Simple syrup cuts the taste of alcohol in your cocktails and sweetens nonalcoholic beverages. The aptly named simple syrup has two ingredients, sugar and water, which are mixed at a 1:1 ratio, and keep about a month if refrigerated. After that, mold becomes a problem. Rich syrup, a variation with a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio, lasts up to six months. The sugar in simple syrup, a fundamental ingredient in citrus cocktails like vodka sours, kamikazes and mojitos, can be easily substituted or its amount cut with other commonly found sweeteners and ingredients.
Honey works as a sugar substitute in simple syrup for citrusy cocktails like a lemon drop martini or whiskey cocktails such as a whiskey sour. Just pour equal parts water and honey into a saucepan and simmer until the honey dilutes in the water. Store the syrup in an empty bottle or even in the honey dispenser. Honey syrup is thicker than simple syrup, and it won't pour as quickly, so you will probably need to measure it with a jigger. Honey syrup refrigerates well for up to a month; just let the contents reach room temperature before mixing so it pours more easily.
Maple syrup is a sugar substitute for whiskey and rum cocktails. Maple syrup tends to be much thicker than other liquids; use a 3:4 ratio with water. Heat both the maple syrup and water in a saucepan to a simmer, let it cool and pour it into an empty bottle or plastic bar-pouring container. Maple syrup simple syrup is thicker than regular simple syrup, so measure with a jigger instead of free pouring. Store maple syrup for up to a month in the refrigerator until it spoils.
Agave nectar works best as a sugar substitute for tequila drinks, but it also works with other white or clear liquors. Keeping a 1:1 ratio with water, pour both into a saucepan and heat until the liquids simmer; cool and pour into an empty container. Agave nectar keeps refrigerated as long as the other simple syrup sugar substitutes. Alternatively, mix agave nectar by itself into drinks, but you should add about a third less than the recipe requires because it's much sweeter than sugar.
Adding ginger to your simple syrup allows you to cut the amount of sugar needed and adds some spice to your syrup. If you want something a little more exotic, substitute half of the ginger with lemongrass. Ginger syrup requires one part ginger, four parts sugar and six parts water. Peel the ginger root and cut it into thin slices. Pour the water into a saucepan; bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the sugar and ginger and let the contents simmer for 20 minutes. Let it cool and then pour it it into an empty container. Ginger syrup will only last about 10 days to 2 weeks before it spoils.
If you don't feel like making your own simple syrup, buy it. You can find simple syrup made from pure cane sugar online or at the grocery. Another type of manufactured simple syrup substitutes the sugar with stevia, completely cutting the calories. You can also make your own with a 1:1 ratio of water and chopped stevia leaves. Place the leaves in a glass container; pour in 1/3 of the water and seal the container. Let the mixture steep for a day; strain it into a saucepan; add the remaining water and simmer for 20 minutes.