How long does simple syrup last? Storage tips and tricks

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Simple syrups are easy to make, but one tough question lingers: How long does simple syrup last? Don’t miss these storage hacks. 

A glass of ice next to a jar of citrus slices and bottles of colorful syrups on a bar counter.
Photo credit: Pexels.

Whether you use them for cakes, coffee or cocktails, simple syrup is a must-have ingredient. Made with a base of sugar and water, they’re inexpensive to make at home and easy to modify with different kinds of sugar and flavorings. 

The best part is they can last a long time if stored properly. Otherwise, bacteria and mold can occur. Proper storage methods for simple syrup are essential to avoid these unsavory contaminants. 

Proper storage techniques 

Always store homemade simple syrups in the fridge. Even though sugar is a preservative, water and flavoring agents like spices or fresh fruit can either spoil or bring contaminants into the mix, causing it to go bad faster than plain simple syrup. 

Store-bought simple syrups, on the other hand, may contain some preservatives, so they may be able to be stored at room temperature. With commercial syrups, it is best to follow the date on the packaging label. 

A clear glass jar filled with red syrup, sealed with a gold lid, standing on a wooden surface.
Berry syrup. Photo credit: YayImages.

Best storage containers

An airtight container with a lid is a must to keep syrups as fresh as possible. These are the best storage containers for simple syrup: 

  • Mason jars
  • Bottles
  • Syrup dispensers 
  • Glass containers
  • Plastic containers 

Pour spouts and corks are porous, which can let air into the container. This could potentially spoil your syrup sooner. 

Bartender pouring simple syrup substitutes into a mason jar with lime and mint for a cocktail.
Photo credit: YayImages.

Shelf life of simple syrup

When stored in the fridge in a food-safe, airtight container, plain simple syrup can last for about one to three months. If the syrup has any mix-ins like fruit, flowers or spices, such as lavender syrup, the shelf life will be shorter, about one to two weeks. 

The best thing to do is write the date you made the syrup on a piece of tape stuck to the jar. This will help you keep track of its expiration date as you monitor the syrup for signs it is going bad. 

Signs of spoilage

If you discover that your simple syrup has a cloudy appearance, this is a sign of contamination. It’s time to toss it. The same goes if it has an odor or the flavor is off. Give the syrup a sniff or a taste test — if it smells and tastes okay, it is probably safe to use. 

While it’s never nice to toss a delicious creation, thankfully, syrups are inexpensive to make. You can easily cook up a new batch. 

Top-down view of a glass of clear liquid known as simple syrup, on a marble surface.
Simple syrup. Photo credit: YayImages.

Extending the shelf life 

Freezing simple syrups can extend their shelf life. You can put the whole jar or bottle in the freezer, provided it is a freezer-safe container. 

One of the best hacks is to pour it into an ice cube tray to make single-serving cubes that are perfect for a quick cocktail. When you’re ready to use frozen syrup, thaw it in the fridge, at room temperature or defrost in the microwave. 

But if you prefer to keep your syrups at the ready, there are a few things you can do. Sugar content, acids and alcohol, as well as your storage container, can all play a part.

  • Add preservatives like vodka, lemon juice or even vinegar to the syrup, about a quarter ounce per cup of syrup. However, doing this can change the flavor, brix and viscosity of the syrup. 
  • Make rich simple syrup. Many syrups use a 1-1 ratio of sugar to water, but a rich syrup contains a 1.5-1 or 2-1 ratio. With more sugar in the mix, the syrup will not only be thicker and sweeter, but the extra sugar acts as a preservative as well. 
  • Use new jars or sterilize reused containers before adding any syrups. Follow tips for canning for the safest way to clean a jar. 
  • Be sure the lid is screwed on tightly. A proper seal prevents air from getting in. 

Next time you make simple syrup, take care to extend the shelf life from the very beginning. You’ll be glad you did because you can enjoy your creations as long as possible. 

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Susannah Brinkley Henry is the cocktail content creator behind the blog Feast + West. Her work has been featured in Southern Living, Oprah Daily, Buzzfeed and more. In 2019, her website was a finalist in the Saveur Blog Awards for Best Entertaining Blog. As a professional graphic designer, photographer, writer, and recipe developer, Susannah helps home bartenders and drink enthusiasts level up their cocktail skills.

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