This lemon syrup is one you’ll be making, not just in summer, but all year long! It’s perfect to make lemonades, lemon soda, or to substitute for simple syrup in cocktails. Very tart and sweet, and incredibly refreshing, plus it’s so easy to make with only 2 ingredients.
This guide will show you how to make the best lemon simple syrup recipe that is tart and sweet, and still has the flavor of fresh lemon!
I love simple syrup and I love lemon. But store-bought lemon syrup is simply too sweet for my liking. Another problem I have with lemon simple syrup is that it doesn’t have a strong enough lemon flavor, especially the tartness of fresh lemon juice.
This recipe fixes all of that!
Why I love this recipe
- This easy lemon simple syrup recipe makes a syrup that is actually very tart and not super sweet. So if you love your lemon syrup to be more lemony and not just sugar, this syrup is for you!
- It is very adaptable! Of course if you do like a sweeter lemon syrup, you have the option of adding more sugar. This recipe guides you through that as well.
- Super easy to make! I don’t use the zest of the lemon in this recipe to save just that little extra prepping time. So you don’t even have to strain the syrup. However, if you do want to, you can absolutely add the zest as well.
- Lemon juice is added in two stages to enhance the flavor. Cooked lemon juice has a different flavor than fresh lemon juice. But this recipe includes BOTH, so you still have that fresh lemon juice flavor in the simple syrup.
- Perfect for making all kinds of beverages including lemonade and cocktails. This will be the best lemon syrup for cocktails that you’ll ever use.
- This is a lemon syrup concentrate recipe, so you can get a lot of lemon flavor from it. Plus it tastes so much better than lemonade concentrates you can buy from the store.
- More concentrated than a no-cook lemon syrup.
Ingredients to make lemon simple syrup
You only need TWO ingredients for this flavored simple syrup recipe.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Granulated white sugar (you can also use caster sugar)
You can use lemon zest as well, but that’s optional and I don’t use it here. The syrup is still super flavorful and delicious without it.
How to make lemon syrup
Strain the lemon juice to remove the seeds.
Divide the lemon juice into two portions (as stated in the recipe). Place the larger quantity of lemon juice with the granulated sugar in a small saucepan or pot, and heat over medium heat.
OPTIONAL STEP – To enhance the lemon flavor, add the lemon zest into the saucepan with the lemon juice and sugar. Make sure the lemon zest has very little of the “white pith”, as this can make the syrup bitter.
You can use lemon zest that has been peeled in large pieces OR you could use finely zested lemon peel as well.
Heat the sugar and lemon mixture while stirring to have the sugar dissolved over medium heat. Keep heating the mixture while occasionally stirring to bring the lemon syrup to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the syrup to simmer for about 8 – 10 minutes. The syrup should be thick, like a rich simple syrup. The cooking times will depend on the size of the pot you use, as well as the heat from your stove.
When the syrup has thickened, remove it from the heat and let it slightly cool. Add the remaining lemon juice and stir to combine. If you added lemon zest, strain the syrup before letting it cool to room temperature.
Let the syrup completely cool down, then pour it into a bottle or container and let it chill in the fridge.
Now you have the BEST homemade lemon syrup ready in the fridge for you to make all kinds of delicious drinks all year long!
Why add lemon juice in two stages? What does this achieve?
You would have noticed that in this lemon syrup recipe I add lemon juice at the beginning to simmer, and then at the end as well.
Simmering the lemon and sugar together allows the syrup to reduce and for the flavors to concentrate. This concentrated lemon syrup will be thick and rich! Like a rich simple syrup, but with a lovely tart flavor.
Cooking the lemon juice also brings out the floral flavors of the lemon.
To add the freshness of freshly squeezed lemon juice, I add some of the lemon juice AFTER making the syrup. This addition imparts another layer of lemon flavor to the syrup, and replaces the lemon notes that were lost when the syrup was cooked.
So this way you get the best of both worlds! A wonderfully tart and sweet lemon syrup concentrate, with the freshness of a no cook lemon syrup that is usually not too strong in flavor.
How to use this syrup
There are SO.MANY different drinks you could make with this tangy lemon syrup recipe. It’s the perfect lemon syrup for cocktails and it can replace the lemon juice and simple syrup in cocktails and other drinks.
Lemon vodka soda – Instead of adding lemon flavored soda, add a shot of this syrup to your vodka and top it with soda.
