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| Booze |

Simple Syrup Three Ways

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Any self-respecting gourmand will likely share several interests: eating, cooking and drinking. When two or three of these can be creatively combined, the fun more than doubles. We're sure you've noticed the trend in cocktails right now is moving toward more, more, more. More obscure ingredients, more creativity, more preparation time.

Though we all love to go to the numerous amazing bars in town that serve these awe-inspiring cocktails, sometimes it's just easier to sit at home and drink. One of the easiest ways to increase the cool factor in your cocktail is to make your own simple syrup and infuse it with some uncommon ingredients. Below are instructions for basic simple syrup, plus three variations, along with suggestions of what to do them. Please leave us your preferred combinations in the comments, because we love having a new excuse to drink.

Basic Simple Syrup: There are several variations on this recipe, but the one we've had the best luck with is using 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. For example, combine 2 cups sugar with 1 cup water in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Stir until all the sugar crystals are dissolved completely. Remove from heat and store in an airtight container. Simple syrup will last indefinitely.

Three variations:

Peppercorn Thyme: You can try out several different types of peppercorns in this recipe to change the flavor subtly. Begin by toasting the peppercorns lightly in a dry skillet. Using the simple syrup recipe from above, add the toasted peppercorns and thyme to the syrup immediately after you have taken it off the heat. Cover and let the flavors infuse for 15 minutes before straining. We like to add this one to gin, squeeze a fresh lemon in it, and top with tonic water.

Rosemary: Add the rosemary to the syrup once it is removed from heat. Steep 15 minutes, then strain. This syrup is excellent with whiskey and Mexican coke.

Lavender: You can find dried lavender in the bulk bins of Central Market . Add the lavender just like you did the herbs above, steeping in hot syrup for 15 minutes before straining. This one is great mixed with vodka and soda, using frozen blueberries in place of ice.

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