Liquid sugar, or sugar syrup, is the first homemade preparation that the bartender makes.
This is is due to economic issues and not for reasons related to the quality of the finished product: 1.5 kg of liquid sugar costs slightly less than 1 €.
With appropriate care it’s also easy to make.
Yet what exactly is it?
Liquid Sugar is a solution made up of of sugar (solute) and water (solvent).
What are the best proportions when making it and why?
Most of the time I prepare it in 2:1 proportions, two parts sugar in one part water, for example, 1kg of sugar dissolved in 500gr of water. The product obtained will be saturated (1 kg of water can dissolve 2 kg of sucrose) and will have a 66.67% sugar concentration, much higher than the minimum required by law 62% (165g sugar per 100gr of water). The refractometer is the instrument that allows these values to be calculated.
This is useful, but not for legal reasons, because nobody can stop us from preparing liquid sugar with a lower concentration of sucrose, rather it is beneficial for hygiene and preservation issues. In fact, if the concentration of sugar exceeds 62%, within the solution, osmotic pressure reaches high levels to the point that it does not allow microorganisms, that could cause the product to decompose, to live.
Many bartenders are used to preparing this ingredient with a 50% sugar concentration(1 part sugar in 1 part water): I think it is useless. Liquid sugar has the sole function of sweetening, and not flavouring, the drink: you simply need to use a lesser amount than a 1:1 ratio. As for flavoured syrups, I don’t always prepare them between 62 and 66.7% of sugar; it depends on the flavouring agent and the use I need to make of them. We’ll be discussing this in other articles. Thus, all the benefits are in favor of a hygienically safe product that can be preserved for longer.
Another habit is to boil the liquid sugar: this, not only isn’t necessary, but it can also be potentially harmful. It isn’t necessary because the solubility of sucrose in water at room temperature (25°C) is about 2,000gr per kg, while it is harmful because, if it is boiled, the solution becomes yellow: in which case part of the sugar has probably turned into caramel, thus altering the ingredient’s flavor.
This is what I do: to speed up the melting process, I warm the water in a pot up to roughly 60°C, remove the pot from the fire, add the sugar and mix it until it is completely dissolved. After it has completely cooled off (it is important so as to avoid condensation), I pour the syrup into a squeezer or in a perfectly clean and dry glass bottle.
One last suggestion: try using raw cane sugar or brown sugar as well. You’ll obtain syrups which, aside from sweetening, also add flavour to drinks. If you’d like more info, click here and read my BarTales article on the various types of sugar (page 46 – italian language)!
Liquid sugar may seem to be a trivial ingredient, but I assure you it isn’t because it is the starting point for making flavoured syrups, one of the most versatile and important homemade preparations.
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