What makes a good cocktail a great cocktail is the time and care put into the various components you’re mixing with. Yes, a bottle of cheap lemon vodka makes for an efficient lemon drop, but an outstanding one is made using a quality vodka and freshly squeezed lemon juice with a nice twirl of peel.
Sure, we aren’t all high-class, well-trained bartenders. I won’t be soaking a raw sugar cube in huckleberry syrup or candying lavender stems to drop in a glass of champagne any time soon. Simple syrup, however, is a quick and easy way to flavor a drink and make it unique.
Just bring equal parts of water and sugar to a simmer with a few flavoring agents until the resulting syrup is clear. Strain and pour into a bottle and use as needed.
Currently, my favorite syrup is one that I steeped with some dried hibiscus flowers (found at the Roseville farmers’ market), a cinnamon stick and some orange peel. Poured into a glass with some tonic water, gin and a slice of lime, the resulting cocktail was a refreshing, magenta-hued spritzer that made my humble little shindig all the more memorable.