Looking to add a touch of sweetness and fruity flavor to your favorite beverages? This homemade simple strawberry syrup is great for cocktails or to add a splash of flavor to SodaStream carbonated water, club soda, or tonic!
Made with just a handful of ingredients and fresh strawberries, this easy-to-follow recipe is a great way to add a burst of strawberry flavor to your favorite drinks.
If you're looking for a berry concentrate for beverages, this strawberry sweetener is a great way to use up some wrinkled berries (perhaps leftover after making some of my other strawberry recipes) or adding a splash of flavor to your usual sparkling water or cocktails!
About This Recipe
I made this strawberry simple syrup for the first time in pastry school and loved it so much. When we bought a SodaStream a few weeks later, it quickly became a favorite way to flavor the carbonated water.
I also love using it to flavor my iced teas in the summer.
The other reason I started making this simple strawberry syrup for beverages is because, quite frankly, I think I'm cursed when it comes to buying strawberries.
Within a day of bringing them home, they're shriveling and wrinkly and not super appetizing to eat. But they're not moldy, either. And there's only so many lemon berry blondies two people can eat!
So I started taking those wrinkled strawberries and turning them into this simple strawberry syrup for drinks. It's such a...well, simple process, and it extends the shelf life of the strawberries by at least a week or two! (More if you freeze it!)
Why This Recipe Works
Cooking the strawberries and lemon peels before you add water allows them to start breaking down and releasing their juices. The oils in the lemon peel warm up and start mingling with the natural sugars in the strawberries.
Then you add the water, which is just really good at quickly sucking all the flavor and color out of the strawberries. Reducing the water intensifies the flavor, making a concentrated strawberry juice.
Adding the lemon peels and a squeeze of lemon juice at the end isn't so much about adding lemon flavor as it is about adding a bit of tartness (from the acid) and helping to intensify the flavor of the berries. It also keeps the syrup from tasting, uh, medicinal.
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make this simple berry syrup! See recipe card (at the end of the post) for quantities.
- Strawberries - Half a pound of fresh strawberries, washed well and cut into quarters.
- Lemon peel - Use a peeler to remove the peel from a lemon. Try not to get too much of the bitter white pith.
- Water - You'll start with 10 ounces of water but will infuse and reduce it with the strawberries. When you strain the strawberries and lemon peel out you should have about 5-7 ounces of water. You may even have closer to 8 ounces! It can really vary wildly.
- Sugar - Plain white granulated sugar. The recipe calls for 5 ounces, but you may need more or less depending on how much your water reduces!
- Lemon juice - Just a squeeze at the end for a bit of acid!
How to Make Simple Strawberry Syrup
Peel the lemon, avoiding as much of the bitter white pith as you can.
Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut them into quarters.
Measure the weight of the strawberries after removing the stems. You want 8 ounces (aka half a pound) of strawberry pieces for this recipe, and the stems don't count!
Cook the strawberries, lemon peel, and salt down until soft, then add the water.
Bring to a vigorous boil and let reduce at an active boil for 10-15 minutes.
Stir the strawberry mixture occasionally as it boils to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
The goal is for the water to reduce by about half during this time. Be patient, it can take 10-15 minutes!
Pour the strawberry juice through a strainer into a heat-proof container.
Lift and stir the strawberries in the strainer to release more juices.
Do NOT press the berries through the strainer. You ONLY want the juice, not the berry pulp. If you get any pulp in there, it will ferment and you don't want that.
It's super important that you weigh the strained strawberry juice before adding sugar. You can do this as you strain it, or wipe out the pot and weigh the juice in the pot since it will go back on the stove later anyway.
This strawberry syrup recipe uses a 1:1 ratio of equal parts strawberry juice and sugar, and the amount of juice you have will depend on how much the water reduced.
Ideally you'll have around 5-6 ounces of strawberry juice (a sign that you successfully reduced the 10 ounces of water by half). But "reduced by half" is hard to eyeball, and you might end up with 6 ounces of strawberry juice or even closer to 8 ounces of strawberry juice.
Weighing the juice is the only way to know how much sugar you'll need so that the sugar thickens the syrup to the right consistency!
Weigh the strawberry juice concentrate to find out how much sugar you need.
