Lemon simple syrup feels like a classic combination that has been missing from our collection. So many cocktail recipes have fresh lemon juice for the bright acidic addition and simple syrup for sweetness. So, what better, more efficient, process than to combine the two?!
The VIP Ingredient
The most important ingredient note for this recipe is to use fresh lemons! Do not use lemon juice that comes from those little squeeze bottles. If you do, the final result will be less potent in flavor, and more bitter and metallic.
Plus, you’ll want to use fresh lemons for the zest, which adds lots of lemony flavor!
How to Make Lemon Simple Syrup
To learn more about the ins and outs of making a basic simple syrup, be sure to check out our guide to making basic simple syrup. This version has the same principles, but a few extra (simple!) steps.
Zest the Lemons
Use a microplane or fine grater to shave – or zest- off the yellow skin of a whole lemon. Be sure to use a whole lemon, before you’ve sliced it to juice, so it’s easier to zest.
There’s no need to press too hard when zesting. It’s important to not get the white pith below, as it has a bitter flavor.
Prep the Sugar
The key to enhancing the bright lemon flavor from the zest, just as in those recipes, is to rub the zest with the sugar.
This is my favorite technique to use when baking with fresh lemon zest. The oil from the zest is released into the sugar while you rub them together, which infuses the sugar with all the flavor!
You’ll see the texture of the sugar quickly become more like wet sand as the oils are released. Rub them together until this texture is created, and until all the sugar is incorporated with the lemon zest completely.
Simmer the Syrup
After those two steps for the zest, it’s time to continue on just as you would with other simple syrups: simmering sugar and liquid together.
For lemon simple syrup, cut those zested lemons in half and juice them! Instead of water, we’re using all lemon juice in the syrup. If you prefer a less concentrated lemon flavor in the syrup, feel free to substitute half with water instead.
Combine the lemon zest sugar and fresh lemon juice in a small saucepan, and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally as the sugar dissolves.
Once the sugar dissolves, you’re ready to strain and use (or store) the syrup.
Strain the Syrup
Along with the zest, there will likely be some fresh lemon pulp in the syrup too, so I find it’s best to strain it out before using and/or storing the syrup.
You can use the syrup as is, without straining, but just know these pieces will be in it, and you’ll want to use it sooner rather than later. The syrup will keep longer if there are no fruit pieces in it because otherwise, they will ferment faster, spoiling the syrup.
To remove even more fine pulp or zest pieces, line the fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth.
Ways to Use Homemade Lemon Syrup
The best thing about lemon simple syrup, besides how easy it is, is how versatile the final product is!
The syrup on hand is excellent to add to any cocktail you throw together, especially when you might add a squeeze of fresh lemon, too. Try it in your favorite margarita recipe, a honey Bee’s Knees cocktail, or even a lemon drop!
- Stir it into your favorite iced tea or cup of hot tea.
- Lemonade! Similar to our lavender lemonade recipe, the simple syrup aspect means you’ll have a smooth drink with fully dissolved sugar! Plus, the added lemon gives it an extra tang.
- Simple syrup is also excellent for brushing on cake layers for extra moisture and flavor. Brush it on a pound cake, almond lemon cake, or any cake flavor that will benefit from bright lemon.
- While it’s not thick like maple syrup, you can still drizzle it on top of pancakes or waffles — it’s great with fresh raspberries on top, too!
- Add it to club soda or seltzer for a simple soda-like drink, too!
- Toss it with freshly cut fruit to make a bright fruit salad for brunch or dessert.
Storage & Freezing
Once cooled, store room-temperature lemon syrup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, depending on how well it has been strained. If the syrup appears cloudy or has any off smells, it’s time to toss it and make a new batch.
I like to use a mason jar or a squeeze bottle for easy use.
You can freeze lemon syrup, too! For this, I use the 1-ounce Souper Cubes tray because the individual serving amounts make using a little at a time, from the freezer, super easy!
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe 10-Minute Fresh Lemon Simple Syrup
- In a bowl rub the lemon zest and granulated sugar together until the texture of wet sand forms, and all the granules have been rubbed together. This releases the lemon oil into the sugar for more flavor.¼ cup lemon zest, 1 cup granulated sugar
- In a saucepan, whisk together the lemon zest and sugar mixture, fresh lemon juice, and granulated sugar.1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 cup water
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat until sugar is dissolved completely. Remove from heat and strain the zest and any pulp through a fine mesh sieve. If you want to remove even finer particles, use a cheesecloth.
- Let cool and transfer to a glass jar or other airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks.
- Recipe yields approximately 1 1/2 cup simple syrup.