Making syrups is one of the most delicious ways to preserve some of nature’s tastiest and healthiest offerings. By taking herbs, berries, roots, and spices and creating these concoctions of goodness, you can extract the wonderful properties, vitamins and health benefits and make very useful syrups. These can be used for making cocktails and mixed drinks, sweetening tea, coffee and cocoa, drizzling over ice cream or even using in an icing or a pancake and waffle syrup. Some even work well as medicines–soothing a sore throat or combating a cough.
To take the syrup up a notch, mixing it with alcohol like vodka, bourbon, whiskey, or rum helps to turn it into a cordial or liqueur–perfect for sipping as a sweet, after-dinner treat. We’re going to share our basic recipe, along with some tips on how to customize and experiment to create your new favorites!
To start the process, you are basically making a very strong tea. Add 1 cup herbs, berries, roots or whatever you want to decoct to 1 quart of water. These can be fresh or dried. Some of our favorites include: licorice root, dried rosehips, fresh mint leaves, fresh or dried rose petals, lavender petals, fresh basil leaves, and dried elderberries. (We get most of our dried ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs, we’ve included a link, but you can source from a place you trust. We like knowing everything is organic!) Bring this mixture to a slow boil over medium high heat in a sauce pan with no lid; and then turn down and let simmer for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.
Strain this mixture and compost the herbs, berries, etc. Pour the strained liquid back into the pan and add 1/2 cup raw, local honey or sugar for every pint of liquid. Stir until dissolved. You shouldn’t need to cook this mixture any further unless you want a very thick syrup. For honey, we prefer to NOT cook it since many of the beneficial enzymes can be destroyed by cooking. If you are using sugar and want a thick syrup, you can bring the mixture back to simmer and cook until it is the consistency you want. Once finished, you can decant to a jar or bottle.
For a cordial, you will basically just be adding alcohol to your syrup (or syrup to your alcohol). Let the syrup cool completely (if you add alcohol to hot syrup, the alcohol could “cook” out of the mixture.) I like to add about 1/2 cup of vodka, whiskey, bourbon, or white rum per quart of syrup. You can make it stronger or weaker depending on your tastes. Combine this well; bottle and cap. You can store cordials and syrups made with honey in a cool, dark place, but, they will last longer if you refrigerate them.
It is really that easy! You can make combination syrups if you like (elderberry and wild cherry bark is one of our favorites for a medicinal syrup) and you can add spices, essential oils or extracts for added flavor. There are so many possibilities and this is such a delicious way to preserve some of those herbs and fruit growing in your garden. These make wonderful and gorgeous gifts as well. Happy sipping!