Does Simple Syrup Go Bad? (And How Long Can It Last)

Does Simple Syrup Go Bad

Simple syrup is a combination of sugar and water.  They are combined to make a sweet syrup that can be mixed in cocktails or other sweet drinks or used in recipes or canning projects.  Syrups can be light or heavy depending on the amount of sugar added compared to water.  Syrups can be prepared using hot or cold processes.

Simple syrup does have a shelf life of one to six months once opened.  This depends on proper storage techniques, the method of preparation, and the ratio of water to sugar. Unopened simple syrup has a long shelf life and while you should rely on the expiration date for freshness, it will probably last much longer past that date.

If you have a bottle of simple syrup in your cabinet or fridge, I’m going to tell you how long it might last, how to store it, and how to tell if it’s gone bad.  Then we’ll get into some types of simple syrups and a few using sugar alternatives. Let’s dig in!

Does Simple Syrup Go Bad Over Time?

Simple syrup will go bad over time.  Sugar tends to last indefinitely on its own.  When combined with water in simple syrup, it’s more likely the water that will cause the product to degrade.  This is due to the evaporation of the water from the solution altering the ratio of sugar to water.  This allows microorganisms to grow, and the syrup will go bad.

How Long Does Simple Syrup Last?

Simple syrup tends to last around six months.  This depends on the dilution rate.  If there is a one-to-one ratio of water to sugar, the syrup will generally last one month.  I there is a two to one ratio, or twice as much sugar as water, this solution will last around six months.  If there is two parts water to one part sugar, it will last around the one month time period.  Some simple syrups have additives that make them last longer.

There are two ways of making simple syrup – a cold process and a hot process.  The hot process sterilizes the syrup, and thus, it has a longer shelf-life.

How Long Does Homemade Simple Syrup Last?

Making simple syrup is very easy.  I make a batch when I’m canning fruit or making lemonade.  Depending on how sweet you want your fruit or drink, you can make a light or heavy syrup.  For a basic recipe, mix one cup of water and one cup of sugar in a small saucepan.  Heat and stir on low until the sugar is dissolved.   Turn off the heat and let it cool down a bit.  You should end up with a crystal-clear liquid.  Once cooled, pour it into a sterile jar and place it in the fridge.

If crystals form during your process, you’ve heated the mixture up too quickly.  It’s best to start again.

Once cooled, sealed, and stored in the fridge, you should then use it in about a month.  If you want to keep some more for the long term, you can use your pressure canner to preserve some jars.  That will vacuum seal it, and you’ll have simple syrup available for the next year.

You can also make simple syrup without the heat by stirring the water and sugar together until it is dissolved.  If you choose this method, use the syrup within a few weeks to a month.

Some folks also add a tablespoon of vodka to their mixture (in either method) and claim that it extends the shelf-life.

If you decide to add flavors, add them during the heating process or add them to the jar to infuse.  Flavors tend to shorten the shelf-life further, so use this syrup within a week or two.  Options include a sprig of rosemary, orange rind, cinnamon stick, or vanilla.  Do not leave the additive in the syrup for the long term; just infuse it for a while and remove it before storing.

How Can you Tell if Simple Syrup Has Gone Bad?

  • Simple syrup first shows its decay by a cloudy appearance. When simple syrup is fresh, it’s clear and smooth.
  • Simple syrup can develop a foul odor.
  • Simple syrup is made from sugar and water and it can mold. The water can condense and evaporate in the container, which changes the dilution percentage of the syrup.  This can cause microorganisms to grow and the syrup to go bad.  To be safe, toss it and get a new batch.

How to Properly Store Simple Syrup

  1. Store the syrup in an airtight container that has been sterilized. Sterilize the container by rinsing it with boiling water and then eliminating particulates in the container.  Starting with a clean container will ensure a longer shelf life.
  2. The syrup is best stored in a glass container; mason jars work well as they have a tight lid.
  3. Keep the simple syrup in the refrigerator. This will slow the growth of any bacteria.
  4. Store-bought simple syrup will not advise you to place it in the refrigerator, but it will make it last longer and it will be freshly chilled for your drinks.  In this case, place it in your pantry.
  5. Ensure the lid is airtight to prevent contaminants and odors from entering the syrup.  Since crystals will form on the top of the bottle, it’s a good idea to wipe the top or cap clean once in a while with hot or boiling water.
  6. Keep the syrup out of direct sunlight.

Can you Get Sick from Eating Old Simple Syrup?

