Lilacs make one of the best syrups I’ve ever tasted. They are so fragrant and full of spring flavors that they go with a lot of different dishes and drinks. Simply add a spoonful of lilac syrup to sparkling water and it will elevate your drinking experience drastically. The syrup also pairs very well with gin and vodka, just saying. And, it makes a great syrup for pancakes or for sweetening your smoothie.
I use florets (I used white and purple ones) of the common lilac bush which blooms in spring.
For this lilac syrup, I use florets of the common lilac bush (Syringa vulgaris), which blooms in different colors like violet, white, or purple for a few weeks in spring, usually in May.
Lilac florets steeping in syrup for 24-48 hours.
How to make lilac syrup?
The most common way to make lilac syrup is to heat water, sugar, lemon and lilac florets and let them simmer for a few minutes. I, on the other hand, prefer lilac syrup when it has steeped in cold simple syrup. So here is what I do: I heat water, sugar, and citric acid (or lemon juice), then let it cool and add the lilac florets.
I think this method preserves the delicate lilac flavor best. It’s a gentle way of infusing the simple syrup with lilac flavor. I usually let the lilac florets steep between 24 and 48 hours in a cool place, like the refrigerator. After that, the syrup is ready to use.
By the way, it is really important that you only use the lilac florets without the tiny green stems. They can make your syrup taste bitter. I ignored this suggestion the first time I made the syrup, because I was too lazy and it felt like a pain to remove the green stems. Guess what? The syrup turned out bitter. So I’ve learned my lesson, and now always remove everything green from the florets.
Homemade Lilac Syrup
Yield: 1 cup (240 ml)
You can easily make lilac syrup at home, using the florets of the common lilac bush. I do not cook the florets in the syrup but let them steep in cooled simply syrup, preserving the delicate lilac flavor. I like the syrup best when added to sparkling water, gin- or vodka-based drinks or as floral syrup for desserts.
2 loosely or 1 tightly packed cup lilac florets
1 cups + 1 Tbsp (225 g) granulated sugar
2/3 cups (160 ml) water
1 teaspoon citric acid (or lemon juice to taste)*
Optional, for coloring: 2-3 blueberries or blackberries
Updated 07/2019 (see note)
In a saucepan, heat water and sugar – you don’t have to bring it to a boil – until the sugar has dissolved. Take the saucepan from the heat and stir in citric acid. Let cool.
In the meantime, remove the tiny florets from the bunch and make sure to also remove the tiny green stems since they can make your syrup bitter (happened to me before). Do not rinse them under water since they will lose a lot of flavor. Just make sure you remove all the bugs, in case there are any.
Add the florets to a jar and pour over the cool sugar water. Push the florets towards the bottom with a spoon and make sure that almost all of them are covered in syrup. Put the lid on.
Put the jar in the fridge and let the florets steep in the syrup for 24-48 hours. Stir a few times during this time. Taste the syrup after 24 hours and if it is saturated enough for your taste, strain it. If not, leave the jar in the fridge for another 24 hours.
Pour the syrup through a mesh strainer and gently push the florets with a spoon. I also recommend to additionally pour the syrup through a strainer lined with a cheesecloth to reduce the amount of pollen, which can influence the shelf life negatively.
Bring the syrup to a rolling boil and bottle it in sterilized jars. If you don’t boil it, the syrup will keep a few weeks in the fridge. The cooked syrup will keep for several months in the fridge. To make it keep longer, you have to can it.
Look for citric acid in the canning section at your local supermarket. It is often located near the pectin and other canning ingredients. I’ve also seen it in the bulk sections of coop supermarkets where they keep spices .If you can’t find it, use lemon juice instead of citric acid. For the amount in this recipe, you’ll need 1-2 lemons (depending on how sour they are). Using lemon juice might decrease the shelf life.
Update 07/2019: I adapted the recipe for a longer shelf life. The original recipe called for 2/3 cups (150 g) granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon citric acid.