This simple strawberry syrup is great for drinks — use it in cocktails or just to add a splash of flavor to SodaStream carbonated water, club soda, or tonic!
There's two reasons this recipe came about. One, we bought a SodaStream a couple months ago and Jimmy has been obsessively carbonating and flavoring water with various mix-ins.
And two, I think I'm cursed when it comes to buying strawberries. Within a day of bringing them home, they're already shriveling and wrinkly and just really 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 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!
If you're looking for a great way to use up some wrinkling berries or adding a splash of flavor to your usual sparkling water or cocktails, this soda syrup is a great way to do that!
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 those flavors.
At first, I made this strawberry syrup without any lemon, but depending on the quality of the berries, sometimes the syrup ended up tasting a bit medicinal. 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.
You'll notice in the recipe I have you measure the strawberry infused water before adding sugar. That's because this recipe uses a 1:1 simple syrup recipe of equal parts strawberry juice and sugar. Depending on how much the water reduces, you might end up with 5 ounces of strawberry juice or 7 ounces of strawberry juice. But it's important to keep that 1:1 ratio so that the sugar thickens the syrup to the right consistency!
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 soak for cakes and cupcakes
- To sweeten ice tea
- As a mixer for cocktails like gin and tonics, vodka sodas, mint juleps, margaritas, and more!
- To candy citrus peels
- As a glaze for fresh fruit on tarts and pies
- As syrup on pancakes and waffles
- To sweeten smoothies
- On top of ice cream
- To sweeten yogurt with granola and berries
- 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 ounces of water.
- 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
Once you've made your strawberry infused water, you're going to discard the berries and mix the infused water with an equal amount of sugar and bring it to a boil for exactly one minute. This dissolves the sugar crystals and thickens the mixture into a syrup.
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 medium high to medium) while it boils for one minute.
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.
The syrup will seem quite loose and liquidy when it's warm, but as it cools it will thicken into a more syrup-like consistency.
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 soda syrup — which will last a good two weeks longer than the berries would have on their own!
A few quick strawberry syrup tips
- When you strain the strawberries 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.
- 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 water 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 on the stove. After it cools you can stir it as much as you like.
- Once the pot is on the stove, if you see any sugar crystals clinging to the walls of the pot above the water line you can dip a pastry brush in water and brush above the crystals. The water will slide down the walls of the pot and dissolve the crystals without the syrup recrystallizing.
- 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.
- You can stir a squeeze of lemon juice into your syrup at the end, but I prefer to use a lemon peel or lemon garnish on my drinks instead if I think the drink needs more lemon flavor.
- 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. There are a few ways simple syrup can "go bad" and one of them is crystallization — 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.
simple strawberry syrup for drinks
- ½ pound strawberries (quartered, stems removed)
- 1 lemon (peel and juice, used separately)
- 10 oz water
- 5-8 oz granulated sugar (you may need more or less depending on how much strawberry juice you have)
- 1 pinch salt
- Use a peeler to remove the peel from the lemon, trying to get as little of the bitter white pith as possible.
- Combine strawberries, lemon peel, and pinch of 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. Continue boiling, 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 or longer.
- 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 weigh the strawberry juice into it. Add the same amount of granulated sugar 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.
- Bring to a rolling boil. Once a full rolling boil (more than 75% of the surface of the pot is bubbling) is reached, reduce heat to medium and set a timer for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in a squeeze of lemon juice (optional) to taste. Transfer to airtight container or sanitized glass bottle. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Strawberry weight measurement is AFTER removing stems.