Frugal Holiday Gift: DIY Coffee Syrups

‘Tis the season for giving. Finding a thoughtful and inexpensive gift can be a challenge for those of use digging out of debt. To that end, I’m featuring easy, frugal gifts throughout the holiday season. 

Today’s frugal gift comes from Kate Horrell, a financial coach and blogger with a vivacious personality and who, I imagine, has a list of friends and family a mile long. She is sharing one way to make the holiday budget stretch long enough for everyone on her list — coffee syrups. They make great hostess gifts, yummy specialty drinks for your holiday parties and take-home favors for guests, and a fun gift for your fellow coffee-drinking co-workers. I know I would be thrilled to find a peppermint coffee syrup waiting for me on my desk when I get to work in the morning! Making them in bulk will save you time and money, and you can always keep — and enjoy! — a few jars for yourself. 

Looking for a frugal gift for the coffee-lover in your life? Here are some easy recipes. Is there someone on this planet who doesn’t love fancy coffee drinks? Okay, I didn’t until about two months ago, but the number has got to be pretty small. And what makes those yummy sensations to fabulous? It is often the flavored syrups.

Homemade flavored syrups make a great gift for anyone who occasionally enjoys a froo-froo coffee drink. They take almost no time to make. They often call for unusual ingredients, which can be a little expensive but the per-gift cost is still low.

Ironically, I like to give these in the bottles in which Starbucks bottles Frappuccino is sold; the labels peel off easily, you can spray paint the lids, and the shape is lovely. You could also use canning jars, glass soda bottles with corks, or whatever lidded jars you have handy.

The process is the same for each syrup: in a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to a simmer, add the rest of the ingredients, and stir gently until the sugar has completely dissolved into the water. If it has large bits, like the blackberry, strain before storing. Keep in the refrigerator. They’re supposed to last a week or two, but I’ve never been able to keep them around long enough to find out how long they will actually keep.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar (you can swap the sugar proportions, depending on what is in your house and your taste preferences
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 heaping tablespoons pumpkin puree, canned or fresh (not pumpkin pie filling)

*Pumpkin spice syrup may require better straining than other syrups. Line a large seive with cheesecloth or a dish towel. You might have to help by squeezing the towel a little along the way.

Vanilla Bean Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, opened up, and seeds scraped into the pan and the whole bean dropped in, too
*if you don’t want to buy vanilla beans, you can use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract instead, but the flavor won’t be as strong and clear.

Peppermint Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons peppermint extract

Blackberry Syrup

2 cups fresh blackberries (thawed frozen berries will work too, but they’re not as fantabulous!)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2cup water

Almond Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon pure almond extract

Based upon comments from my friends, the pumpkin spice syrup is very popular. I love the vanilla syrup in a copycat Starbucks bottled Frappuccino, And the peppermint is great in hot chocolate as well as coffee drinks.

One frugal warning: even packaged in plastic, coffee syrups are heavy and fragile, so they’re not good for mailing. One year, I tried to send some to my father for Christmas. The postage was high and, despite good packaging, one of the bottles broke and got syrup all over everything. Yuck.

Delight your coffee loving friends with homemade flavored syrups this holiday season. Be sure to keep some for yourself!

Kate Horrell is a money coach who writes about financial issues at She also occasionally shares a (non-coffee) recipe or two at YearofBeansandRice.


5 thoughts on “Frugal Holiday Gift: DIY Coffee Syrups

  1. My sweet tooth is nonexistent and the thought of these makes my tummy scream, but my husband LOVES a good ol’ starbucks latte with plenty of syrup. I’ll have to test one of these on him, particularly the mint. Mint is so festive!

  2. These sound so good. I definitely spend a little more than I should at Starbucks! I’m all for cheaper ways to get that same diabetic-inducing caffeine shock.

  3. Pingback: Cake Decorating Class: Worth it? Or Waste of Money? | Stapler Confessions

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