Sugar syrup is quite convenient. To be honest, I don't really understand, how bars (*cough Le Lion Cafe de Paris) buy commercial products and don't make it themselves. It is really easy - and you need just a digital scale for a very good consistency. But you also save thousands of "currency" per year if you do so. You do have further the choice between different strengths and variations: simple syrup (my least favorite version) - which is 1:1 - rich syrup (my workhorse) which is 2:1 ratio - candy rock (you don't really need it) which is up to 7:1 - demerara syrup - I would suggest again a 2:1 ratio - this time though with demerara sugar (...). But this is not the story here.
For normal cocktails, rich syrup does a very good job. However fine caster sugar, works often better because of following reasons:
- It doesn't dilute with additional water - hence you have better control about the strength of the drink.
- The sugar granules are acting as "abrasives" - to help to extract e.g. herb essences, without raw force (which would influence the taste of the herb massively).
- It keeps the "ritual" of classic drinks
I am usually not very romantic - but rituals are very important in a bar. Otherwise you could do premade Old Fashioneds and store them in a freezer... It for sure taste the same, if you are doing it right.
- Caster sugar is also a "foaming agent" - improves the foam head on your drink.
- Caster sugar (sucrose) has a far more consistent sweetness - sugar syrup depends on the preparation (heat - sucrose will change to Sucrose and Fructose) and obviously the recipe, which isn't necessary always consistent.
These are points which are in the operation important - but I can still understand, that some bartenders are taking the shortcut to use syrup - as it is just far more convenient (especially if you don't have super fine caster sugar, but normal crystal sugar).
However there is one massive disadvantage, when it comes to sugar syrup in your MEP. Measuring the right amount for recipes - like homemade liqueurs, infusions, punches etc.
If you are analytical working like me, you have understood, how many grams of sugar leads to which kind of sweetness.
- A sweet (soft) drink usually has about 90 to 120 grams of sugar (sucrose).
- These are your usual soft drinks.
- A stronger drink with little "obvious" sweetness has about 25 to 55 g
- E.g. the "fraudulent" rums are in this ballpark.
Hence if you make a homemade soda, or an Old Fashioned, it is very beneficial to understand, how much sugar in grams you have to add. With sugar syrup, that becomes insanely difficult - as sugar is a solution, it doesn't the volumes don't easily add up. Hence it becomes very unpractical, to calculate the sugar content of the recipe.
My verdict: use sugar syrup were it works - but don't forget your caster sugar!