The Wonders of Gum Syrup (Gomme Syrup)

I mentioned gum syrup (also known by its French name of gomme syrup) in my post on the Pisco Punch. You see gomme syrup called for a fair bit in older cocktail recipes, and people will generally tell you to substitute simple syrup. Simple syrup is an acceptable substitute for gum syrup, but despite what people may say it is not one and the same. While you certainly can substitute simple syrup for gum syrup, if you want to drink certain old style drinks they way they were intended to be drunk you probably need to make yourself some real gum syrup.

 

Gum syrup is simple syrup with the addition of gum arabic (or gum acacia), an edible gum produced from the acacia tree. Gum arabic alters viscosity in liquids and can act as a stabilizer. The special textural properties of gum arabic meant that historically had quite a range of uses, from photography and printing through to food manufacturing. While gum arabic has been superseded in many applications by cheaper alternatives, it is still used in confectionary and soft drinks. Therefore, while gum arabic can be hard to track down, the best place to find it is in a specialist baking supplies store.

 

Added to simple syrup, gum arabic does several things: first, it prevents the syrup from crystallizing (a problem as syrups become more concentrated); second, it alters the consistency of the syrup and imparts an interesting ‘silky’ texture; third, it provides a very subtle ‘warm’ aroma. Some may disagree with this last point, but I think there is something there.

 

The production of gum syrup by adding gum arabic to simple syrup may originally have simply been a means of preventing crystallization. However, the textural properties were surely also appreciated.

 

Making your own gum syrup is extremely straightforward. You need to bear in mind though that gum arabic has a reputation as an inconsistent substance in terms of its chemical properties. Gum arabic from different sources may vary, so treat the following as a guide for experimentation. Don’t be nervous though. There is no room for real error. So long as your gum syrup contains gum arabic it will have some degree of the properties of gum arabic. It will merely be a matter of how noticeable those properties are, which will depend on the nature of your gum arabic and how much you add. Play around until you get a result you like.

 

I’ve been making my gum syrup as follows:

 

Take ½ oz of gum arabic and place in a bowl. Add 1 oz of hot water, stir together, and leave to stand for a while until ‘dissolved’. The gum arabic will gradually soak up the water and turn into a kind of a sticky paste. Some recommend leaving overnight but I think a few hours is long enough.

 

For the next step make a 3:1 simple syrup in a saucepan, using 6 oz sugar and 2 oz water. Heat while stirring until dissolved, bring to the boil, add the gum arabic mixture, bring to the boil again, use a spoon to remove the scum that will have appeared on the surface, cool (placing saucepan bottom in a sink of cold water will speed up this step if you are in a hurry), strain through cheesecloth or a sieve, and bottle.

 

Stored in the fridge or freezer it should keep for a long time. The high concentration of sugar means it shouldn’t freeze solid unless your freezer is particularly cold.

 

Now that your syrup is ready your only problem is what drink to use it in. The gum syrup texture really shines in drinks that fit the classic 19th century definition of a ‘cocktail’ (i.e. spirit, sweetener and bitters, diluted with a little ice). You will find that the drink comes across as mellower, but without any loss of flavor. An Old Fashioned makes a good place to start playing around with this stuff, and of course you also need to try a Pisco Punch. A Sazerac may be my favorite gum syrup cocktail though, pretty much to the point where I no longer want a Sazerac made any other way. Since a Sazerac contains no ice the gum syrup texture remains undiluted right through to the final sip, and there is just something about the way the gum syrup works with the robust old-worldly flavors in a Sazerac – especially the anise and lemon oil. I never experimented with gum syrup too much in long drinks (Tom Collinses and suchlike). I think that the more diluted the drink the less you are going to notice the difference from regular syrup. However, gum arabic is supposedly still used in manufacturing coke and other sodas, so perhaps this could be an area to experiment with.

26 Responses to “The Wonders of Gum Syrup (Gomme Syrup)”

  1. Jay Hepburn Says:

    Great post Seamus – I’ve recently picked up some gum arabic to make gomme syrup, but wasn’t sure what kind of amounts I should be using. I will be giving your recipe a try this weekend.

