Spun Sugar with Leftover Sugar Syrup

Of all the possible things that can go bad behind a bar, sugar syrups are definitely one of them.

The most commonly used sugar syrup behind the bar is ‘Simple Syrup’, which usually lasts about 1 month when stored in the fridge, but when you use your simple syrup often (putting it in and back out of the fridge), it could last for a much shorter amount of time.

Simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water, and is a must-have in all home and professional bars when it comes to making drinks because of its essential part of making classic cocktails.

Keep in mind though that some homemade syrups may vary, especially the ones that contain fresh fruits or juices which could have shorter shelf-lives.

Most places throw out their syrup once it’s reached its expiration date, but why instead preserve it by solidifying it with heat and make it into an edible garnish!

Creating a solid ingredient out of syrup for your drinks or food pairings can be a great save.

Once solidified, it can be stored for a couple of more days in the form of delivering a beautiful cocktail presentation.

What is Spun Sugar?

Spun sugar can be made without any fancy equipment, but it will probably take a couple of tries before you get the hang of it.

Making spun sugar follows the same principle as when making cotton candy. The main ingredients are simply:

  1. Sugar
  2. Heat
  3. and Movement

Once the sugar is melted from the heat, it will quickly change consistency after cooling down.

Because we will be using simple or rich syrup, the water will have completely evaporated by the time the sugar is ready to be spun.

With the application of fast movements, it creates long strands that can quickly solidify and become malleable.

If you are familiar with cotton candy then you already know what super fast spun sugar looks like.

Cotton candy however requires a machine that spins the melted sugar very quickly, creating extremely thin strands that when stuck together form ‘cloud-like’ shapes that are edible.

Now while we’re not able to spin it as fast as a machine, we can still apply natural movement that will create thicker stands. Strands that resemble the thickness of ‘cobwebs’ or ‘birds nests.’

Just keep in mind that to follow this recipe you MUST follow the specific temperatures and therefore need to acquire a clip-on Candy Thermometer, which is basically a thermometer that can withstand very high temperatures accurately without breaking.

Along with sticking to the numbers, you will also have to:

  • Be quick,
  • Be patient (it might not work the first couple of times),
  • Be organized (make sure you have everything set up including a big space).

Read this recipe carefully and make sure that you understand what every tool is used for.

You must have:

  1. Any Leftover Sugar Syrup (I’m using my leftover Apple Core Beer Syrup and Store-Bought Grenadine)
  2. Clip-on Candy Thermometer –> To measure your temp
  3. Pot –> To heat your syrup in
  4. Bowl of Cold Water –> To drop the temperature of the syrup
  5. Fork or Knife –> To flick your syrup and make the strands
  6. Empty Big Bowl –> Where your sugar strands will land on
  7. Parchment Paper (optional) –> To make your post-clean up easier.

The Entire Process

(In the following recipe, I’ll show you the best images of the two different syrups)

Take whatever syrup you have left that might be expiring and put it in a pot.

Clip your thermometer to the pot while everything is still at room temperature.

Raise the heat to an all-time high and keep a watchful eye on it.

As shown in this photo, the Apple Core Beer Syrup turns dark brown and very fluffy-like from all the foam from the beer.
Your syrup to reach 160°C / 300°F. This temperature is called the "Hard Crack" stage, which is the stage that is needed to reach normally to make toffee.

If you were to use regular simple or rich syrup, it would not have that same texture.

Once that temperature is reached, turn off the heat and make sure that you have your bowl of cold water and empty bowl ready.

Make sure that the empty bowl has plenty of space around it because once you start flicking, you WILL make a mess.

You can surround the empty bowl with parchment paper.

Dunk your hot pot in the cold water bath for just a bit and quickly pull it out. Watch your thermometer to see the temperature drop. You want the temperature to drop to about 135°C / 275°F for slow and gradual cooling. If you cool it down too fast, you might miss the opportunity to spin the sugar!

Once it reaches 135°C quickly grab your knife or fork, dip it into the syrup, and lift it up. Examine the strand of syrup and make sure that the strand never breaks and is as thin as possible.

Just be careful not to touch it as it is extremely hot!

From about 2 feet above your empty bowl, swing the knife/fork back and forth like a pendulum at a very fast pace. Don’t worry about making a mess because you inevitably will!

You’ll notice the strands start to form along the top of the bowl.

Keep dipping and flicking your syrup until no more strands are being formed, then gather what you’ve got.

SIDE NOTE: You will notice right away if you’re doing it right or wrong depending on the viscosity of the sugar strands. If you notice that they are a bit ‘wet’ and gloopy, then your syrup is still too hot to be flicked. If you are flicking but no syrup is leaving your fork/knife, then the syrup cooled down too much and you’ll have to re-heat it.

You need the temperature to be above 100°C and below 135°C for these strands to form.

By that time, the strands will have hardened just a bit for you to collect them and create a ‘nest’ out of them.

Using your hands, collect them from around and inside the bowl, and shape them into the form of a ‘birds nest’.

Use the bird’s nest as a decoration on top of a fancy drink. Just remember that if it makes contact with the liquid it will dissolve and become sticky!

Now it’s time to serve this amazing decoration to your guest on top of your drink or on the side.

Use it as a small bowl to lay other garnishes into or by itself.

With this recipe, you will have extended the sugars shelf-life by a lot more, but remember to use it within a couple of days, or else the nest will lose its volume and elegance.

If it does, you can always re-melt it and stay tuned for more up-cycled syrup recipes!

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