Recipe: Caramel syrup for coffee and cocktails

Caramel Syrup

My love of espresso knows no bounds, from a straight espresso with sugar all the way to trying interesting new recipes. For the last year, I’ve been fortunate to have the Breville Barista Express Espresso machine to make my espresso and espresso-based drinks, so I can make a caramel macchiato pretty quickly at this point, but I honestly am not a big fan of buying caramel syrup because–surprise–it’s really easy to make.

Now easy is a little subjective, but if you have any experience cooking desserts, or if you just try this recipe a few times, you’ll be amazed how easy it is on the third or fourth attempt. You can also double the recipe for an even larger batch, and the cost of making one cup of syrup is around 50 cents or less.

Thick caramel sauce for desserts takes a bit more work, but if you just want caramel syrup for coffees or cocktails, it only takes about 10 minutes to make and there are only four ingredients: sugar, water, salt, and vanilla.

Sugar and water are the most important ingredients here, but I think the salt and vanilla really help make the flavour incredible. You can experiment with skipping those ingredients, but I’m a big fan of using them. Both are subtle, but they make the syrup stand out incredibly well in a drink.

When adding the caramel syrup to a coffee, I recommend between two and three teaspoons of syrup usually, which is slightly less than most people may prefer. If you’re a sweet fan, then four teaspoons makes it a lot richer, but it may be overpowering to some, so three teaspoons seems to be the sweet-spot, if you’ll excuse the pun.

The great thing about this syrup is that it also works well in cold drinks, as it will dissolve easily without a lot of mixing (much like a simple syrup), and you can use it in baking for a shot of flavour, or on top of ice cream (although a thick caramel sauce certainly works better there).

The best part of making your own syrup is also that you actually know exactly what’s in it. No preservatives, no extra ingredients that mess with the flavour–just rich caramel flavour.

For this recipe, keep in mind that it requires all your attention to make it, and melted sugar can be dangerous if you’re not careful because it’s so hot and sticky. Just take your time, follow these directions, and enjoy! If you’ve made it, I’d love to hear what you do with it, so feel free to share you ideas below in the comments.

Caramel syrup


  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 pinch of salt


  1. Place a wide-bottom medium sauce pan on the stove at medium-high heat and pour in the cup of sugar.
  2. Using a silicone, heat resistant spatula, stir the sugar slowly and occasionally as it melts, and then boils.
  3. In a measuring cup, add the salt and vanilla to the water and set aside.
  4. It will take between 5 to 7 minutes to boil and the colour of the sugar will start to deepen to a nice, rich amber colour. Once the melted sugar is dark enough (be careful not to let it burn), remove from heat.
  5. Immediately and carefully pour in the water and vanilla mixture. The sugar will boil vigorously and steam will erupt from the pot. Return the pot to the burner and gently stir until all of the sugar and water combines.
  6. Once it’s completely liquid, remove from heat and let it cool. Then pour it in a container and store it in the fridge. It will last for 2 to 3 months generally in the fridge.
W. Andrew Powell lives, sleeps, eats, and breaths movies and entertainment. Since launching The GATE in 1999 Andrew has enjoyed being a pest to any publicist who would return his calls. In his "spare time," Andrew is also an avid photographer, and writes about leisure travel and hotels around the world.