Sazerac Cocktail (Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup)

Sazerac Cocktail 24 out of 28.

I have challenged myself to post 28 Sazeracs in 28 days for the month of February.

I’ll try some different spirits, try some out at bars, and have some friends make them for me. Hopefully, if I can get my act together we’ll have some video.

Sazerac Cocktail.
1 Lump of Sugar. (Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup vs. 1-1 Organic Cane Sugar Syrup)
1 Dash Angostura or Peychana Bitters.
1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. (Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey)

Stir well and strain into another glass that has been cooled and rinsed with 1 dash Absinthe (Duplais Blanche) and squeeze lemon peel on top.

One of my goals was to blind taste a Sazerac made with Gum Syrup vs. one made with regular Simple Syrup.  I woulda also like to have had a rich simple syrup and a muddled sugar cube in the mix, but what are you gonna do?

So what better to do, than to stop by when my coworker Jennifer Colliau, the proprietress of Small Hand Foods, was working at Heaven’s Dog for a little Gomme Geekery. It is true, I have featured Jennifer before, but that was so long ago, does it really count?

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Gum Syrup, aka gomme, is made by including Gum Arabic along with the sugar in the solution used to sweeten drinks. Gum Arabic is produced on certain types of Acacia trees, mostly in Africa. It is essentially air dried tree sap and contains a lot of weird complex organic compounds like Polysaccharides and Glycoproteins. It is used in industrial food manufacture as a stabilizer and source of viscosity.

I’ve always floated the idea that Gum Syrup was originally used to imitate the viscosity of highly concentrated sugar syrups.  That at some point including X amount of Gum Arabic was cheaper than using X amount of Sugar. Sort of makes sense, especially when you consider that before granulated, refined sugar was available, how much work you had to go through to get sugar.  It had to be cut from a loaf or augered out of a barrel.  Then ground or dissolved and clarified.  A lot of work to get a clear-ish simple syrup.

Or Gum Syrup was solely used to increase the viscosity of sugar solutions and the drinks they were used to sweeten.

Gum Arabic is a pain in the ass to dissolve, and currently is far, far more expensive than sugar, so it seems like a lot of work to go through, just for a fairly subtle aesthetic change to the cocktails it is used in.

One interesting characteristic of Gum Arabic is that it blooms in high proof alcohol solutions, and turns the solution cloudy.  It can be a bit unattractive if you are making an old fashioned with Gum Syrup and Barrel Proof Whiskey. Sorta looks like Coffee or Tea with Milk.

An even cooler thing about it if you continue adding water to the solution, once it is below a certain point, the “bloom” disappears again.

Jennifer also mentioned that she had read that Gum Syrup was sometimes used to check the proof of spirits, though I am not exactly sure at what dilution level the bloom disappears.

That’s a Dash of Absinthe, 1/4 ounce of Gum, 1 oz of Thomas Handy Barrel Proof Rye, Chilled Water, and a couple dashes of Peychaud’s. Kind of a lazy person’s Sazerac, really, and quite tasty.  Ha! Now that I think about it, the above is the closest I’ve come to what Antoine Peychaud may have been serving at his Pharmacy: Bitters, Water, Sugar, and Spirits.  The original “Cocktail”.

Jennifer and I have talked often about what drinks we think are best when using Gum Syrup. To me, the delicate viscosity is often lost when using it in a shaken drink, so I prefer to use it in drinks like Old-Fashioneds and Sazeracs.

Other people really like it in shaken citrus drinks. Jennifer mentioned that Ryan at Beretta really loves to use it in traditional Daiquiris. We use her Pineapple Gum in our very popular Gin Fizz Tropical and Pisco Apricot Tropical drinks at Heaven’s Dog.

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She made the two drinks, had me turn around, and scrambled them up.

Could I tell the difference?

Well, I could tell they were different, and I made an educated guess which was which. Fortunately, I was right! Whew. The viscosity was a difficult thing to quantify.  As I tasted the Sazeracs, it seemed like the bigger difference was in the taste impact. The flavors in the Sazerac sweetened with Gum Syrup seemed to be married more happily together than those in the one sweetened simply with simple syrup.

If you’re curious about Small Hand Foods’ Syrups, they can be purchased in the San Francisco area at Plump Jack Wine Stores, K&L Wines, and Cask.  Outside of the Bay Area, I have it on good authority that Cocktail Kingdom will soon be carrying them.

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This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

3 thoughts on “Sazerac Cocktail (Small Hand Foods Gum Syrup)

  1. In Berkeley you can get Small Hands syrups at Ledger’s Liquors on University, they keep them on the right side of the rightmost fridge along the right wall (to your right when you enter). In a gum Sazerac I like to dial down the sweetness a bit (vs simple syrup version) and drop the lemon twist right into the drink.

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