  2. The evolution of the Sazerac cocktail » Oh Gosh! - Adventures of a cocktail enthusiast Says:

    [...] of my recently acquired Thomas H. Handy Rye in my all-rye Sazerac. I also used my just-made real gomme syrup, which both Paul and David Wondrich recommend for the perfect [...]

  3. Dominik MJ - the opinionated alchemist Says:

    I was tempted to experiment also with gum arabic to produce a gum syrup – however I found out, that Monin is producing already gomme…

    Against their cane syrup (I think they have sugar syrup as well) gomme really contains gum arabic (there is an e-number that indicates as gum)!

    So it is much easier – though might be more expensive…

  4. seamus Says:

    Interesting to hear that Dominik. I’ve never seen Monin gomme.

    Does it have a distinct gum texture though?

    As for price I doubt buying theirs would work out much more expensive than making your own. Gum Arabic can be quite expensive if you buy it in the small bottles sold for cake decorating (in some shops the only size available is 10 grams). If you can find it sold in slightly larger volume (maybe 100 grams or something) the price shouldn’t be too bad though. It isn’t like you are likely to be going through tons of the stuff.

    I tried it in a long drink for the first time a few days ago – a Tom Collins. It still influences the texture even when diluted but I’m not sure I like the effect it has. There was something almost slimy about it when used in a long drink.

  5. pratibha Says:

    i just made whiskey sours (with simple syrup) and decided to investigate what ‘gomme syrup’ was. very helpful, this article is. where did you buy arabic gum powder from? i live in the silicon valley, any suggestions?

  6. seamus Says:

    The first time I experimented I got a tiny bottle of gum arabic in a cake decorating supplies store. It was expensive. I think I paid around US$5 for 15 grams – only enough for one small batch.

    Next time round I got in touch with the distributor of the gum arabic (their contact details were on the side of the bottle). It comes in big 5 kg jars, but very few people would be needing that much so breaking a jar down and repacking should not be a problem. I asked them to pack a few hundred grams in a bag. It only cost US$15-20 or so and will probably last years.

    Not sure where you would find it in Silicon Valley, but try professional cake decorating or cooking supplies stores.

  7. nalesch Says:

    I found some food-grade gum arabic on the web:

    http://www.pennherb.com has 4oz for $9.25

    http://www.frontiercoop.com has 16oz for $21.80

    I may have to get some and try it.

  8. c Says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve just finally gotten my hands on some gum arabic, after keeping a casual lookout for years… turns out the key is shopping the spice aisle at an Indian grocery, which I suspect Pratibha can locate in Silicon Valley :) 100 grams (3.5 oz.) for $3. It’s generally labeled “Edible Gum,” and comes in wee nuggets rather than as a powder.

  9. seamus Says:

    Be a little careful since not all ‘edible gum’ will be gum arabic.

    I think there is at least one other type of tree that produces an edible gum, and probably other sources too. While I was searching for gum arabic I came across a few other types of edible gum that (at least in cake decorating) serve the same purpose.

    These other types of gum may be perfectly fine substitutes for gum arabic in making gomme syrup, but to be sure you would really need to do a comparison.

    Just out of curiosity I must keep an eye out for it next time I am in an Indian grocery.

  10. Chips Says:

    Hey, was just wandering around the web and found your page, which lead me to investigate this “edible gum” thing. This website
    http://www.ulandslaere.au.dk/NOTICES/TeachingMaterial/
    TeachingMaterial_2000_01/undervisningsmateriale/
    Lars_Moller/Leadwood.pdf

    says there are four different kinds of edible gum trees.

    “It is one of the 4 species in Owamboland
    which have edible gum. The others being: candle-pod acacia (Acacia hebeclada), red syringa (Burkea africana) and silver terminalia (Terminalia sericea).” The edible gum arabic comes from the acacia tree.

    Also, there is
    http://www.envindia.com/nandck/index.php/
    ecobazar_temp/comments/53/

    “Gums extracted from Kullu (Sterculia urens) and Salai (Boswellia serrata) trees are valuable forest produce. In addition gum from Axle Wood tree or Dhaoda (Anogeissus latofoia), Cutch tree or Khair (Acacia Catechu) and Indian gum arabic tree or Babool (Acacia nilotica) are also extracted and are economically important.”

