What is a Syrup?

Quite simply it’s a flowing mixture of sugar and usually at least a little water. That water is partly responsible for the fact that most syrups, despite their sugar concentration, don’t crystallize easily. But there’s usually something else in there that inhibits crystallization, a little something called invert sugar. Invert sugar is a term that gets tossed around quite a bit in cooking and baking circles, about as much as “caramelization” and “Maillard reaction.” But what exactly is it?

Basically, invert sugar is a mixture of sucrose (25%) and its two component sugars, glucose and fructose (75%). Invert sugar exists in nature but is usually made by humans for various culinary and scientific applications. You get it by making a mixture of sucrose (table sugar) and water, then heating it and adding an acid. In the kitchen that acid can be lemon juice, tartaric acid, vinegar or any number of others.