Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sweet Tea the Simple Way

I'm never sure whether it's worth passing on little tips like this, because once you start using them they seems so obvious. But, for years I was completely unaware of simple syrup, so I can only figure other people must still be, too.

I've lived in the South all my life, and for all my life I've heard complaints about how once iced tea has been cooled it's impossible to sweeten it. These complaints usually come when I'm traveling in the North with fellow Southerners or here at home when eating at one of those snooty upscale places that have the nerve to say, "we only have unsweet tea." And I'll watch as a dedicated sweet-tea lover dumps packet after packet of sugar into the glass, only to have it sink undissolved to the bottom, leaving a glass of unsweet tea with an inch of sugar sludge at the bottom.

I gave up on trying to sweeten tea with granulated sugar many years ago and just drink it unsweetened--which is fine with me, since I like both sweet and unsweet tea. But, my openmindedness seems to be uncommon: most people are either dogmatically sweet or unsweet in their preferences and abhor the other kind. This was always a problem when people would drop by my house unexpectedly: I like to offer them something to drink, and most people like iced tea when they're not up for something alcoholic, but my visitors always seem equally split between the sweet and unsweet camps.

But not long ago, while trying out recipes for various summertime drinks like the mojito, I stumbled across a trick that is perfect for sweetening even the iciest-cold iced tea: simple syrup.

Simple syrup is just plain old sugar dissolved in a small amount of water. But, for sweetening drinks, it's magic: unlike regular sugar, the syrup blends right in and merges with the cold liquid. You can use it for all sort of alcoholic drinks, too, like margaritas and daiquiris, and stop messing around with those sickly-sweet mixes.

So, now I always have pitcher of unsweet iced tea in my fridge along with a little container of simple syrup. Pour a splash of syrup in the bottom of a glass, add ice and unsweet tea, and even the most die-hard sweet tea fan will be satisfied.

Now if we could just get those snooty restaurants to start putting little pitchers of simple syrup on the table . . .

Simple Syrup

Use a 1-to-1 ratio of sugar to water. So, to make 2 cups, bring 1 cup of water to a boil and stir in 1 cup of sugar, stirring till the sugar is fully disolved. Cool and store in a closed container in the refrigerator.


Paul said...

This is a good tip for sweet tea lovers !!

Winston said...

Honey does same thing. I had to quit the sugar thing years ago and have tried all kinds of sweetners. Liquid Sweet n Low does it for me. No stirring required and for me, no artificial taste. I now use it for tea and coffee.

west_rhino said...

Personally, I sweeeten tea at home after taking out the tea bags at a ratio of one cup sugar to a half gallon of tea.

When out, if Splenda isn't available 1:1 pink packets and sugar packets is the blend.

As to the snooty, particulary carpet bagger dining establishments, that won't serve sweet tea, they usually don't know how to cook real grits either
and ain't real southern either.

April said...

Simple syrup is also the basis for your lemonade and fruit punch-type drinks if you want to do it the old-fashioned way and actually use real fruit. Mmmm... homemade limeade. Yummers.


Sunnie said...

I've lived in the south 26 out of 31 years...was born here in Charleston, moved away at 12, back at 17, and I have NEVER liked iced tead, no matter what form. Does this mean I'm not a true southerner? I adore grits, which I learned from all my moving around is totally a southern thing. I just have never enjoyed the taste of tea. I must be weird as a southerner. LOL

west_rhino said...

sunnie, you can still be a Southerner and not like Iced Tea, implicitly sweet tea, but if you eschew RC Cola and Moon Pies... we might have to follow up on on the ratio of rice to potatoes appearing in your diet as a primary starch and whatcha cook your collards and black eye peas with.

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