I’ve been making homemade simple syrup since attending baking and pastry school in 2010. While I first learned how to make syrups meant for baking and glazing things like pies and tarts, I’ve since moved to creating homemade syrups for beverages. Citrus is one of the best fruits to turn into a simple syrup because it creates a well-balanced syrup that’s not overly sweet. This grapefruit simple syrup recipe is a brilliant way to enjoy the taste of grapefruit in your cocktails, mocktails, and other home crafted beverages without worrying about the sour or sometimes bitter taste of grapefruit. It's made with fresh grapefruit juice and zest, so it's packed with flavor!
Trust me, your palomas will never be the same! While grapefruit sometimes has a bad reputation for being bitter, this syrup balances that out thanks to a generous amount of sugar. 😏 Whether you choose to make grapefruit cocktails, zero-proof drinks (like this Paloma Mocktail), or even homemade grapefruit soda, all your friends and family will be begging to know how you created the most perfectly balanced grapefruit syrup ever!Jump to Recipe
💕 why you'll love this grapefruit simple syrup recipe
🍊 bursting with grapefruit flavor. This syrup uses the juice and zest from fresh grapefruit. Grapefruit is sweet, sour, and, notably, bitter. This syrup takes the edge off the classic grapefruit flavor by rounding it out with sugar!
🍹 ready for any drink. Whether you want to make salty dogs or grapefruit old fashioneds, or even homemade grapefruit soda pop, this syrup will quickly become a classic in your rotation! You can even use it in iced tea or lemonade!
🤌 perfectly balanced. Most grapefruit simple syrups are made using just juice and sugar, or juice, zest, and sugar. Some even use the whole grapefruit, including the bitter white pith. If you are a fan of bitter oranges, feel free to use the whole fruit, but this syrup is balanced by sugar, ensuring that the finished syrup isn't overly bitter.
- grapefruit - opt to use a sweeter variety of grapefruit like pink grapefruit or ruby red. Both of these varieties tend to be less bitter and more sweet. Pink grapefruit are more flavorful than red ones, so if you can find pink, choose that kind! Check the information below for more detail about the different varieties of grapefruit.
- sugar - regular old granulated cane sugar is perfect for this recipe, because it provides a somewhat blank flavor canvas of sweetness for the citrus flavor to really shine. While you can use a darker sugar like brown sugar or even coconut sugar, white sugar is best for keeping a light sweet flavor profile and vivid pinkish red color of the finished syrup.
- water - using a bit of filtered water helps to dilute the juice a bit, but it also helps to accommodate evapoation that happens when the grapefruit syrup is heating on the stovetop.
See the recipe card for quantities.
🍊 types of grapefruit
Grapefruit is actually an accidental hybrid of sweet oranges and pomelos. 😳 Nowadays of course, it is purposefully grown and there are many varieties of grapefruit. Here are the most popular varieties of this tangy citrus fruit:
- pink grapefruit - light red or pink in color and lower in bitter flavor. Usually, grapefruit juice is made from pink grapefruits because they are very juicy, and very flavorful. Choose this variety if you can find it!
- pomelo - the larger, yellower, and more mellow parent of grapefruit is pomelo. If you can’t find grapefruit, you can use pomelo as a substitute as it is believed that grapefruit is a cross between pomelos and oranges!
- ruby red grapefruit - notably the most popular variety of grapefruit, with a vibrant red interior. It does still have the classic grapefruit bitterness, and some even say it’s quite bland compared to other varieties. Still, with how easy it is to find, it’s a suitable option for using in this recipe.
- white or yellow grapefruit - more acidic and sour, with a subtle sweetness and almost floral flavor. The white or yellow grapefruit varieties can be bitter, but have less juice than their pink or red counterparts. This makes them better for enjoying fresh in segments instead of in recipes like this one.
Step 1: Wash your grapefruit thoroughly to remove any dirt or impurities from the skin. Make sure to give it a good scrub since we will be using the peel.
Step 2: Using a peeler or microplane zester, zest the peel from the grapefruit. Be careful to not get any of the pith, which is the white part of the grapefruit.
Step 3: Slice the zested grapefruit in half and juice it.
Step 4: In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup of water over medium heat.
Step 5: Add in 300g of sugar, and stir intermittently until the sugar dissolves.
Step 6: When the sugar is dissolved, add in the grapefruit juice and the zest or peel. Allow the mix to simmer over medium-low heat for up to 15 minutes to infuse the flavor of the peel.
Step 7: Remove the pan from heat, allow it to cool to room temperature, and strain the mix through a fine mesh sieve to remove the grapefruit peel and any pulp from the juice.
