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When I was a kid, I thought sugar cubes were a fancy sweetener reserved for British royalty and millionaires. Regular people spooned messy sugar granules out of bags or bowls, while the elite picked up chiseled blocks with tiny silver tongs (or their butlers did this for them).
Even after I figured out sugar cubes were just plain old sugar, I still thought they were special and would pocket handfuls from coffee shops as a teenager, thinking I was doing something kind of dangerous and sticking it to the man. You probably don't have this same complicated relationship with blocks of sugar, but you have to admit that sugar is just more fun in cube form.
What's Available to Buy
White sugar cubes are available everywhere, and some stores will even carry cubes made with demerara, turbinado, and other types of sugar. Each cube (or lump) is about one teaspoon of sugar. I've never seen flavored or colored cubes at a shop, though it seems to be a fairly popular item for people to hawk on Etsy.
If you want to save a few bucks, making your own sugar cubes doesn't take much time or any fancy ingredients. But flavored sugar cubes are no harder—and they're kind of a game changer.
Use vanilla extract for vanilla sugar cubes, or grind up some vanilla beans to make a more intensely vanilla-flavored cube. Mix a little orange blossom water, rosewater, or jasmine water with sugar, and you can have floral sugar cubes, which are great for tea.
A few drops of food coloring, and you can have sugar cubes in any rainbow color. Make cubes with bitters—then have your guests drop one cube in a glass of sparkling wine for an instant Champagne cocktail or smash it in some whiskey for an Old Fashioned. Get some candy molds and make sugar hearts for Valentine's Day or pumpkins for Halloween. (Fun shaped-sugar cubes pretty much make any day into a party.)
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You can use your homemade cubes in coffee and tea—this works especially well if you add almond or other flavors to the cubes. You absolutely have to try them in a Champagne Cocktail or Old Fashioned—you can make the sugar cubes with bitters or make them plain and add the bitters to your cocktails separately. Or try making your cubes with a bit of absinthe, then using them in a play on a French 75.
About the Author: Marcia Simmons is the co-author of DIY Cocktails: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks. She also shares cocktail recipes and tips on the DIY Cocktails blog and on Twitter @DIYCocktails.