Gomme (or gum) syrup is a drink sweetener that was commonly used instead of simple syrup in many classic cocktail recipes. While some people refer to simple syrup as gum syrup, true gum syrup contains an emulsifier known as gum arabic (sometimes using the French word gomme).
The advantage of gomme syrup is that it adds a silky texture and softens the alcohol's flavor. This is especially true in alcohol-dominant cocktails and why it works so well in the classics like the fancy whiskey and brandy daisy. It can be used in coffee as well, a popular option you'll find in a number of coffee bars in Europe and parts of Asia, including Japan.
Gum arabic also prevents the syrup from crystallizing. This is helpful for long-term storage and if you enjoy your syrup very thick and concentrated.
You need to make sure you buy food-grade gum arabic, but once you have it the gomme syrup is just as easy to make as any simple syrup. You will simply add a dissolved gum arabic to your normal syrup recipe.
- 1 ounce gum arabic (food-grade, powdered)
- 1/4 cup hot water
- For Simple Syrup:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
Gather the ingredients.
Heat 1/4 cup water to near boiling.
In a glass container, combine the hot water and gum arabic. Stir well and allow it to stand until it has "dissolved." This will take at least a few hours. The gum arabic will actually soak up the water and become a sticky paste reminiscent of glue. Stir again until it becomes smooth.
In a saucepan, make "rich" simple syrup by dissolving 2 parts sugar in 1 part water at a slow boil. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Bring to a simmer on low heat and add the gum paste. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring continually, until a very thick syrup forms. Use a spoon to remove any foam build-up on the surface.
Allow to cool.
Then strain through cheesecloth or sieve.
Bottle in a glass container with a tight seal and store in the refrigerator.
Gomme syrup will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 months. You can extend the shelf-life to about 6 months adding 1 tablespoon of vodka before storing it.
Gum arabic can be inconsistent, it is also relatively expensive and your own tastes may lean toward a more or less sugary syrup. For this reason, it's a good idea to start with small batches (such as the measurements indicated above) and try it out in a few classic cocktails like a Sazerac or Old-fashioned. Once you find your ideal syrup, you can make larger batches
The 1871 recipe found in David Wondrich's book "Imbibe!" uses a full pound of gum. It is also interesting to note that "Professor" Jerry Thomas' recipe for gum syrup includes no gum. Instead, it is similar to what is commonly called "bar" simple syrup (a 1:1 mix of sugar and water) and makes 2 gallons at a time. That's a lot of syrup and will last a very long time in the average bar.
Buying Gum Arabic
Gum arabic has many uses and food is just one of them. For that reason, it is important that the gum arabic you buy for syrup is food-safe. It can be found at many natural food stores or baking specialty stores and, just to be safe, it's best to purchase it from a food source.
If you want to try gomme syrup without hunting down gum arabic, you can find bottled gum syrup from a few specialty producers. Small Hand Foods is one company that makes a plain, pineapple, and raspberry gum syrup and each is fun to mix into drinks.