I’ve been thinking a lot about lemongrass lately. I have this really weird aversion to lemons (they taste dirty to me), but I love the delicate perfume of lemon grass. I was thinking that lemongrass lemonade sounds particularly refreshing and summery. Then I had an idea to make lemongrass simple syrup to mix with sparkling water and/or vodka for my upcoming bday bash.

Then, per my usual pattern, I turned something quite simple into something a little more complex. How about if I make all kinds of different flavored syrups? They can all have Asian-ish ingredients, since my party has a Vietnamese theme. I spent a very sunny weekend in my apartment, boiling down sugar and water.

Here are the combos I ended up with:

Lemongrass and Lemon Zest Simple Syrup
9 stalks of lemongrass (chopped), zest of one lemon, 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
This ended up tasting exactly how I imagined it: fresh, bright and summery.

Kaffir Lime Leaf and Lime Simple Syrup
6 kaffir lime leaves (julienned), 1 regular lime (quartered), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
I’ve never cooked with kaffir lime leaf before, but I found fresh ones at Uwajimaya. They were really beautiful and strange because they are two leaves, joined together, end-to-end. Unfortunately, they tasted more medicinal than I expected, so at the last minute I added in a regular lime to bring out a more fruity flavor.

Pandan Leaf Simple Syrup
8 pandan leaves (chopped), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
I was intrigued after reading da*xiang’s recipe for Nasi Lemak. I had never even heard of pandan before, but it sounded interesting, so when I saw them fresh at Uwajimaya, I snapped them up. They had the most incredible and elusive scent. Whenever I held them up to my nose, they’d smell like bitter, cut grass, but when they weren’t as close they released a perfume like basmati rice. I was head over heels for the smell, but the plant itself tasted bitter. Oddly enough, the simple syrup ended up tasting like the smell and not the taste (whew).

Ginger and Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
1/2 cup grated ginger, 2 cups brown sugar and 3 cups water
This sounded like a great idea, but I think simple syrups are better off made with white sugar instead of brown. Somehow it just didn’t taste sweet enough. Also, I probably should have cut the ginger into coins instead of grating it because the ginger really overpowered the syrup. This one could go either way when mixed into a drink—either delicious and interesting or overpowering and medicinal.

Mint Simple Syrup
1/2 cup of mint leaves (whole), 2 cups white sugar and 3 cups water
This was my second favorite after the lemongrass. Pure and simple mint.

I can’t wait to mix them into drinks!