Lemon Simple Syrup

Fresh Lemons. Photo © Molly Watson
  • 20 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings
Ratings (23)

Lemon syrup is a lemon-infused sugar syrup that adds tons of lemon flavor to anything it's stirred into or drizzled over. It's super easy to make (lemon juice, sugar, some lemon zest, that's all you need!), and adds both sweetness and lemon kick to cocktails and desserts. Best of all, use it to sweeten lemonade or iced tea for the best versions of those summer thirst-quenchers you've ever had.

Lemon syrup keeps, covered and chilled, almost indefinitely. It's mainly sugar, so unless something truly funky happens, you're likely to use it up well before anything about it "turns." (Technically, people might say the syrup lasts up to six months, but I've had a jar of the stuff last well over a year in the fridge.) Having a party? Go ahead and make as big a batch as sounds good!

What You'll Need

  • 2 to 4 lemons
  • 1/2 cup sugar

How to Make It

  1.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut off and reserve the zest, or bright yellow part of the peel, of 1 of the lemons. You can also use a microplane zester, but then you'll have to strain the syrup at the end instead of simply lifting out the strips of zest—the choice is yours! However you zest the lemon, be sure to focus on the bright yellow part, avoiding the bitter white pith below.
  2. Juice the lemons so that you have 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice.
  1. Combine the juice with the sugar in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture just to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the syrup is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the reserved lemon zest. Transfer the syrup to a small metal bowl and let it sit until cool, about 20 minutes.
  3. Lift out the zest, letting any excess syrup drip off and back into the bowl, and discard the zest. If you ended up with lots of small pieces of zest, strain the syrup through a sieve. The zest can turn bitter if left to sit in the syrup while it's stored, so remove and discard it! 

How to Use Lemon Syrup

You can use the syrup warm on pancakes or waffles or drizzled over pound cake or fruit salad (a little goes a long way!).

Or, let the syrup cool to room temperature or chill it for adding to beverages. I like to use it to make lemonade or this rosemary mint cooler. It's also lovely in cocktails such as this Lemon Drop Champagne Cocktail.

As mentioned above, you can keep it stored, covered and chilled, for up at least six months.