Gum syrup is a rich simple syrup (2:1 sugar:water) combined with gum Arabic, an all-natural resin harvested from the Acacia tree and found primarily in Northeast Africa.
Gum Arabic is essentially a hardened sap that can either be heated, melted and dissolved into a liquid, or powdered from its dried state for easier dissolution. Gum Arabic has been harvested and used for centuries for its various natural properties, and has been a feature ingredient in cocktails for over 150 years.
The gum, which is comprised primarily of fiber and protein, acts as an emulsifier in the syrup and ultimately in your cocktail. This means that all of the components of your beverage are uniformly blended, a characteristic that top bartenders have sought for over a century.
Whether in a classic stirred cocktail like an Old Fashioned, or in a shaken sour like the Daiquiri, gum syrup takes your favorite drink to new and elevated heights by adding weight and a silky mouthfeel.
Jerry Thomas’s canonical The Bartender’s Guide, was replete with the use of gum syrup in lieu of simple syrup as a tool in the advancement of the bartender toward a proud professional. Employing food chemistry and a more scientific approach to building great drinks led to simple syrup all but being replaced by its more sophisticated gum syrup brother.
Aside from its historical use in cocktails, gum syrup has versatile applications in non-alcoholic drinks and even baking. Here in the South gum syrup has found its way into the regional favorites, sweet iced tea and the Arnold Palmer. Across the Pacific, Japan has been on the gum syrup bandwagon for decades as its sweetener of choice in coffee, both iced and hot.
The Mojito, The Old Fashioned, The Whiskey Sour
The idea of a mojito is to release the essential oils of fresh mint leaves and disperse them throughout a carbonated highball. The natural emulsification properties of gum Arabic physically ensure that these oils are more uniformly distributed throughout your cocktail. This means that your last sip will be as rewarding as the first, a quality we all know doesn’t hold true at most bars.
If the Old Fashionedwasn’t your grandpa’s favorite drink, it was his coolest friend’s favorite drink. A true staple whiskey cocktail, the Old Fashioned is simply three ingredients: whiskey (bourbon or rye), sugar, and bitters. Don’t let the simplicity of this build fool you; depending on the whiskey and bitters of choice, the flavor possibilities are virtually endless. That said, gum syrup is the requisite sweetener for anyone who takes their Old Fashioned seriously.
The Whiskey Sour is, like most sours, a straightforward and acid-centric cocktail. Unlike the Old Fashioned, which seduces drinkers with its deep complexity and nuance, the whiskey sour highlights and amplifies the most accessible flavors of the whiskey. In this drink, the gum syrup marries the bright, fresh flavors of the lemon with the complexity of the whiskey in a way that simple syrup cannot.
This preparation (served without ice) is termed “up”. One can also serve this drink over ice, or, “on the rocks”. It’s worth mentioning that many standard whiskey sour recipes call for the addition of egg white, though the gum arabic in the Classic Gum Syrup largely replaces the need for the emulsifying properties of the egg.