Then weigh out an equal amount of sugar.
Stir the juice and sugar together in the pot off heat to make sure the sugar isn't clumped together.
Put the pot back over high heat and do not stir. We want the sugar crystals to dissolve, and sugar crystals love trying to reform their crystalline shape.
When you stir the sugar and water together, sugar crystals cling to the wall of the pot and the spoon and encourage recrystallization in the syrup.
To clean those sugar crystals clinging to the wall of the pot, dip a pastry brush in water and brush it along the inner walls of the pot. This dissolves the sugar crystals so you get a syrup that is smooth and syrupy, not crystallized!
Crank the heat to high and bring the strawberry syrup to a boil.
When I say you're going to "bring it to a boil" I do mean a vigorous boil. Don't set your timer until you're seeing bubbles across at least 75% of the surface of the pot.
At that point you can reduce the heat a little bit (e.g. from high to medium) while it boils for one minute. Again, DO NOT STIR.
Sugar absorbs heat really well — it will continue boiling even with the heat slightly reduced. Reducing the heat slightly at this step helps prevent the sugar temp from getting too hot and turning into hard candy.
After 60 seconds of boiling, remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool. Once it's cool, it's safe to stir.
The syrup will seem quite loose and liquid when it's hot, but will thicken into a more syrup-like consistency as it cools.
Once it cools, you can pour it into a bottle or container to store for use!
I used to feel super guilty throwing away the strawberry pieces after using them to infuse the water. It seemed wasteful! But I don't want you to feel that way.
The strawberries have done their job. They're gross and pale and flavorless at that point; there's nothing more they can give you.
You've given them new life and purpose as this berry syrup — which will last a good two weeks longer than the berries would have on their own!
How to Use Simple Strawberry Syrup
Strawberry simple syrup is great for drinks but can be used in a lot of other ways too!
- As a strawberry cake soak for cakes, cupcakes, ladyfingers, etc.
- Drizzled over slices of homemade vanilla pound cake or fresh strawberry pound cake.
- As a mixer for cocktails like gin and tonics, vodka sodas, mint juleps, margaritas, and more!
- As a glaze for fresh fruit on top of tarts and pies.
- As syrup on pancakes and waffles.
- As a strawberry sweetener in smoothies, lemonade, iced tea, etc.
- On top of ice cream! Yes, really!
- To sweeten yogurt with granola and berries.
- As a strawberry concentrate for beverages like carbonated water or soda syrup.
This berry syrup is heavier than water and will sink to the bottom of your cup when you first pour it in. Stir to help it combine evenly!
If you're adding it to a large soda stream bottle, put the lid on and slowly turn the bottle upside down and right side up again a few times to keep the syrup from settling on the bottom.
Practical Equipment Notes & Recipe Tips
- When you strain the strawberries and lemon peel out of the water DO NOT PRESS THEM THROUGH THE STRAINER. Just let the water strain out on its own. You can lift and stir the strawberries in the strainer to get more liquid out, but you do not want to press them through into the water. If you strain the fruit pulp through your syrup will ferment and you don't want that. I made this mistake once and the pressure of gas building up in the bottle sprayed syrup all over my kitchen when I opened it.
- If you don't have a pastry, a folded up piece of paper towel dipped in water will work instead.
- Sugar has a crystal structure and, even when you dissolve it, those sugar crystals are always looking for ways to recrystallize. Stir the sugar and strawberry juice together BEFORE putting the pot on the stove to make sure the sugar isn't all clumped together on the bottom of the pot, and then don't stir it again once it's back on the stove. After it cools you can stir it as much as you like.
- Use a pot with PLENTY of room to spare. Sugar absorbs and retains heat really well so will keep cooking for a bit even once you turn off the heat. You want to give it room to get bubbly and rise up in the pot a bit. And you definitely don't want to splash any hot sugar on your skin. I recommend using a pot that has at least 3x the room needed for the syrup itself.
- For a thicker syrup that's closer to the consistency of corn syrup or a thick maple syrup to pour over pancakes or ice cream, you can use a 1:2 ratio of strawberry juice to sugar. But if you're making this strawberry syrup for drinks, you'll want to stick to the 1:1 ratio.