    So there are even at least three different kinds of edible gum acacia trees, producing gum arabic. Amazing!

  11. Chips Says:

    Btw, those links all on one line are:

    http://www.ulandslaere.au.dk/NOTICES/TeachingMaterial/
    TeachingMaterial_2000_01/undervisningsmateriale/
    Lars_Moller/Leadwood.pdf

    and

    http://www.envindia.com/nandck/index.php/ecobazar_temp/comments/53/

    Not sure if wordpress will chop them off or otherwise make them unreadable/unreachable.

  12. Chips Says:

    Btw, those links all on one line are:

    http://www.ulandslaere.au.dk/NOTICES/TeachingMaterial/TeachingMaterial_2000_01/undervisningsmateriale/Lars_Moller/Leadwood.pdf

    and

    http://www.envindia.com/nandck/index.php/ecobazar_temp/comments/53/

    Not sure if wordpress will chop them off or otherwise make them unreadable/unreachable.

  13. Derek Says:

    Are the amounts listed in your recipe by weight or volume?

  14. seamus Says:

    Hi Derek. The measures are volume.

  15. Bunnyhugs » Blog Archive » Old-School Genever Cocktails Says:

    [...] 1 tsp gomme syrup (try and use real gomme syrup – instructions on making it here) [...]

  16. The Hostel - Zenfell Says:

    [...] when we discovered gum syrup, which they served like ketchup with [...]

  17. A Very Shifty Blog » Blog Archive » Nishinomiya 12-30-2008 Says:

    [...] and had tomatoes and some sauce with onions in it. It also came with fries, which were dipped in Gum Syrup instead of ketchup. Danny and Lucas have been singing the praises of gum syrup the whole time, but [...]

  18. walt bauer Says:

    While tracking down sources of gum arabic in South Florida to prepare
    pisco punch from my Inca Gold Pisco, an acholado style aromatic pisco,
    I ran across your article. Now that Inca Gold Pisco is available in several
    U.S. locations; Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco (where it is the
    preferred pisco at the PISCO LATIN LOUNGE in preparing their pisco punch) I would recommend you try it. See website for details. Walt Bauer

  19. Long Ball Larry Says:

    I just made a large batch of gum syrup using gum arabic that I bought from Fontiercoop.com. I used David Wondrich’s recipe from Imbibe. I notice you recommend straining the syrup through a sieve. I did not strain my syrup. Is it necessary to do so? Would you recommend re-heating the batch and straining?

    I am storing it in the refrigerator, and while cold it is quite thick (so thick that it does not easily pour out of the bottle). Is this normal? I have made rich simple syrup many times and my gum syrup is thicker. Thanks.

  20. Johnnie Massiah Says:

    Have you ever considered adding more videos to your webpage to keep the visitors more engaged? I just read through the whole article and it was very good but since I am more of a visual learner, I find videos to be more helpful. I like what you guys are always up too. Keep up the excellent work. I will revisit your website regularly for some new post.

  21. budgiejones Says:

    it is interesting for me to hear you talk about Gomme Syrup as my ancestors are Gomme’s and are very hard to track.

  22. David Says:

    Mmm, this is what I need for my next Alamagoozalum! Yum!

  23. monin gomme syrup Says:

    Dear sri .
    I am not required .
    can i ghiv me pune monin gomme syrup suppliers phone no.

  24. Nishinomiya 12-30-2008 | Shiftycow.net Says:

    [...] and had tomatoes and some sauce with onions in it. It also came with fries, which were dipped in Gum Syrup instead of ketchup. Danny and Lucas have been singing the praises of gum syrup the whole time, but [...]

  25. irishman Says:

    i am looking to make gomme syrup for Long Island Ice Tea (as IBA list it as the largest ingredient in the drink) and i want to know can i use anything else in my LIIT’s instead

  26. col.b Says:

    i’ve just tried gomme in a sazerac or three, and found it fantabuabulous. (after some adjustments, now adding regans orange bitters……..,,,,…… now, if i can only stand up and wallk to the cabnet i’d like to try a long island tea. hmmmmm was that a gnommme on a unicycle i just saw go by…bye by ;)

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