Sugar or Simple Syrup is the simplest thing in your cocktails, right? Just measure out sugar and water and mix them, heating if necessary. Well, that’s correct, but the moment you start doing conversions, such as substituting 2:1 in a recipe that calls for 1:1, you start running into a lot of problems.
The main problem is that 2:1 is not twice as sugar loaded as 1:1; it’s actually only 1.33 times sweeter. But it’s not really as simple as that. Mixing two cups of sugar and one cup of water doesn’t give you three cups of syrup; in reality it gives you closer to 2.1 cups.
Volume or weight?
The problem starts with the recipe for syrup. Most recipes call to measure out 2 cups of sugar and one cup of water. Water is easy, but how much exactly is 2 cups of sugar? The main problem is that sugar doesn’t pack very easily, and this means the weight of sugar used can vary wildly. Estimates online put it around 0.7g/ml. My own measurements showed it to be 0.9g/ml, but it will probably depend on how much you shake the measuring cup and how level your table is. If only recipes gave weights instead of volumes, this would be so much easier! But the world uses volume, so we push on.
Another thing I didn’t realise when starting out was that sugar is read in volume, not weight. The recipe I read used oz as measurements, and I thought oz referred to weight… I wasted so much sugar! Thankfully the density of sugar is close to 1
When sugar dissolves in water, the water and sugar molecules interact closely, meaning that the total volume decreases. Since water molecules are smaller, it’s actually the water that “fits into the spaces” between the sugar. A quick test in my house showed that dissolving 100ml sugar in 50ml water gave 100-105ml of syrup (variance is due to my measuring cup being big). This gives it a density of 1.36g/ml. This website gives me a density of 1.31g/ml. It’s probably more accurate, so for the calculations I used 1.31 instead. For 1:1 syrup, the same website gives me a density of 1.22g/ml.
Brix is basically %sugar by weight. If you have 100g of 60brix syrup, that means 60g is sugar and 40g is water.
Due to volume vs weight problem, Brix in 2:1 syrup is closer to 64 from my measurements. I didn’t measure 1:1, but online sources put it as 48 Brix, so let’s go with that.
Density of 1:1 (vol) sugar syrup = 1.22g/ml, 48 brix
Density of 2:1 (vol) sugar syrup = 1.31g/ml, 64 brix
Using 2:1 in place of 1:1 given in recipe
Recipe calls for 100ml of 1:1 syrup
- Weight of 100ml of 1:1 = 100*1.22 = 122g
- Weight of sugar in 122g syrup = 122*0.48= 58.56g
- Weight of 2:1 syrup required = 58.56/0.64 = 91.5g
- Volume of 2:1 syrup required = 91.5/1.31 = 69.8473ml
Hence 69.8 ml of 2:1 syrup is required. (roughly 100ml x 0.7)
Using 1:1 in place of 2:1 given in recipe
Recipe calls for 100ml of 2:1 syrup
- Weight of 100ml of 2:1 = 100*1.31 = 131g
- Weight of sugar in 131g syrup = 131*0.64 = 83.84g
- Weight of 1:1 syrup required = 83.84/0.48 = 174.6667g
- Volume of 1:1 syrup required = 174.6667/1.22 = 143.1694ml
Hence 143ml of 1:1 syrup is required. (roughly 100ml x 1.4)
Dilution of your drink
In my opinion, stirring your drink for a few seconds more will release more water into the drink than calculating the added dilution of using 1:1 instead of 2:1. So I’ll leave it to you to do the calculation if you wish.
Honestly, the inaccuracy of measurements and the small volumes used in each cocktail means that just using 3/4 to replace 1:1 with 2:1 and 4/3 to replace 2:1 with 1:1 will probably be good enough unless you’re making industrial-sized cocktails. Still, I thought it useful to have a primer on the types of sugar syrup out there, since it is used in a good number of cocktails.