Step 8: Store your finished simple syrup in an airtight container like a glass bottle or mason jar for up to two weeks in the fridge.
Hint: Give your syrup a taste to make sure you like the balance of flavor several times through the infusion process. You may need to add additional sugar to sweeten it up.
💡tips and tricks for getting it right
🍽️ how and when to use your grapefruit syrup
Simple syrups are best used in beverages because of their thin consistency. This allows them to easily mix into hot and cold drinks, without pooling at the bottom of the glass like thicker syrups tend to do. Use your finished syrup in a variety of drinks such as:
Grapefruit and booze go well together, especially in tequila drinks and gin cocktails! Though, this syrup plays nice with many other liquors including rum and vodka, too! Classic grapefruit cocktails include the Salty Dog, the Greyhound, and the Paloma. But you can try using this fruity citrus syrup in any of your favorite cocktails to give them a twist of flavor like:
- grapefruit daiquiri - a classic rum cocktail is a daiquiri, and this syrup is perfect for using in place of classic simple syrup! In fact, the Hemingway daiquiri includes grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur (even though Hemingway himself never drank his daiquiris with grapefruit juice).
- grapefruit rickey - not quite a gin and tonic, the Rickey cocktail is made with gin, lime juice, and club soda or soda water. The addition of this grapefruit syrup and some fresh grapefruit juice puts a bright and vibrant twist on a classic cocktail.
- grapefruit margarita - while palomas typically get the glory of tequila-based cocktails + grapefruit juice, margaritas also benefit from the addition of this sweet and sour fruit! Try it on the rocks or frozen, and if you’re feeling extra adventurous, with a sprig of tarragon!
Non-alcoholic cocktails are increasing in popularity, and for good reason! Gone are the days of sugary sweet Shirley Temples. Using a simple syrup doesn’t mean your drinks will be overly sweet. The best part about making your own mocktails is that you can add as much or as little syrup as you like to totally customize the flavor! You can also make kid-friendly blackberry drinks like blackberry lemonade or soda!
- greyhound mocktail- a classic cocktail made with vodka or gin and grapefruit juice gets an alcohol-free makeover in this mocktail recipe!
- zero-proof paloma- try making this zero-proof grapefruit paloma for a refreshing cocktail without the booze in the spring or summer! You can even make a pitcher of them for a party!
- homemade grapefruit soda- I grew up stealing my dad’s Fresca sodas whenever he’d let one go missing, and they always felt like such a grownup treat! This simple syrup is the perfect way to make homemade grapefruit sodas whenever you want, no adult permission needed!
cooking, baking, & gifting
Simple syrups + drinks = a real love story….buuuuut you can totally use them in cooking and baking too!
- as a glaze for cakes - use this syrup to add fresh grapefruit flavor to your layer cakes, cupcakes, and loaf cakes! This would be especially good on a grapefruit cake or other citrus cake!
- glaze tarts or pies - you can also use this syrup as a glaze for fruit tarts or pies! Try glazing strawberry or raspberry tarts with this syrup for a wonderful citrus burst of flavor!
- as a gift - bottle this syrup in a cute glass bottle or small glass jar for the perfect hostess gift! You can also create a “cocktail kit” for family and friends with it.
ℹ️ troubleshooting tips
Even though simple syrups are indeed simple to make, a few things can still go wrong flavor wise or texture wise. Here are common troubleshooting tips and how to fix them:
- too bitter - If your grapefruits are extra bitter, you may need to add in more sugar to your simple syrup to balance the flavor out. Add in more sugar ¼ cup, or 50g at a time until your syrup reaches the balance of flavor you like.
- too thick - thicker syrup won’t dilute as well in cold beverages, so you may need to thin your syrup out if it’s too thick. Add more water to your mixture 1-2 tablespoons at a time. You can add the water when the mix is at room temperature to be sure to get the perfect balance.
- too sweet - if your simple syrup is too sweet for your tastes, you can add in more grapefruit zest or juice to balance it out. Add in more zest a ½ teaspoon at a time, and add more juice in 1 tablespoon at a time until you get your desired taste.
⚖️ Scaling Tips
This recipe is super easy to scale up or down!
All you need to do is double the ingredients or cut them in half to make more or less of this syrup!
🔆 top tip
Syrup still too bitter? Try adding a ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt or a few drops of a saline solution! A pinch of salt is a secret weapon to help combat the sometimes overpowering bitter taste of this citrus fruit!
♻️ substitutions & variations
Missing an ingredient? No problem. Check out these tried-and-true substitutions, or comment below with your question. I’m here to help you troubleshoot!
- pomelo - grapefruits are the accidental result of cross-pollination between sweet oranges and pomelos. As such, you can use pomelos if you can’t find pink grapefruit or ruby red varieties.
