding flowers to this will infuse the syrup with the flavour, and hopefully the colour, of the flower. The amount of flower petals to add depends on how fragranced the flower is. Lavender flowers are highly fragranced, so you will only need about three tablespoons of them to make a distinctly lavender-y syrup. It's crucial not to boil the flowers, or even simmer them - the syrup needs to be very gently heated, or even just infused, once the flowers are in.
- Rose syrup: two cups of rose petals for each cup of water
- Elderflower syrup: 10 heads of elderflower for each cup of water
- Violet syrup: three-four cups of violet flowers for each cup of water
- Lilac syrup: two cups of lilac flowers for each cup of water
- Lavender syrup: three tbsp of lavender flowers for each cup of water
- Take one cup of water and one cup of sugar, and bring to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is thicker.
- Turn down the heat to low, or remove from the heat completely, and add flowers.
- Either heat the mixture gently for about an hour, or, if you have taken the pan off the heat, allow the flowers to infuse for about 24 hours in the covered syrup.
- Decant into a sealed bottle and refrigerate.
And now, here's how to use them:
Rose syrup is commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern recipes, and makes a particularly great combination with cardamom.
- Muddle a cardamom pod in the bottom of a shaker
- Add ice to the shaker, followed by 50ml of gin, 25ml of rose syrup, 50ml of grapefruit juice, and 10ml of fresh lemon juice.
- Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled glass
- Garnish with rose petals
The uses for elderflower are many and varied. Of course you can simply top it up with soda water and a slice of lemon, but it also works well added to simple cocktails like a gin & tonic or vodka soda. It's certainly not one for the purists, but a white wine spritzer with a couple of teaspoons of elderflower syrup is one of the better things to drink on a summer's day.
For many, the powdery fragrance of violets brings to mind an elderly lady's perfume, or a childhood binge on Parma Violets, but there are plenty of sophisticated uses for the syrup. The best cocktail with this floral flavour is the classic Aviation, normally made with violet liqueur, or crème de violette, but simple violet syrup is a perfectly good substitute.
- Add 60ml gin, 15ml maraschino liqueur, 15ml violet syrup, and 25ml fresh lemon juice to a shaker with ice.
- Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with a Luxardo cherry
The fresh smell of lilacs is one of the great pleasures of springtime, although it's rather unusual to find it as a flavour elsewhere. The delicacy of lilacs demands that it be used in something simple, and an easy cocktail with vodka and lemon does the trick nicely.
- Add 40ml vodka, 15ml lemon juice, and 15ml lilac syrup to a glass
- Add ice, stir, and top up with soda water
- Garnish with a twist of lemon
Despite its strong association with soap and hand cream, lavender is a delightful flavour to work with, and completely unmistakeable. It can handle being paired with stronger flavours, and a very little of it goes a long way. You can even add it to water and use it in a spray bottle to just lightly fragrance the surface of a cocktail. This lavender martini, though, is a delightfully summery take on a classic.
- Add 60ml of vodka, 20ml of Lillet Blanc, and a few drops of lavender syrup to a shaker with ice
- Stir for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with a sprig of lavender