PureProfile: Gomme

In this new feature, we explore some of the more exotic ingredients and techniques in mixology, beginning with one of the most exotic ingredients of all: gomme. Gomme is a mysterious substance in the world of cocktails, showing up occasionally in classic and historical recipes, but only very rarely appearing behind modern American bars. PouredPure contributor Sarah recently explored gomme in detail on her blog, and we took the opportunity to learn more.

What is gomme, exactly?
Gomme is French for “gum,” but when people say “gomme” in the context of cocktails they are referring to gomme syrup, which was considered a key cocktail ingredient in the early part of the last century. Gomme syrup is just a mixture of gum arabic, sugar, and water. Gum arabic has uses in painting and printmaking today, but historically it was used as an emulsifier in food, helping substances blend evenly. Gomme syrup has a slightly lemony hue to it, and is quite a bit more viscous than sugar-only simple syrup.

Where does it come from? Is it natural?
Yes, it is all natural, in fact it can be organic! Gum arabic is made by grinding the hardened sap of the acacia tree, which grows in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Most of the world’s supply is harvested in Sudan.

How do you make gomme?
The first step is to get gum arabic that is food-grade; most gum arabic you find is intended for fine arts, not eating. I bought a pound of it from a wholesale spice shop online.

The recipe is simple: mix one tablespoon and one teaspoon of gum arabic with one ounce of water in a sealed container.  Shake it well to combine, and shake it again after about 30 minutes.  Let the solution sit for 12 hours or more to ensure the gum becomes completely hydrated. Next, heat half a cup of filtered water in a small saucepan.  Slowly whisk in one cup of sugar, just as you would make simple syrup.  Keep whisking until the sugar particles are dissolved and the solution is clear, do not boil.  Off heat, whisk in your gum solution, and stir for about two minutes.  Pour into a clean, resealable container until cooled to room temperature, and then store in your refrigerator. It won’t separate and can be stored for some time, just like simple syrup.

How do you use gomme?
Gomme can be used just as you’d use simple syrup, to sweeten cocktails. It can be substituted for simple syrup in cocktail recipes pretty much one-to-one, but just as you would with simple syrup it should be added conservatively to taste, to keep the cocktail from becoming sticky sweet.

Why use gomme in cocktails?
The historical aspect is certainly interesting, but they key reason to use gomme is for texture. I mixed up a few cocktails using gomme and simple syrup to taste side-by-side and found the difference subtle, but noticeable. Cocktails made with gomme are smoother and have a decided lubricious texture than the same cocktail made with simple syrup.  Gomme also seems to smooth the flavor, subduing the liquor bite in high-proof cocktails more effectively than simple syrup. If you take your home mixology seriously or work behind a bar, it is well worth whipping up a batch.  It makes a great secret ingredient.

Thanks, Sarah!

To browse some recipes on this site that call for gomme, click here!