One lump or two? That was the age-old question with sugar cubes, which used to be a staple of any tea salon or dignified household this side of Downton Abbey. These days sugar isn't really used in cubes much except in bars and restaurants, and that's a shame. Cubes are a lot less messy than granulated sugar, and you can measure the exact amount you put in your drink no matter what.
But sugar cubes are—wait for it—a little square. There's an easy way to make sugar "cubes" in all sorts of interesting shapes like hearts, stars, and even letters if you want. It's quick, inexpensive, and ready to be modified with all sorts of flavors. This way you'll have a unique addition for coffee, tea, or cocktails.
You'll first want to purchase small customized molds that are made for ice cubes or candy. Any decent craft store will have them or you can buy them online. They come in nifty shapes that can be matched with the occasion; think numbers for birthdays or hearts at a wedding. These molds are usually made of rubber, which makes popping out the sugar shapes easy once they're dry.
If you don't have a mold, you can also spread the sugar mix into a one-centimeter high "cake" on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Feel free to shape your sugar. The mix, if thick enough, should hold. Once dry, cut across the cake with a knife into whatever size cubes you'd like. You can criss-cross the cut to make cubes or get adventurous with the shapes.
For your sugar mix, you'll need to take your granulated white sugar and combine it with whatever liquid you want. The proportions should be three parts sugar to one part "juice." So to start, you can do one cup sugar to one-third of a cup of whatever liquid you're using. You're aiming for the consistency of wet sand. Depending on how intense you'd like your flavoring to be, you can add more or less liquid to the mix.
Don't worry about making it too watery, since the juice will eventually evaporate. Play around with the flavors and use liquids like rosewater, lavender bitters, or lemon juice. Pack the molds and level out any protruding sugar with the back of a butter knife.
Now let your sugar dry. You can use an oven at a low temperature and wait until the cubes are dry to the touch. You can also use a microwave (assuming your rubber mold is microwave safe) on medium for one minute and continuing in 30 second increments until the cubes are fully dry.
Unless you live in an area with high humidity, you could also just leave out the rubber molds and in a couple of hours the sugar will dry on its own.
Among the many drinks that you can use your sugar "cubes" with are the old-fashioned, the champagne cocktail, and that infamous spirit, absinthe. Sure you could use your cubes for teas and coffees, but isn't it more fun to be wicked? If you must have tea, turn it into a hot toddy by splashing a dark spirit in there like whiskey or rum. That way you'll eagerly look forward to tea time every day!
Learn how to make a perfect cocktail every time with the Golden Ratio and why DIY grenadine syrup will change how you make cocktails. Want to make your own home brew? Check out this guide on turning fruit juice into booze.