For me, there's not much better than an ice-cold coffee on a hot summer day. One problem though: if you want to sweeten your coffee you only have a few options. Option one is to use sugar, which is hard to dissolve and can result in a pile of sugar gunk at the bottom of your glass. Option two is using a store-bought coffee syrup, but those tend to be cloyingly sweet and flavored with junk.
The hidden third option is to make your own syrup at home. This simple caramel syrup isn't that hard and will give your coffee a beautiful rich flavor.
Making caramel can be tricky if you are using it in desserts and candies, but for a coffee syrup like this, luckily we don't need to be as exact! We don't need to worry about the temperature or the specific color or anything like that — which makes our job much easier.
To start, stir together the sugar and about 1/4 cup of water in a small pot over low heat. Add a small drizzle of corn syrup as well, which will help keep the syrup from crystallizing in the pot. (If you want to avoid corn syrup you can use honey instead but that will change the flavor slightly.)
Once the mixture is dissolved, you can crank up the heat to medium-high and cook the syrup (covered) for about 2 minutes to jump start the caramel process. Then uncover it and stir it constantly until the syrup is a light amber color. You can go darker if you want a deeper caramel flavor, but I recommend trying it on the lighter side first — this will give your coffee that subtle caramel flavor.
Once it's the color you want, carefully remove it from the heat and stir in the other 1/2 cup of water. Do this very slowly as it will hiss and might splatter, which can burn you. Also, stir in the vanilla and a pinch of salt.
If you're using the syrup for iced coffee, it's best to chill it down before using it. Once you get the hang of the process, it's also easy to double or triple the recipe. The syrup will keep beautifully in the fridge for many months. (This syrup also makes an excellent food gift to a fellow coffee-lover!)
Served hot or cold, this syrup is the perfect addition to your morning coffee.
Homemade Caramel Coffee Syrup
Makes 1 cup; serves 8
Pinch of salt
In a small, sturdy pot, combine the sugar, 1/4 cup of the water water, and the corn syrup. Stir over low heat until dissolved.
Once the sugar has dissolved completely, turn the heat up to medium high, cover the pot, and let boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the cover and stir vigorously as the caramel continues to cook. Stir over heat until mixture is a light amber color.
Remove the caramel from heat. Carefully pour in the remaining 1/2 cup of water. Be very careful when stirring the water into the caramel as it can splatter. Stir in the vanilla and a small pinch of salt.
This syrup is best if you let it cool completely before use. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of syrup to flavor 8 ounces of coffee. The syrup will keep beautifully in the fridge for a few months.
Caramel-making can be a finicky thing, even an easy recipe like this. If you cook it too long, it might burn or if you don't cook it fast enough then the liquid will evaporate before the sugar caramelizes and it will solidify in your pot. Don't get discouraged if you mess up a batch!