The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday, Preserves, could not have arrived at a better time. A few weeks ago, armed with a good knife, a very large pot, and a lot of patience, I made a traditional British marmalade.
It’s been a few years now that I’ve been trying to track down the elusive Seville oranges. They are not commonly found in stores and have a short season. So I was quite excited when I saw them appear at Specialty Produce, my local source for produce. Bumpy, thick-skinned and full of seeds, with an intensely bitter juice, they are not the friendliest of fruit. But under the right conditions, they can become sublime.
I had pretty much given up on this month’s MxMo and its resinaceous theme. For some reason, I did not feel especially inspired and could not see myself buying a special ingredient to be able to fit with the theme.
Like Monsieur Jourdain who eventually realized that he had been speaking in prose his entire life, unbeknownst to me I had actually been playing with resin for a few weeks. And I came to the realization that I had three cocktails that were perfect for this month’s challenge.
Gum syrup is made from gum Arabic, a resin that is obtained from the sap of the acacia tree. Also known as gomme (French for gum), it used to be a common ingredient in cocktails in the late 1800s. It can be used in place of simple syrup and, as an added bonus, its high viscosity changes the texture of the cocktail. The gum syrup that I use is made by Small Hands Foods in San Francisco.
First I tried it in a Whiskey Old Fashioned with Buffalo Trace bourbon. The resulting cocktail had a rich texture that made it very approachable and dangerously smooth.
The Ward Eight is a famous cocktail created in Boston that is considered a classic. But despite its reputation, it never completely convinced me. I see two problems with the Ward Eight. First orange juice is a difficult ingredient in cocktails. Orange does not have the acidity of lemon or lime, and often fails to balance the sweetness of the other ingredients. Then the drink also includes grenadine which is another problematic ingredient. I am not even talking about fake commercial grenadine which does not contain an ounce of pomegranate juice. Even good quality grenadine can easily take over a drink if you are not careful. And when combined with orange juice… Well let’s just say that even though the Ward Eight is a decent cocktail, I feel sad to use a good bottle of rye in this drink because most of its qualities are shadowed by the other ingredients.
I tried a few versions of the Ward Eight including this one from PDT that uses pomegranate molasses for the grenadine and was left feeling underwhelmed.