LA Food Swap + Simple Syrup Recipes

LA Food Swap

Last night Lisa and I attended the LA Food Swap that I’d previously mentioned. To say that I got really into it is an understatement. I seriously became obsessed with making my trade offerings (flavored simple syrup, more on that in a minute), my life consumed by it for the past week. I was crazed by trying to find the right sized jars, the perfect organic ingredients, designing the perfect labels. Was it worth it? Probably not to the point of my obsession. I should have not spent so much time on it in hindsight, but damn, it was pretty fun. It also makes me giddy picturing someone loving and using my syrup at home.

How the swap works is that you bring anything homemade, home grown, or foraged and set up at a table (this one was held at Reform School in Silver Lake), then you mingle with other swappers, testing their goods, and then write your name down at their table letting them know you want to swap with them. Then everyone pounces on what they want to swap. It’s a bit awkward turning people down – I’m on a restrictive diet right now so I was aiming for savory goods and home grown stuff and I didn’t get a lot of my first picks, which was a bummer (wherever you are, spicy pickle girl, I want your pickles, dammit). But by the end there are no hard feelings and you feel pretty awesome if you have a popular item. I imagine that I would feel like crap if no one wanted to swap with me, but I don’t think I noticed anyone with no swaps – everything was so good there. The lighting was really harsh in there and did not make for the prettiest photos, but you can see them all here on flickr. I swapped for: walnut + almond + amaretto milk, grapefruits, oranges, chai tea mix, caramelized red onion relish, limoncello, chai tea jelly, and pickled carrots.

LA Food Swap

I talked A LOT about the swap on twitter, and was told that I must share recipes. So now I’m going to share what I made, how you can make it, and what to make it with (I included hang tags with the syrup with these recipes). I’m a huge fan of flavored simple syrups because they turn a boring gin and soda into mixologist-worthy gem. And I have to give credit to the girl who started me on this kick, Mrs. Kelly Carambula. She is the patron saint of flavored simple syrup and if I ever doubted an idea – “could cardamom be used in a syrup?” – I’d do a search on her blog and be assured that since she’d done it before, it would be a winner. She originally gave me a jar of rosemary ginger syrup years ago and I never forgot its deliciousness. So, thank you Kelly for your syrupspiration (sorry, I’m such a nerd). Onward!

1. Earl Grey Lavender Syrup
yields a little less than 3 cups of syrup and keeps in the fridge for about two weeks
2 cups water
2 cups sugar – I recommend using natural cane sugar, like sugar in the raw, because it yields a much more caramel-y syrup. I made one batch with regular and it was definitely inferior!
2 bag of earl grey tea (my favorite is Market Spice)
A few sprigs of fresh lavender (you can make it with dried as well – about 1 cup or so – I haven’t tried this so don’t take my word on it)

Boil your water, turn off the heat and steep the tea for roughly five minutes. Discard tea bags and turn the heat back on, bringing to a light boil. Add sugar, stir until dissolved. Add lavender and turn down heat and simmer for roughly 15 minutes. You can do a pretty accurate test just smelling the pot to see if it’s done, but very carefully spoon a tiny bit out and let it completely cool and test to see if the lavender is strong enough for your taste. Once it’s done, discard the lavender and let the syrup cool just a bit before pouring into heat safe jars. If you let it completely cool it will get really thick and might be a pain to put into the jars.

Cocktail Recipe:

Herbal Lady
1 1/2 oz gin (preferably Hendricks or something similar)
1/2 oz citrus juice (lemon, orange, or grapefruit)
1/2 oz earl grey lavender syrup
seltzer (optional)

Place ingredients in cocktail shaker full of ice. Shake the devil out of it and strain into a small cocktail glass. Top with seltzer if it’s too strong for your taste.
Makes one cocktail

2. Rosemary Ginger Syrup
yields a little less than 3 cups of syrup and keeps in the fridge for about two weeks
2 cups water
2 cups natural cane sugar (like sugar in the raw)
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary (don’t use dried)
2″ chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

Boil water, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Turn heat down and add rosemary and ginger, simmer for 20-30 minutes. Discard the rosemary and let the syrup cool just a bit before straining the syrup into heat safe jars.

Cocktail Recipe:

Rosemary Ginger Lemonade Slushes (this might look familiar)
2 cups of ice
1/2 cup of gin or vodka
Juice of 2 lemons (preferably Meyer if you can get ‘em)
2 oz of rosemary ginger simple syrup

Fill a blender with all the ingredients and blend until the ice is smooth. Pour into glasses and garnish with rosemary sprigs if you’re trying to impress someone with your hostess skills.
Makes two cocktails. Or one, you lush.

