One of the easiest types of complex syrup you can make is a simple infusion. Take an Earl Grey Tea Syrup for instance. We all know how to make simple syrup, simply apply heat to sugar and water. Well, this is exactly how we make tea. Simply add our tea bag or tea leaves to warm water. let this sit for about an hour and then add to a saucepan and put on heat. Add equal parts sugar and stir until well mixed. Remove from heat and strain off any solids. This same technique can be applied to mint syrups and even things like berries and peppers. Simply make a syrup the way you normally would and steep the flavors you would like to infuse. Try not to boil the syrup as that takes away the water and makes the flavor significantly harder to replicate. One of my favorite creations was a strawberry and serrano pepper flavored agave nectar.
Fruit Syrups / Grenadine
Most fruit syrups are actually very easy to make. While the typical syrup uses water to mix with the sugar component, a perfectly legitimate substitute is to use a juice. This method only works well with fruits that leave a very watery type of juice such as pomegranate. Juice like lime and the like need to be cut down with water to ensure a consistent texture. To make homemade grenadine, simply pour equal parts of pomegranate juice (I use POM Wonderful) and sugar into a saucepan and apply heat while stirring. I like to add a tiny splash of fresh lemon juice and a few drops of orange flower water to really make it unique.
Oleo, in short, is oil. Saccharum is sugar. Lemon oil syrup was a crucial component in old world punch recipes. The oil comes from the peel of a citrus fruit, lemon being the most common. Oleo can also be made from other citruses, like orange and grapefruit. The easiest way of making this is by peeling several lemons into a bowl and adding about two ounces of sugar to the bowl per lemon. Muddle this vigorously for about 15 minutes to ensure that the sugar really gets into the peels and they start to sweat. Let the bowl sit for a few hours or overnight to allow all the oil to precipitate. collect this in a bottle and filter out any peel, some people will add a bit of hot water to stretch the oil and make it less potent in cocktails, but in punches that doesn't matter as much.
Orgeat is probably the most difficult syrup to make on your own and I don't recommend trying unless you are well versed in syrups. Orgeat is used in several tiki cocktails. It is a very potent blend of flavors and can be incredibly overpowering if prepared incorrectly. To make, one would muddle a blend of sweet and bitter almonds in a mortar and pestle with a little water until it becomes a smooth paste. Add more water without heat. Then incorporate some sugar and orange flower water or rose water. These are very potent flavors that if not used cautiously can seriously overpower any cocktail. A floral sweet almond syrup is very tempting to start playing with, but I urge you to start small and leave this one to the professionals. The fact that this doesn't use any heat also tends to mean the shelf life is not as great as many other syrups so I encourage you to use filtered water or water that had been boiled beforehand. Also, keep it stored in a well sealed container.
Gum syrup is actually one of the more basic and classic syrups. It is, at its core, a simple syrup that has been thickened to change the texture of certain cocktails. Gum, also called gomme, syrup is a simple syrup made typically with gum arabic. Very few people, aside from some artists, have heard of this powder. It's a simple thickening agent used in some painting, and, in our case, cocktails. Gum syrup works best in stirred, spirit forward cocktails so that the texture it brings can be appreciated. Typically it is used in old fashioned cocktails and some sazeracs. It can be used in shaken cocktails and with drinks built with crushed ice.
- Rodney Dangerfield