The easiest way to use syrups is as a substitute in drinks that already call for basic simple syrup, Kearns said. Think old fashioneds, daiquiris, and Tom Collins, among others. "Go wild and experiment," he said. "There's so much more out there than white-sugar-based simple syrup. It's like the vodka of sweeteners."
Then branch out, looking for pairings that play off of flavors in your favorite spirits, or might work for a take on a classic, said Missy Koefod, a co-founder of 18.21 Bitters. "Our lavender and sea salt syrup makes an incredible margarita," she said. "It's got that sweet, and salty." Herbal and citrus flavors tend to pair well with gin and vodka; spice can make play off a tequila or whiskey. (Check out our slideshow for a few fancier pairing possibilities.)
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If you opt to go off-recipe, expect to taste test and experiment. "From my experience with various bottled syrups, they tend to be on the sweeter side," said Lucinda Sterling of Middle Branch in New York City. Not only may a spoonful be plenty, but you may also need to add in some fresh citrus juice or vinegar to balance out the sugar rush. "That way, the drink isn't too sweet," she said.
Mocktails and sodas work, too. "We have a lot of people who drink them without alcohol," said Jamie Imhof, founder of Cinch Tonic Syrup, whose line includes No. 3, a hibiscus with ginger, almond and lemon, and No. 6, cucumber with basil, celery, white tea and lime.
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Think beyond the bar cart, too, said Kari Morris of Morris Kitchen. Moscow Mules aside, her ginger syrup might be mixed with seltzer for soda, used as a marinade for shrimp, or a sauce for ice cream. Albaum has used his syrups on snow cones and in pancake batter.