Demerara sugar derives its name from its original place of manufacture: the Demerara region of British Guyana (on the north coast of South America). Like white (“regular”) sugar, Demerara sugar comes from dehydrating and purifying the cane syrup from the sugar cane crop. Demerara, however, is a less refined sugar: it has a little less sucrose than white sugar, and retains some of the minerals found in cane syrup.
And because it is less refined, Demerara sugar ($3.90 for 1/2 Cup jar) has large, golden amber sugar crystals, and retains a bit of the sugar cane’s natural molasses flavor.
The large grain of the Demerara sugar crystals resists melting, even when heated in the oven. That makes it a great choice for use as a finishing sugar, giving some sparkle and crunch to the tops of your baked desserts. Use it in the crumble mixture to top your cobbler or coffee cake for dramatic effect. Add a sprinkle or two of Demerara sugar on tangy-tart fruits like grapefruit just before serving.
Lighter in flavor than brown sugar, but more toffee-like than refined sugar, Demerara sugar is also a favorite option for sweetening hot coffee and tea.
Speaking of drinks, Demerara is the preferred sugar for making hot rum drinks and other cocktails. In some recipes, refined white sugar (or its liquid form, simple syrup) can be too cloyingly sweet. Demerara, in dry form or as a simple syrup, offers a not-too-sweet alternative, as in this Old Fashioned recipe.