The Demerara sugar is not only sweetening your cocktail, but it is creating a whole new layer of flavors. Earthy caramel notes, molasses, and kind of toasty sugar notes work amazingly well with the matching selection of spirits. Demerara syrup can lift your cocktails to a new level. Use it in an Old Fashioned cocktail to see how different the taste can be - just by replacing the sweetening part of your cocktail recipe.
What is Demerara sugar?
Demerara sugar is a raw, flavorful, and unrefined sugar made from sugar cane. It's crunchy and coarse-grained with light brown sugar crystals. Its origin is in British Guyana, where it ships from the port of Demerara, hence the name Demerara sugar. It's the result of the first crystallization during processing cane sugar out of cane juice.
Because Demerara sugar is less refined, it keeps some of the tasty notes of toffee and caramel coming from molasses. Molasses usually is removed when producing refined white sugar, creating that clean sweet taste we're so used to. Using Demerara in syrup adds rich and warm toffee molasses notes.
Demerara sugar not easy to get, and only a few supermarkets sell it. But luckily, you can also order it online, for instance, here on Amazon.
Substitute for Demerara syrup
If you can't get a hand on Demerara and have to substitute it, there are not many options. Your best alternative is using Turbinado. Turbinado is also a less refined sugar made from sugar cane. But while Turbinado is coarser than conventional refined sugar types, it is still way finer than Demerara. It is also less sticky, having almost the same dry, free-flowing character of refined white sugar. Therefore it offers fewer notes of caramel which results in an overall lighter flavor.
If you can't get Turbinado sugar, the last bet is to use brown sugar. But be aware that the results will be far from what you're were initially aiming for.
When to use Demerara syrup
Demerara is famous for its deep caramel flavor, and so is Demerara syrup. There are popular use cases like Old Fashioned or Manhattan cocktails. Due to the simplicity of those drinks, you can easily detect the difference the syrup makes. Also, their base spirits pair well with it.
Because the Demerara has these strong toffee and caramel notes, it naturally works well with aged spirits. An old Whiskey, Brandy, or Rum are excellent fits. They tend to offer similar aromas, and rum even is made from the same raw product, sugar cane. That's also why Demerara syrup is often used in tiki cocktails, where Rum is the base spirit.
In general, you can use it as a substitute in any cocktail recipe that includes simple syrup. But I definitely think it works better for some cocktails than for others. That is due to the heavy, warm caramel notes. Imagine adding toffee notes to a light summer cocktail with a fruity and floral taste. It won't work, or at least it won't turn out as good as with a classic simple syrup.
As a rule of thumb: try to imagine how your cocktail would taste with a hint of caramel. If it feels like a good idea, go for it and try it out.
How to make it at home
Creating a Demerara simple syrup is similar to making regular simple syrup. The ratio is the same, using one part sugar and one part water. If you want to create a rich Demerara syrup, use two parts sugar for one part water and follow the same process.
- 1 cup Demerara sugar
- 1 cup Water
- 1 splash High proof vodka (optional)
- Add sugar and water into a small pan.
- The sugar has to dissolve completely to make a smooth Demerara syrup. You will achieve this by bringing it to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer immediately after that and stir the syrup until the sugar dissolved completely.
- Take it off the heat and let it cool down for a few minutes.
- Pour it into an airtight container and put it in the fridge. You can store it there for up to a month.
- To extend the life of the syrup, add a splash of high-proof vodka.