Vanilla brings up nostalgic feelings like baked biscuits or a warm vanilla sponge. Vanilla syrup can transform and elevate several humdrum flavors and is an excellent substitute for simple syrup in cocktails. But with all these options, you might wonder exactly which cocktails to choose.
A few of my favorite cocktails with vanilla syrup (scroll down for the recipes!) include:
- Vanilla Daisy
- Lemon Drop Vanilla Martini
- Pornstar Martini
- Vanilla Espresso Martini
If you want to include vanilla syrup in your cocktails, you don't need to pay top dollar for expensive ready-made syrup brands. I've also included a DIY home vanilla syrup recipe so that you have no excuse not to start sampling these best cocktails with vanilla syrup.
What's the Best Vanilla Syrup?
There are a number of Vanilla syrups on the market, of which the Monin is my ultimate favorite. But they can be expensive. The good news is that you can make the syrup at home in a simple process, and you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks and use it in baking, milkshakes, or your morning coffee.
The recipe for vanilla syrup of around one cup is as follows:
- 1 cup (250g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (250ml) water
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 split vanilla pod with seeds.
Melt your sugar in the water on medium-high heat and let it boil for about 5-8 minutes until it reduces (you will see the bubbles become oily and the mixture begin to thicken.
Take the syrup off the stove, allow it to cool slightly, and then stir in your vanilla bean or extract. Allow to cool to room temperature and then decant into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid or a glass jar and refrigerate.
Vanilla is one of my favorite flavors, bringing warmth to baking and cocktails. It works with so many spirits and mixes that the list is almost endless, so I had to narrow it down to a couple of my favorites. Here are some of the best cocktails with vanilla syrup with one of its key ingredients.
The bourbon and vanilla pair beautifully in this sweet and strong little cocktail. The grenadine adds a splash of color and enhances the vanilla notes that meld beautifully into the smokiness of the bourbon. The fresh lemon lifts the cocktail from being too sweet with a citrus kick. This drink makes a great aperitif.
- 1.5 US fl oz (45ml) Bourbon
- 1 US fl oz (30ml) Vanilla Syrup
- 1 US fl oz (30ml) pure lemon juice
- 1 dash Grenadine
- 1 Maraschino cherry
The process is simple, add all your liquids and give them a good shake in an ice-filled shaker. Then pour the contents into a rocks glass half-filled with ice cubes. Pour in a tiny dash of grenadine and top with a Maraschino cherry.
Lemon Drop Vanilla Martini
Zingy and sweet this cocktail reminds me of those sour sweets I couldn't get enough of as a child. The fight between the tart and the sweet never ends, which is a reason to have another to decide the ultimate endnote.
- 1.5 US fl oz (45ml) Vodka
- ½ US fl oz (15ml) Triple Sec
- 1 Us fl oz (30ml) Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Us fl oz (30ml) Vanilla syrup
- Sugar rim
If you aren't sure how to sugar-rim your cocktail glass, just rub a slice of lemon against the top edge and set it down in a saucerful of granulated sugar. The lemon juice is a neat trick because it adds flavor to the sugar rim.
Shake all the liquids well in your shaker and strain them into your cocktail glass. Serve while extra cold.
Legend has it that bartender Douglas Ankrah created this cocktail inspired by a stripper's perfume. Whether it's true or not, you can't help but feel a little naughty when you order it in a club—so why not make it at home instead? The passionfruit and vanilla lift this drink to the fizzy yumminess of the Champagne.
- 1 1/2 US fl oz (45ml) Vanilla Vodka
- 1 US fl oz (30ml) Passion fruit pulp
- 1/2 US fl oz ( 15ml) Lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/2 US fl oz (30ml) Vanilla simple syrup
- 2 US fl oz (45ml) Chilled Champagne or sparkling wine
- 1/2 cut Passion fruit
Chill a coupe glass or cocktail glass before you make the cocktail. Shake up all the liquids except the Champagne until nicely frosted, then strain into your prepared glass.
Either top up with Champagne or serve the Champagne on the side of the cocktail. Float the gorgeous half passionfruit on the top of your cocktail for dramatic effect.
Vanilla Espresso Martini
Everyone loves an Espresso Martini. The added vanilla syrup takes this version to new heights and will remind you of those delicious Starbucks-flavored frappuccinos in flavor. I prefer Tia Maria in my recipe because it also has vanilla notes, but you can substitute any decent coffee liqueur.
- 1.5 US fl oz (45ml) Vodka
- ¾ US fl oz (22ml ) Tia Maria
- 1 US fl oz (30ml) Good quality espresso
- ¾ US fl oz (22ml) Vanilla syrup
- Garnish with whole coffee beans
Shake all the above liquids in a shaker filled with ice vigorously for a minute or two. When properly shaken, it will leave a lovely layer of white foam on top (be sure to shake out the last dregs, the foam tends to stick to the ice at the end!). Pour into a chilled cocktail glass and top with a couple of coffee beans.
You can't go wrong with vanilla syrup as a cocktail ingredient. It is so versatile and adapts itself to a variety of spirits and mixers. I hope you enjoyed my vanilla syrup cocktail list, and make sure you sample each one—several times, just to be sure!