Basic foraged sugar syrup recipe
- 150g caster sugar
- 150ml boiling water
- Jar of plants to flavour syrup
So, I’m going to hold my hands up here… This isn’t a post that I’d have imagined myself writing a couple of months ago! I’m not much use in a kitchen, and despite having grown up on a rural island surrounded by wildlife, nature has never been my thing. Running off to the city at 17 was proof of that!
I’ve spent the summer working as a communications intern at a local distillery back home (it’s my last week, boo hoo!), and it’s been a total education beyond what you’d usually expect from an internship. Besides being a load of fun, I’ve learned a lot about the distillery and being in a marketing environment – and appreciating the nature around me!
Alongside making whisky, the distillery also makes The Botanist gin. Part of The Botanist’s ethos is to be creative, using the concept of “foraging” when creating drinks. Now, I’m a huge gin fan, and I totally love The Botanist… but when I learned that this was the brand image, it threw me a little. The most creative I’d ever been with a G&T was adding grapefruit instead of the usual lemon or lime! But in the following weeks, I was shown exactly what their idea of foraging was. Yeah, they like the idea of going off into the wilderness and picking your own garnish, but an impressive array of concoctions started being introduced to me – syrups, cordials, even the gin itself having been infused with all sorts. It all suddenly became a lot more exciting!
The one that caught my attention was the syrups – I love a cocktail; especially one with a sickeningly sweet fruit syrup through it. But these were a whole range of homemade plant-based sugar syrups, and they tasted amazing! I’d never heard of half of the plants used, but I was still really interested in how they were created.
Collecting the plants
My first concern was that the syrups would be insanely difficult to try and make at home. I was also aware that not everyone is an expert on identifying plants, myself included – so how could it be simplified? As it happens, there’s a lot of very common plants that I had no idea were edible!
To collect the plants, I simply headed off to the distillery garden. The first common plant I could think of was daisies – this actually started off as a joke! Thinking of the little daisies you’d make chains out of as a child, I was promptly told to try eating one. I giggled at the thought until it became evident that this was actually a serious comment, and that they were edible. Admittedly, I felt like a total monster eating the poor daisy – but it had a crisp, sweet taste to it. Almost like iceberg lettuce? Keeping with the “recognisable” theme, I also opted for rose petals. I then got introduced to the lemon balm plant, this amazing plant that smells and tastes exactly like… well, lemon! I filled a kilner jar’s worth of each plant – around half a litre of each.
**Just for clarity, I did also pick rosehips to make a rosehip syrup with so they’re in the photos, but they’re not part of the same process!**
Making the syrups
Making the syrups was the part that I thought would be most complicated. It turned out my initial reaction was totally wrong – it’s incredibly easy!
First off, you need to create a “simple” sugar syrup; to do this, you just use a 1:1 ratio of caster sugar to boiling water (basically, equal measures). For my syrup, I used 150g of caster sugar and 150ml of boiling water (this is for one jar). Dissolve the sugar in the water, and then finely chop the plants in their jars. Pour the warm syrup over the contents of the jar, and close the lid over for around 24 hours.
After that, strain it into a bottle… and that’s it! Sooo much easier than I expected! If you want to make your syrup a bit sweeter or thicker, just up the amount of sugar (e.g. a 2:1 ratio). They taste so, so good – I’m excited to return to uni and start serving up cocktails with them!
The syrups should keep in the fridge for a few days; if you want to make them last a little longer, fortifying them using a neutral tasting spirit will prevent fermentation and therefore help them to keep better.
My personal recommendation is to try them in a Tom Collins cocktail – that is 30ml gin, 10ml lemon juice, 10ml of the syrup (or more… I have a sweet tooth!), and topped up with soda. We created a Lemon Balm Collins cocktail here at the distillery for the gin tours – check it out!
I also wrote a step-by-step guide on the syrups for the Botanist website >> Beginner’s Cocktail Syrups
And there’s a tutorial video! Check it out here (and finally hear my voice!):
**Photo credit to The Botanist/Jane Carswell
**YouTube video tutorial credit to The Botanist/Jane Carswell