What’s the Best Simple Syrup Substitute for Me?

As the name suggests, simple syrup is extremely simple to make and a staple in many kitchens for its versatility in cooking and drinks. This is a liquid sweetener you usually use in cocktails, which you can create at home or buy from grocery stores.

So, why would you need a simple syrup substitute if it’s readily available? Sometimes, people are looking for an emergency replacement and can’t spend time to make their own simple syrup, or they want a healthier alternative.

We’re not judging the reason because it happens to us, too.

That’s why we made a simple syrup substitute list for times like these. Read on to learn what you can use!

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The Best Simple Syrup Substitute

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Don’t you hate it when, whenever you search for a simple syrup substitute on Google, you’re always given a bunch of websites giving you recipes?

What if you have no time to make a simple syrup or can’t find it in your supermarket? We’ve got you!

Here are excellent substitutes for simple syrup for your next cocktail:

1. Honey

Honey is one of the best simple syrup substitutes in most cocktails, even those with intense citrus flavors (it wouldn’t work for all, though). (*)

It’s perfect for whiskey sours, lemon drop martinis, or old-fashioned cocktails.

But since pure honey is more viscous than simple syrup, we recommend thinning it out with water. Simple place equal parts of honey and water in a small pot, heating them until well blended. Then pour it into a squeeze bottle to easily dispense it.

Honey is an excellent sweetener with health benefits, but there are some differences. For starters, it won’t have the similar neutral sweetness that simple syrup offers. Honey features distinctive flavor profiles giving drinks floral flavor notes. Plus, they have a relatively low glycemic index score!

Pro-tip: When dissolving your honey with water, why not add a few baking spices to give your cocktail a unique kick to it? Depending on the cocktail you're preparing, some people would spice up their beverages with baking spices like cinnamon, clove, ginger, and even hot chilies!

2. Agave Nectar

Agave nectar is made from the maguey type of agave plant, which comes in various grades and colors like corn syrup, and molasses, among other liquid sweeteners. (*)

The lighter variety of agave nectar is similar to neutral sweeteners, like refined white sugar in simple syrup.

It offers sweetness with just a few flavor notes, making it suitable for sweetening cocktails without affecting the overall flavor.

Fun fact: Agave nectar has a lower glycemic index rating compared to simple syrup; it has more fructose than refined white sugar. Fructose won't cause an insulin spike that glucose does, but it's processed in the liver, with too much of it causing fatty liver disease.

Learn more:

3. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is usually associated with breakfast food, especially pancakes and waffles. But you can also use this as a sweetener for your favorite cocktails and other beverages.

However, it’s worth noting that maple syrup isn’t the healthiest sweetener, though it does contain minerals like calcium and zinc, which you won’t receive from the simple syrup.

Furthermore, just like honey, most maple syrup brands would have a strong and distinct flavor profile different from the neutral sweetness of the simple syrup. Because of that, the flavor might not work in every cocktail.

Pro-tip: You can buy different grades of maple syrup depending on their color. Darker maple syrups offer stronger flavors, while lighter ones are more neutral. You are better off getting lighter-colored maple syrup for its mild taste.

4. Stevia Syrup

If you’re watching your sugar and calorie intake, Stevia syrup is another good simple syrup substitute. It has almost zero calories and gives a somewhat neutral sweetness that can work as a simple syrup substitute.

5. Sugar Cane Syrup

These contain more sugar compared to the sugar cubes you add to your coffee in the morning, but it packs a lot of sweetness and flavor. Depending on the brand and location it’s made from, you get slightly different flavors from the sugar cane. Most have lightly caramelized flavors working well with rum.

Fun fact: While sugar cane syrup has a lower glycemic index than sugar, it isn’t as low as agave nectar.

6. Other Sugar Syrups

There are other sugar syrups you can find in your kitchen, buy in your local supermarket, or make on your own:

  • Brown Sugar Syrup: This is a mixture of table sugar and molasses, which is great for dark-spirited cocktails. It offers an almost cotton-candy-like and warm vanilla note.
  • Date syrup: These are made from finely-ground dehydrated dates rich in various vitamins and minerals. However, they aren’t too cocktail friendly as the sugar can’t dissolve completely when making it into a syrup.
  • Coconut sugar syrup: This is made from coconut palm sugar from coconut palm sap, which has more nutrients than common table sugar. It also gives your cocktails a smokiness and savory component, which is fantastic for darker spirits!

Learn more: What’s The Best Orgeat Syrup Alternative? Our Ultimate List!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about simple syrup? Check out these frequently asked questions to learn more:

1. Is simple syrup bad for you?

When you look at cocktail recipes, you probably see the need for simple syrup or other sweeteners. Some people have said that store-bought simple syrup is filled with preservatives that would alter the syrup’s flavor, so it’s best to use a substitute or to make your own.

Suppose you want to buy store-bought simple syrup. In that case, we recommend checking the ingredient list and ensuring it does not contain an overload of preservatives and artificial ingredients you can’t pronounce!

2. Can you omit simple syrup from your recipe?

Some people might not have the ingredients mentioned above and would rather omit the simple syrup from their recipe together.

Well, we don’t recommend it because you might end up with an overly sour or bitter drink! The sweetness would balance the drink and make the experience more pleasurable.

3. How can you make your own simple syrup?

As mentioned, it’s possible to create your own simple syrup, though more people prefer purchasing or using ingredients at home for ease. But for those who want to make simple syrup, it’s pretty simple (yes, really)! Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Prepare one cup of water and one cup of sugar (you can add up to two cups of sugar if you’d like it sweeter).
  2. Heat water in a saucepan. Once the water is boiling, add the sugar and let it dissolve, stirring constantly.
  3. Once your sugar dissolves completely, reduce the heat, then cover the saucepan. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. The less sugar you add, the less time it takes to simmer.
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool completely, allowing it to thicken. Bottle it afterward, and you’ve got simple syrup!

4. What other sugars can I use when making simple syrup?

Let’s tackle the different kinds of sugars and their benefits when making simple syrup:

  • Refined sugar: You most likely have granulated refined sugar in your kitchen, which works well with cocktails. The difference between white sugar and other types is that white sugar is highly refined cane sugar. Meaning, that all molasses are cooked out of it, so there are no flavors involved.
  • Superfine granulated sugar: This is the same as regular granulated sugar but more finely ground. It will have fine sugar crystals that dissolve quicker than granulated sugar in hot and cold beverages.
  • Sugar cubes: A sugar cube is basically a teaspoon of granulated sugar pressed and shaped into a cube. It makes a crunchy sound when bit into without cooking!
  • Turbinado and Demerara sugars: These are minimally refined cane sugars, retaining more of the molasses and plant’s natural flavors. That’s why they are light brown but not as dark brown compared to brown sugar. These sugars are also closer to refined than brown sugar.

You can use any of these sugars as an ingredient for your simple syrup, but we don’t recommend adding it to your cocktail recipes directly.

They won’t dissolve well and give your cocktail a slightly gritty consistency while drinking it, which no one wants.

You can try using superfine sugar, but it’s still a hit and miss.

Fun fact: 

Did you know that the Old Fashioned cocktail was traditionally made with a sugar cube? 

Wrapping It Up

The next time you run out of simple syrup, you now know what’s best to replace it with.

Many of these ingredients can be found at home and have health benefits like honey, agave nectar, and stevia sugar. But do note to avoid adding too many sweeteners because even with its health benefits, a lot of sugar is still bad for you!

Hopefully, our list of the best simple syrup substitute helped you out. If you want to learn more about these interesting food substitutions, look at our other blogs, too!

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