Technically, you will not get sick from the old simple syrup.  There can be mold formations and different types of bacteria growing, so it’s probably a good idea to toss the whole bottle.   Some people advocate scraping the mold off and still using the syrup, but I argue that the chemistry is off, and it will just make anything you add it to less desirable.  Just open a new bottle, and maybe next time, purchase a smaller bottle – one that you can consume quicker.

Alternatives to Simple Syrup

Stirrings Pure Cane Simple Syrup Cocktail Mixer

Stirrings Pure Cane Simple Syrup Cocktail Mixer, 12 ounce bottle | Pack of (1) |

We start our tour of simple syrups with this one, which is what you will typically find.  Its ingredients are pure cane sugar and filtered water.  There are no preservatives or additives and no high fructose corn syrup.  You can add this to your coffee, recipes, or cocktails.  They are proud of their 14 grams of carbohydrates per serving.

Jordan's Skinny Syrups Sugar Free Simple Syrup - 0 Calories 0 Sugar 0 Carbs - Gluten Free, Keto Friendly, Made in the USAJordan’s Skinny Syrups

This gluten-free, keto-friendly syrup has no calories, no sugar, and no carbohydrates.  The sweetness comes from sucralose and erythritol.  These are not great ingredients from a natural foods perspective, but if carbohydrates numbers are important, this is definitely an option.

NuNaturals Premium Plant Based Simple Syrup, Sugar-Free, Stevia Sweetened, 16 OunceNuNaturals Plant-Based Simple Syrup

Made with glycerin, stevia extract, and water, this is a vegan syrup and one that is good for those avoiding sugar altogether.  It is highly concentrated – a 16 oz bottle contains 385 servings.  Check the label for shelf life.  You can use this to sweeten coffee, ice cream, drinks, or baked goods.

Liber & Co. Caramelized Fig Syrup (17 oz) Made with California FigsLiber & Co Caramelized Fig Syrup

In addition to sugar, this syrup uses fig concentrate to add a unique flavor.  A couple of cocktail recipes using this syrup are on the back of the label – one based on whiskey, one based on rum.   The aromas are subtle spice, honey, and dried fruit flavors.

Pink House Alchemy Lavender Syrup

Pink House Alchemy Lavender Syrup - 16 oz Simple Syrup Cocktail Drink Mix - Use To Flavor Coffee - Dessert Topping - Using Only Fresh Flowers (L16) Here is a simple syrup made with pure cane sugar, whole lavender flowers, and lactic acid for preservation.  It has a citrus, spice, and mint aromas.  Suggested drinks include a Hummingbird which is club soda, simple syrup and lemon over ice, and a cocktail served with gin.  This woman-owned company manufactures its syrups in small batches and manages all processes, from growing the lavender flowers to bottling the syrup.

Swoon Simple Syrup

Swoon Zero Sugar Simple Syrup - Natural 1:1 Liquid Sugar Substitute - Sweetness from Monk Fruit - Sugar Free, Keto Friendly, Zero Carbs This syrup is sweetened with monk fruit.  It is keto-friendly, vegan, gluten-free, and diabetic-friendly.  It has a taste that is the same as sugar but from a different source.  Monkfruit has antioxidants and is a more natural sugar source.

Related Questions

What Are Some Flavors of Simple Syrup?

Simple syrups can be made with brown or white granulated sugars.  They can be flavored with honey, rosemary, cinnamon, hibiscus, lavender, and blueberry.  The shelf life would be similar to the guidelines above.  It’s always a good idea to use the simple syrup within a month or two after opening the jar, store it sealed, and check for signs of spoilage every time you go to use it.  Remember, you can always whip up a new batch on the stove and add your own flavor.  The flavors will need to meld a bit before use, but you are completely in control of your ingredients.

Is Simple Syrup Vegan?

Whether simple syrup is vegan or not depends on the source of the sugar.  May sugars are processed using bone char.  Some vegans avoid refined sugars because animal parts are used.  This depends on your beliefs.  The good news is that there are vegan simple syrups available, or you can make your own with vegan-certified sugars.

Can Simple Syrup be Frozen?

You can extend the life of simple syrup by sticking it in the freezer.  Make sure you use a sterile container that seals well.  Be careful using glass containers in the freezer as they can burst.  This mixture may freeze partway or solid depending on the sugar content, so store it upright.  Soak the container in warm water to thaw.   You could keep your simple syrup in the freezer for up to a year.

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Choosing Nutrition Team

Here at Choosing Nutrition, our goal is to help people with making smarter food choices. Whether you're wondering about vegan, keto, paleo, or other diets, we'll help you determine which options fit your nutritional lifestyle. Our staff is composed of registered dieticians, nutritionists, and health-conscious individuals.

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