Cocktails (and alcohol in general) are a guilty pleasure for most people. The reason it’s framed as ‘guilty pleasure’ is that people are aware more than ever that most of our favourite cocktails are surprisingly high in calories.
This isn’t ideal when trying to watch your weight!
Unknowingly, one of the easiest ways to add calories to a drink is by using sugar syrup. This is a common ingredient in many cocktails as it’s used to add some additional sweetness and viscosity to the drink, but it also comes with a bump up in calories as an additional extra.
Therefore, in this article, we’ll be showing you how to use a low-carb, low-calorie alternative that tastes almost identical to sugar syrup. Read on to learn how to make sugar free syrup quickly and easily…
What Is Sugar Syrup
Sugar syrup is used in cocktails to enhance flavour, combine the flavour of different ingredients, add denseness (viscosity) to the drink, or make some drinks sweeter to cancel out more bitter flavours.
Sugar syrup is made from boiling equal parts sugar and water and leaving them to cool to create a sweet liquid that is known as sugar syrup (or simple syrup).
What Is Sugar Free Syrup
Sugar free syrup is (as the name suggests) a simple syrup that doesn’t contain sugar.
A store-bought sugar-free syrup is made from an active ingredient known as ‘Xylitol’ or ‘Swerve’. These artificial sweeteners are low-calorie sugar alternatives that are not absorbed by the body in the same way that sugar is.
While a sugar syrup is a versatile syrup used in many different cocktails including some of the most popular ones, there are a few key reasons why people don’t want a sugar syrup in their cocktail and opt for a sugar free syrup instead. A few of these reasons include:
- Following a low carb diet
- Follow a keto diet
- Diabetic and need to monitor blood sugar levels
- Some people just prefer a sugar free alternative
While the reasons for not wanting to use a sugar syrup are clear, why would you want to make a sugar free syrup instead of just buying one? Well, sugar free syrup is a unique product that is not necessarily mass-produced. Therefore, people either struggle to buy it locally or find that the price is quite high!
Making your own sugar-free syrup does sound like quite a large task but fortunately, the steps to making this are not too different from making your own sugar syrup. This is something we’ve covered before in our guide on how to make sugar syrup and not only is it easy to make sugar syrup (and therefore sugar free syrup), it will save you money too.
Sugar Free Syrup Ingredients
Regular sugar syrup is made using equal parts water and sugar in a 1:1 ratio.
When making a sugar-free syrup, the ratio of ingredients will depend on what ingredients you choose to use. A prime ingredient for any sugar-free syrup is a form of sweetener powder.
The reason we say a “form of sweetener powder” is because there are different options when it comes to sugar alternatives. One of the primary components of these powders is erythritol. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that is low in carbs and calories, making it a key component for people following a keto diet where this product is most commonly used.
Erythritol is used in baking and when adding sweetness to certain meals which is why it’s so popular with keto diets, the only issue when trying to use this for a sugar alternative in sugar syrup is that erythritol is not used with an exact 1:1 ratio to water like sugar is.
More importantly, erythritol crystallizes during the cooling process making it solid and ruining the desired end-product.
Therefore, you have two options when using this ingredient to make sugar-free syrup. You can either dilute erythritol in water before using it or an easier option is to buy a powder blend of erythritol mixed with another sugar alternative (the most popular being monk fruit or allulose).
We won’t recommend a specific brand but a quick Google search for erythritol & allulose or erythritol & monk fruit sweetener will give you multiple options. The ingredients needed for sugar-free syrup are:
- 1 part water
- 1 part erythritol blend
Glass Bottle (with an airtight sealable lid)
Additional Flavouring (this can be done to taste with items including cinnamon, mint, honey, or ginger)
How to Make Sugar Free Syrup
To make sugar-free syrup add 200g of erythritol mix and 240ml water to a saucepan. Bring the water to boil whilst occasionally stirring the mixture to prevent any granules from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Once the water has boiled, reduce the heat and leave to simmer until all the granules have dissolved – this step will still require some stirring but only occasionally.
Once dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and pour the liquid into a glass jar to cool – the liquid should flow easily so don’t expect it to be thick or slow to pour like honey as an example, this syrup is completely different.
Once cooled, transfer the syrup to a sealable glass bottle and refrigerate the finished product.
At this stage, you can also add some additional artificial sweetener if you prefer, as this is a sugar-free recipe most people will want to experiment with artificial sweeteners to get the taste just right (for your own preference).
How to Sweeten Sugar-Free Syrup
When making your own sugar syrup, there are a number of additional ingredients that you can use to either sweeten or alter the flavour of your sugar syrup. Subtle additions include:
When making a sugar-free syrup, some of these additions can also be used to change the flavour of the syrup – especially when making smaller batches of syrup.
The only thing to be cautious of when using “sweet” ingredients like honey is that they also come with a significant sugar and calorie count. If you are making sugar-free syrup for a low carb or low-calorie alternative, to sweeten it further you should look to use some artificial ingredients after boiling and cooling the syrup, like Stevia or Splenda.
These artificial sweeteners add to the sweetness of the syrup without being overpowering or adding to the calorie content of the syrup. I know most people think an artificial sweetener should be the active ingredient but these do not boil and dissolve in the same way as sugar so should only be used as an addition rather than a key ingredient.
Sugar Syrup Alternatives
If you’re looking for sugar syrup alternatives, there are some more natural and organic options that you could consider. While they will still have a sugar content (natural sugar) and therefore might not be ideal for those looking specifically for a low carb, low-calorie option, the following are great alternatives to sugar syrup:
Honey is rarely used in cocktails but it’s still a great combination to have with certain alcohol-based drinks. Honey rum and honey bourbon are two great examples of alcohol bases that are complemented well by the addition of honey.
Similar to honey, agave is a natural sweetener that works well with certain types of cocktails. Best known for its use in margaritas, you’ll also find that agave is a primary ingredient to make some of the most well-known spirits including agave-based tequila and mezcal.
The most debated alternative to sugar syrup is maple syrup. This will depend on individual taste as maple syrup definitely seems like a strange addition to a cocktail but the sweetness of maple syrup in a cocktail is quite subtle so this is definitely one to try for yourself before dismissing it as an option.