Sweet Solutions

With sugar under the cosh from the health lobby, bartenders and syrup producers are trying to find alternatives. Holly Motion catches up on the latest

Hgh-profile figures and organisations are waging a war on it and there are calls for the US and UK governments to tax it. Sugar is currently a highly contentious issue and gargantuan efforts are being made to tackle record levels of diabetes and obesity.

If they haven’t already, then producers in the food and drinks industry will have to take a closer look at their low and no-sugar offerings. When it comes to cocktail syrups – a sugar by any other name – how do those who produce them and work with them offer alternatives in a time of heightened awareness?

“Sugar has recently been considered the bad guy for mixologists,” says Hardeep Singh Rehal, partner and manager at Blume bar in Denmark.

“One should be able to balance and create a cocktail without the use of sugar, or minimise the use of sugar.”

With all these things, it’s a question of moderation. “Overconsumption leads to a lot of other complications, but instead of discarding it, why not break it down and work with it?”

Sugar, like acid, can be deconstructed and isolated. Rehal says: “Why not work with sugars in the same way as acid and all other agents?”

Here’s the geeky bit. Rehal has experimented with the breakdown of sugars to produce two solutions. The first is a glucose solution: dissolved glucose in demineralised water.

“It provides an intense sweetening and almost feels like an attack on the palate. But it doesn’t have the body of sugar as we know it and the aftertaste doesn’t last long,” he says.

“This solution can be very effective if you want to sweeten the drink drastically.”

The second, fructose solution, is much softer on the palate, according to Rehal. “It also has quite intense sweetening, but nowhere near as aggressive as glucose.

“Fructose is much softer and has a lot of body. It doesn’t attack the palate and has a much more natural mouthfeel. I would use the fructose to give cocktails body and mouthfeel and enhance flavours, without the sweet attack on the tongue. It’s a bit like butter would work in a sauce, as a thickening and body agent.”


Artificial sugars often equate to sweetness without the calories. Some bartenders are playing around with natural extract to achieve this. Stevia – extracted from the plant Stevia Rebaudiana – is 150 times sweeter than sugar with zero calories. A teaspoon of table sugar contains approximately 22 calories.

Blume’s Rehal says of stevia: “It is very, very, very sweet. It doesn’t have an attack and it works a bit like chilli: it starts slow, but builds into a long lingering taste.” Despite this, Rehal says it lacks body compared to fructose and in stronger solutions – his being 50% solution in demineralised water – has a slight vegetal taste. “In drinks, stevia solution works really well with herbs of all kind. It combines really well with bitter flavours.”