I decided that I was going to learn how to make a Whiskey Sour and one of the ingredients is gomme syrup. I’d never heard of it before. Hooray! A chance to learn something else new.
I think the reason most people don’t use gomme syrup and it is not more widely carried in grocery or liquor stores is that you can buy mix kits for whiskey sours that combine most of the ingredients for you.
It turns out that gomme (French for gum and eraser (yum)) syrup is just rich simple syrup with gum arabic added as a stabilizer. Many people know that simple syrup is just one part sugar dissolved in one part water. Rich simple syrup is two parts sugar in one part water. The problem with this solution is that the sugar wants to recrystallize. Enter the gum arabic. It keeps the sugar in solution and thickens it.
For the purpose of mixed drinks, gomme syrup has the added benefit of imparting a light but complementary flavor to the drink. The added viscosity gives the drink a more silky feel and it takes the edge off high-alcohol drinks.
All of this sounded great to me so I thought I’d track some down. I looked at Publix, Whole Foods, Native Sun and The Grassroots Market. I tried three different liquor stores and none of them had heard of it either.
The next step was to try and make it myself. I had to find the gum arabic and it needed to be food-grade quality (it is also used in inks, photography supplies, etc). Gum arabic is actually dried and powdered tree sap from two different species of the acacia tree. For this reason it is sometimes known as acacia powder or arabic powder. It is harvested in West Asia, Africa and Arabia.
Whole Foods and The Grassroots Market told me over the phone that they had it but ended up they did not. They had a soluble fiber for irregularity that had a similar sounding name. I ended up purchasing it at the same place several folks on cocktail websites recommended called Frontier Co-op.
I wanted to see what the raw powder tasted like so I sampled the tiny bit that spilled when I was measuring it out. Nothing. I poured a little more on my hand (1/4 teaspoon?) and ate it. Again, it almost tastes like nothing. At first it made my tongue a little sticky then it felt thick and silky in my mouth. It has a slight aftertaste of some sort of spice. Maybe a little like cumin? Maybe if un-malt was a flavor that would be it. It is hard to place, but I can see how it would be a nice compliment to most mixed drink flavors.
Sifting through the few recipes I found online, they were all very similar and very simple. If you can make Jello or instant pudding, you can make gomme syrup. All of the recipes used ounces for their measurements. They never clarified if this was weight or volume and I remembered that there was some difference between the two. A quick internet check reminded me that a dry ounce is a measurement of weight (use a scale). A fluid ounce is a measurement of volume (use a measuring cup). One of the recipes that was more precise used grams for the gum arabic. This lead me to believe that the dry ingredients were probably measured on a scale so that is what I tried first. You can see from the picture below that this didn’t work out too well.
On the left we have the gomme syrup made with weighed ingredients. On the right we have the one made using measuring cups. I wish I had made a video of the one on the left. It was very close to the consistency of taffy. I think I could have set a spoon on it and it wouldn’t have sunk in. The one on the right has the color and clarity of cream soda. The one on the left is much more opaque. They both tasted about the same. Candy!
Here is the recipe I used with photos showing how I made it.
¼ cup gum arabic
¼ cup water
Bring water to boil in microwave. While still hot add gum arabic and mix until smooth.
1 cup granulated sugar (not confectioner’s sugar)
½ cup water
Bring water to boil on stove. Stir in sugar until completely dissolved.
Add gum arabic mixture. Boil for two minutes stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Scoop off foam.
Bottle and let rest for a day before using (for clarity).
Step 1. Combined hot water and gum arabic.
You can see that I tried to mix this together with a whisk first but that would have taken forever. The electric mixer took care of the remaining lumps.
Step 2. Boil water on stove.
Step 3. Dissolve sugar in boiling water.
Granulated sugar will dissolve quickly and easily. Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar contains about 3% cornstarch so don’t use that.
Step 4. Add gum arabic mixture to sugar water and cook for two minutes (not pictured).
Step 5. Let mixture cool.
I poured it in a glass to concentrate the foam and make it easy to remove.
Step 6. Bottle and save for use (not pictured).
Overall, I think it is an improvement over simple syrup and I’m glad I made it. The gum arabic is a little pricey (but will probably be a lifetime supply) so it is hard to say if it is worthwhile for everyone. It is easy to make and store and one batch will make a lot of drinks so it is very convenient.