- honey - grapefruit and honey complement each other well. Swapping out the sugar for honey creates an almost floral syrup that works beautifully in many grapefruit drinks!
Feeling like a rebel?! 😈 Feel free to stray from the recipe card using these variations, or leave me a comment with your own!
- lemon - if you are looking for more citrus simple syrups, give this tart-sweet lemon simple syrup a try!
- add an herb - a variety of herbs are an especially good match for the tart-sweet flavor of the juice of grapefruits! Add in a few sprigs of mint, tarragon, rosemary sprigs, or even basil to add an herbaceous burst of flavor to your grapefruit syrup!
🧰 equipment needed & storage tips
🧰 tools needed
- 1.5 quart saucepan - you can use whatever saucepan you have on hand, I love this 1.5-quart saucepan from All-Clad. The heavy bottom ensures even heating throughout the cooking time! Choose a non-reactive metal like stainless steel or enameled cast iron.
- non-reactivemesh strainer a fine mesh strainer helps you to remove the grapefruit pulp and zest from the liquid after simmering the mixture. Make sure you choose a non-reactive fine-mesh sieve, like stainless steel. Reactive metals like aluminum can impart a metallic taste when they come into contact with acidic juices like grapefruit juice.
- measuring cups - if you don’t have a kitchen scale, you’ll likely need some measuring cups. I love using these glass measuring cups from Anchor Hocking because they can tolerate the quick temperature changes that happen when I’m making simple syrups. I also love this set of measuring cups from King Arthur Baking. They are sturdy, nest well, and include any size you’ll ever need!
- kitchen scale - using a kitchen scale has so many benefits, from being more precise to helping you do less dishes! If you use a scale, you can simply put everything right in the pot as you measure it, no need to dirty up a bunch of extra dishes! I have and love this OXO kitchen scale.
- airtight storage container - you can use any storage container you like, as long as its airtight. These OXO squeeze bottles are a favorite of mine for storing simple syrups! You can also stash them in the freezer easily. These glass bottles from Bormioli Rocco are great for gifting simple syrups to friends and family. You can also use a mason jar!
how to store your homemade grapefruit simple syrup
Store your finished syrup in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the fridge. You can also freeze for longer term storage of up to 3 months.
What does grapefruit taste like?
Fresh grapefruits have a tart, sweet, sour, and bitter flavor. Different varieties have different flavor variations, but overall, grapefruit has a notable sour-bitter taste.
What is the best variety of grapefruit for juicing?
The best variety of grapefruit depends on how you will be using it! In recipes where you need a juicy grapefruit, choose red or pink varieties. In salads or ceviches, opt for yellow or white varieties. Pomelos can also be used interchangeably for grapefruit, but they may not always be as juicy.
How long does grapefruit simple syrup last?
Homemade grapefruit simple syrup lasts for about two weeks when properly stored in the fridge. Or for up to three months when stored in the freezer.
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Grapefruit Simple Syrup
- 245 g grapefruit juice 1 cup, from 2 large pink grapefruit
- 4 g grapefruit zest 1 TBSP, from 1 large pink grapefruit
- 300 g granulated white sugar 1.5 cups
- 115 g filtered water ½ cup
- kosher salt optional, to taste
- Wash your grapefruit thoroughly to remove any dirt or impurities from the skin. Make sure to give it a good scrub since we will be using the peel.
- Using a peeler or microplane zester, zest the peel from the grapefruit to get 4 g of zest, about 1 TBSP. Be careful to not get any of the pith, which is the white part of the grapefruit.
- Slice the zested grapefruit in half and juice it. Juice another grapefruit to get 245 g of juice (1 cup).
- In a small saucepan, heat 115 g of water over medium heat (½ cup).
- Add in 300 g of sugar (1.5 cups), and stir intermittently until the sugar dissolves.
- When the sugar is dissolved, add in the grapefruit juice and the zest or peel. Allow the mix to simmer over medium-low heat for up to 15 minutes to infuse the flavor of the peel.
- Remove the pan from heat, allow it to cool to room temperature, and strain the mix through a fine mesh sieve to remove the grapefruit peel and any pulp from the juice.
- Store your finished simple syrup in an airtight container like a glass bottle or mason jar for up to two weeks in the fridge
🧯food safety & other information
Food safety is an important ingredient in any recipe for success! Here are some tips to keep you safe in the kitchen!
- While you may be able to use your simple syrup longer than 2 weeks in the fridge, if you see any sort of cloudiness or dark spots in the syrup, throw it out. This is mold growth and is not a recipe for fun.
- Never leave simmering syrup unattended on the stove.