Saturday, September 4, 2010

Homemade Gum Syrup 19th Century Style

Let´s place ourselves in a french bar, late nineteenth century, ice blocks in tin containers, no ice cubes in sight for another 20 years or so. How to stabilized a flavor from the very first sip to the last one, using little or no ice? It seems like the answer to this riddle, was to use Syrup de Gomme (Gum Syrup).

This sweetener is made with sugar syrup and gum arabic. Use the highest possible percentage of sugar to water. The gum will create a colloidal mixture when interacting with the syrup, making it of it a smooth liquid, softening the flavor and preventing crystallization in this 3:1 ratio mix of sugar vs. water. Most recipes call for a 2:1 ratio, but I prefer a heavier mix which helps to the silk-like effect of the final drink. Edible glycerin is used more  nowadays by food/drinks manufacturers instead of gum arabic.

Gum Arabic Description
A water soluble gum used in binding different medias. in its natural shape is an exudate from Acacia trees. It  contains arabinose, galactose, rhamnose, (these three components are sugars) and glucuronic acid. It is commercialized in lumps, granules, flakes or as a powder.

Homemade Gum Syrup in 4 Steps
Step 1- Dissolve Gum
  • 4 ounces powdered gum arabic
  • 4 ounces distilled water
Gum arabic comes in different presentations as noted before. Better get the powdered one to make it. if you use powdered gum arabic, you can use 1:1 ratio, if you are using the rocks, add 1 or 2 ounces of water since they will require more liquid presence to dilute. If you get the rocks, use a mortar and then go to town on them making them as much or a powder as possible before mixing it with the water. Let them rest for a few hours (12 to 24 hours) to get a colloidal texture.

Step 2- Thick Simple Syrup
  • 18 oz confectionery sugar
  • 6 ounces water
Cold water and sugar, 3 parts sugar to 1 part water to a pan and heat until the sugar dissolves into the water.
Stir. Once the sugar is dissolved, keep the syrup in the stove and get ready for the next step.

Step 3 - Boil and Skim
Add the gum arabic mixture to the warm syrup. Stir repeatedly. Once the contents start to boil, turn the stove off and remove the foam forming on top of the pan.

Step 4- Strain and Bottle
Cooling your mix right is very important. Set it aside covered for a few hours. If you need to speed up the process, then put some ice water in your sink and place the pan on it, to speed up the cooling process.
 If you did not remove all the scum from the syrup while it was boiling, you might need to filter it through a cheesecloth. otherwise, you are good to go. Use sterilized bottles, pleeeeease, to keep your gum syrup from molding. It should keep even if it is out of the fridge.

Pre-prohibition cocktails that require gum syrup
If you did not remove all the scum from the syrup while it was boiling, you might need to filter it through 
  • Sazerac
  • Pisco Punch
  • Tom Collins
  • Old Fashioned
  • Star Cocktail