3. Meyer Lemon Cardamom Syrup
yields a little less than 3 cups of syrup and keeps in the fridge for about two weeks
2 cups water
2 cups natural cane sugar (like sugar in the raw)
Peel of 1 Meyer lemon (if you can’t find Meyers I think this would still be damn good with regular, or, no lemon at all)
1 tablespoon of decorticated cardamom (this is what I used) or about 20 whole cardamom pods

Boil water, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Turn heat down and add lemon peel and cardamom, simmer for 30 minutes or more (this is one you really have to test because it depends on the cardamom you’re using). Let the syrup cool just a bit before straining the syrup into heat safe jars.

Cocktail Recipe:

Cardamom Fashioned
2 oz whiskey
1/2 oz Meyer lemon cardamom syrup
2 dashes angostura bitters
lemon or orange peel
Seltzer (optional)

Combine whiskey, Meyer lemon cardamom syrup, bitters and ice in a glass. Stir until cold. Garnish with citrus peel. Top with seltzer if it’s too strong for your taste.
Makes one cocktail

Other ideas for any of the syrups:
Add to lemonade
Drizzle on top of vanilla ice cream
Drizzle on pancakes
Pour on top of crushed iced for homemade snocones
Add to hot or iced tea
Add to champagne
Any of the syrups work beautifully with the first recipe for the earl grey syrup. My favorite cocktail to make, by far.


  1. says

    THIS IS INCREDIBLE. the swap sounds amazing!! homemade, homegrown, & foraged foods?! and the Reform School? not too shabby ;)

    Thanks for sharing all of these lovely recipes– can’t wait to try them out!!

  2. says

    You were so much more prepared than I was when I went to my first swap (that packaging!). Picture me as the girl who was worried she’d walk away with no swaps (my scones were good, dammit!). But in the end, it was exactly like you said, people were wonderful and even this unprepared girl walked away with great stuff.

    Well done, Kate!

  3. says

    Looks like you made some incredible treats, so bummed I couldn’t attend and go home with one! I know what you mean with the lightning in there but the photos still look great. Glad you had fun and hopefully we’ll be swapping at the next one.

  4. says

    haha, did you mean to say you made a ‘bitch’ with regular sugar, or ‘batch’? haha, made me laugh.
    anyway, these syrups sounds amazing, I was wondering what you’d use them for and the cocktail recipes sound delicious! Definitely going to give it a try!

  5. says

    Your syrup look so good! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of the LA Food Swap as I’m a native who still lives here – definitely gonna check it out!

  6. Monique says

    Food Swap = Brilliant! I’m going to plan one in Seattle. Can you talk about your labels?
    They are brilliant as well.

      • Monique says

        Where are the labels from?  Was it easy to design the labels? Did you format them yourself? I assume that you did, although I don’t know you but from your skill set……most likely. What about the card stock for the recipe ideas?
        Did you all know each other at the swap or was if open to anyone?

        • says

          The kraft labels are Avery from Staples – they have a couple different sizes. I’m a graphic designer so this is my thing! I designed them in Illustrator and made png’s that I brought into the Avery word doc template. If you don’t have a design program like that you can just make them directly in Word. As for the paper the hang tags were on, it’s just some heavy 110lb card stock I have and I hole punched the holes in the corner and tied them on with string.

          I had some friends who signed up, but mostly everyone was a stranger to me. We just signed up through the LA Food Swap website. It was limited to 30 people.

          • monique says

            loved all the ways to use the simple syrup. it would also be great to brush on a cake before you frost.
            endless opportunities for the stuff.

  7. says

    oh man, this is exactly what i want! easy-to-make, delicious, sugar-based stuff i can make on the weekend (when my plans suddenly fall through). YUM! thanks for posting. can i ask what you use to strain the syrup, though?

    also, pickles are awesome, so i really hope that lady tracks you down (or vice versa) so you can actually grab some. :)

  8. says

    This looks like a lot of fun! I’ve never heard of these swaps. Maybe I could organise something like this in London. Your ‘products’ look beautiful! Thanks for the recipes.

  9. says

    Thanks for posting your recipe! I wasn’t able to swap with you (I was all grain goods), but thought your syrups were delicious! It also will be a great way for me to use the pile of rosemary that I got at the swap!

  10. says

    I love this! Sometimes it’s just so satisfying to go full type A on a project (I consider my last email to you to be a baby type A, like type A-. I think full type A might have been scary).

    • says

      So true! I’m usually more of a type B, type C kind of “whatevs” person, but this brought out a secret crazy person I keep buried inside of me that I thoroughly enjoyed AND regretted. Ha.

  11. says

    I love this idea!!!! Do you know if food swaps have been started in any other cities? Also, how often do people get together to do this? Maybe you can get another chance at those spicy pickles. :)


  1. […] recipes before, so I’m really proud of myself for trying this. Kate Miss posted a recipe for Earl Grey Lavender Syrup a while back, and  since then I’ve been deciding what to bake with it. At first I thought […]

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