Lemonade – Instead of store-bought lemonade concentrate, use this lemon simple syrup, which can also be used as a lemonade syrup! Dilute the syrup with water or soda to make homemade lemonade.
Color changing lemonade – I made this super popular and spectacular color changing galaxy lemonade using this syrup!
Lemon iced tea – Add it to iced tea to make a refreshing lemon flavored iced tea.
Honey lemon tea – Substitute the sugar with honey and use the lemon syrup to flavor and sweeten hot tea or iced tea.
Lemon drop martini – Use this tart and sweet syrup to make a lemon drop martini! 2 parts vodka + 1 part cointreau + 2 parts lemon syrup (replaces the lemon juice and sugar syrup).
Lemon margarita – 2 parts tequila + 1 part cointreau or triple sec + 2 parts lemon syrup + salt.
Other ways to flavor this lemon syrup
- Floral lemon syrup (elderflower or lavender)
- Elderflower lemon syrup recipe – Infuse the syrup with fresh or dried elderflower flowers.
- Lavender lemon syrup recipe – Infuse the syrup with fresh or dried lavender flowers.
- Lemon and lime syrup – Substitute half of the lemon juice with lime juice.
- Spiced lemon syrup – Add fresh chili (red or green chili) to the syrup while simmering to infuse the chili flavor into the syrup. You can also use jalapeno peppers for a milder spiced version (check out my spicy jalapeno simple syrup). For a different version, add peppercorns to the syrup to infuse the lemon with peppercorns (like I did with this rhubarb syrup).
- Lemon and berry syrup (lemon raspberry syrup is one of my favorites) – Add some berries to the syrup to infuse the fruit flavor.
- Meyer lemon syrup – Substitute the lemon juice with meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are sweeter than regular lemons, so the resulting syrup will be sweeter and less tart.
- Lemon passion fruit syrup – Substitute half of the lemon with passionfruit pulp (no sugar).
Frequently asked questions
Store the lemon syrup in a glass bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Alternatively, store the lemon simple syrup in any air-tight container. Plastic or glass jars or containers are fine. Do not use metal containers.
This recipe makes a big batch. Due to the high sugar content, this syrup can last a long time in the fridge. However, this is dependent on how the lemon syrup is handled.
The shelf life will reduce if it’s kept outside at room temperature for long periods of time in between being refrigerated. If the storage bottles were not sterilized, or not as clean, then the syrup will have a reduced shelf life too.
My rule of thumb is to put the lemon syrup in the fridge as soon as possible and to use it within 1 month. If there is a change in smell, color, or clarity in the syrup, I do not use it. Any extra syrup is stored in the freezer. This lemon syrup can be stored in the freezer for more than 1 year, as long as it’s stored properly in an air-tight container.
Absolutely! Both lime and lemon juice have high concentrations of citric acid, which will make this recipe amazingly tart and sweet. The underlying flavors will be a little different though.
Lime juice will give the syrup a more tropical tangy flavor. Lemon juice will provide a more floral tangy flavor.
Artificial sweeteners are different from granulated white sugar. Depending on the type of artificial sugar you use, the amount added to the recipe will change. This will in turn change the texture of the syrup as well. So I recommend following a sugar-free lemon syrup recipe for guaranteed results.
You can use other sugars and sweeteners such as brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey. Substituting with these sugar replacements will also change the flavor of the syrup. Using white sugar will preserve the flavor of the lemon the best.
Nope! I prefer a strongly tangy lemon syrup, and using only lemon juice to make this helps to achieve this flavor profile.
Concentrated Lemon Simple Syrup Recipe
- 360 mL lemon juice strained (1.5 cups)
- 120 mL lemon juice strained (½ cup)
- 350 g white sugar 1 ¾ cups (add 400 g / 2 cups if you want to make it sweeter)
- Place the 360 mL / 1.5 cups of lemon juice in a small or medium-sized pot, along with the sugar.360 mL lemon juice, 350 g white sugar
- Heat over medium heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- When the sugar has dissolved, keep cooking the syrup until it comes to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low, and let the syrup very gently simmer (without the lid) for about 8 – 10 minutes. The syrup should thicken during this time. The cooking time will depend on the pot that you use and the heat of your stove.
- When the syrup has thickened, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the 120 mL / ½ cup of lemon juice.120 mL lemon juice
- Let the syrup completely cool to room temperature and transfer to a clean and dry jar or container with an air-tight lid.
- Store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it for your drinks.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”