Strawberry Soda Syrup FAQ
I don't recommend it. The sugar here isn't just about sweetness. There's a reason you weigh or measure the amount of strawberry water after reducing and straining it and then measure the same amount of sugar to match. Simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of water (or juice) to sugar. I don't test low sugar versions of my recipes, but you are more than welcome to experiment with different ratios!
Nope! Grenadine is thinner in consistency, which means it will mix into your drinks differently. It's also flavored with pomegranate or citric acid, not strawberry. This strawberry syrup can definitely fill in for grenadine if you need it to, though.
According to A Bar Above, simple syrup is a preferred sweetener for cold drinks because sugar dissolves more slowly in cold temperatures. Soda syrups help the flavor and sweetness disperse evenly throughout your drink! Sure, you could use the water reduction without making it into a syrup but it will dilute the carbonation AND the flavor of the strawberry water.
About 1-2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays for up to 3 months! There are a few ways this strawberry beverage concentrate can "go bad" and one of them is recrystallization — which is why it's important not to stir the syrup on the stove. This can encourage the sugar to recrystallize and give you a syrup that looks smooth on the day you make it, but that starts forming crystals as it sits.
In a glass bottle or jar with an airtight lid in the fridge. Glass is easier to get clean and completely sanitized (by submerging in boiling in water for 10 minutes), reducing the amount of contamination that can be introduced to your syrup.
If you're planning on using the syrup within a few days, any airtight container you have is fine.
Soda is a sweetened, flavored, carbonated beverage. To make soda water at home you'll need a device that can inject carbonation into water, like a SodaStream, or an iSi Stainless Steel Soda Siphon. Once you make your carbonated water, you can stir in whatever flavorings or syrups that you want.
For this strawberry syrup, I recommend a 1:4 ratio of syrup to water, but you don't need to be precise. It's really up to you to determine how strong you want the strawberry flavor to be! The syrup is denser than water so the more syrup you add, the less carbonated your soda will feel.
30-Minute Simple Strawberry Syrup for Drinks
- 8 ounces strawberries, stems removed (weigh after trimming)
- 1 lemon (peel and juice, used separately)
- 10 ounces water
- 6-8 ounces granulated sugar (you may need more or less depending on how much strawberry juice you have)
- ¼ teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt (use half as much of any other type of salt)
- Use a peeler to remove the peel from the lemon, trying to get as little of the bitter white pith as possible. Cut the strawberries into quarters.
- Combine strawberries, lemon peel, and salt in a medium sauce pot over medium heat. Stir constantly until strawberries soften and begin to release juices.
- Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat just enough to maintain an active boil stirring occasionally until water has reduced by about half and the strawberries are quite pale in color. This can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes, sometimes longer. Be patient here.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer into a heat safe container. Gently lift and stir the strawberries to encourage any excess liquid to strain. Do not press the strawberry pulp through the strainer. Discard the strawberries and lemon peel.
- Wipe out the sauce pot and tare it to zero on a kitchen scale. Weigh the strawberry juice into it off the heat. Add an equal amount of granulated sugar to the pot and stir well to make sure the sugar isn't clumped on the bottom of the pot.
- Return the pot to the stove over high heat. Dip a pastry brush in water and brush the inner walls of the pot to dissolve any sugar crystals clinging to walls.DO NOT STIR THE SYRUP MIXTURE ONCE IT'S ON THE HEAT.
- Once a full rolling boil is reached (more than 75% of the surface of the pot is vigorously bubbling), reduce heat to medium and set a timer for 1 minute. Do not stir!
- Remove from heat and let cool in the pot. Stir in a squeeze of lemon juice (optional) to taste. The syrup will thicken as it cools. Transfer to airtight container or sanitized glass bottle. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Strawberry weight measurement is AFTER removing stems.
- DO NOT press the strawberry pulp through the strainer. The pulp will ferment and cause gas buildup inside the bottle you store it in. If the gas has no way to escape, the syrup will spray all over your kitchen when you open it. Yes I did learn this the hard way.
- 10 ounce yield is an approximate estimate based on 5 ounces strawberry juice + 5 ounces sugar — actual yield will depend on how much you reduce the strawberry juice and how much sugar you need!