Even though – or maybe because – I grew up in Syracuse, I’m not a fan of the cold. Which means lots of hot toddies over the winter in a desperate attempt to keep the cold at bay. But there’s something that’s always bothered me about hot toddies: their texture is a bit thin and watery, which in turn can leave the booze tasting too sharp. But I think I’ve found a solution! It’s called gum syrup, or sometimes gomme, a relic from the classic age of cocktails that gives drinks a rich, silky texture. This is the only way I’ll be making my hot toddies from now on, starting with this Maple Bourbon Hot Toddy. – Andrew
Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper
Maple Bourbon Hot Toddy
2 oz Bourbon
6 oz Hot Water
1 tsp Maple Syrup
1 tsp Gum Syrup
2 dashes Pecan Bitters
Combine all the ingredients in a heat-proof glass and garnish with a lemon peel and cinnamon stick. Enjoy!
Gum syrup is an ingredient that shows up in just about every cocktail from the late 1800s – it was pretty much guaranteed that a simple syrup in a cocktail was gum syrup. Gum syrup is made with gum acacia, also called gum arabic, a fine white powder made from the sap of the acacia tree. You can order it online or find it in specialty shops; anyone in the DC area can pick some up at Bazaar Spices at Union Market. Here’s a quick and easy way to make a batch:
Combine two ounces of gum acacia and two ounces of water in a plastic container and stir, then cover and let it sit for two days. This will let the water completely dissolve the gum; just don’t get it wet until you’re ready to work with it because it gets sticky fast. Once it’s ready, make a rich simple syrup by gently heating six ounces of water and twelve ounces of super-fine sugar. Fold the gum mixture into the simple syrup until it’s fully incorporated, then remove from the heat, let it cool, and bottle. This will give you 10-12 ounces.
Gum acacia acts as an emulsifier, preventing the sugar from crystalizing and giving the gum syrup a rich silky texture and a big mouthfeel. Because the gum has very little flavor of its own, it adds sweetness and texture but not much else. It’s best in all-spirits drinks like the Manhattan or Sazerac, and perfect for the hot toddy.
So our hot toddy is warm, oaky, sweet, and just a bit spicy – but also with a rich, velvety texture you wouldn’t otherwise find in a drink like this. Easy drinking.
Oh, and those pecan bitters? Easy. Take a bottle of aromatic bitters, like Angostura, and combine it with a cup of chopped, lightly toasted pecans in a glass jar. Let the bitters sit for a few weeks, giving the jar a shake every day. Then strain out the pecans and rebottle. Many bitters have a very high proof, so they’re pretty easy to infuse. Feel free to play around with new combinations.
(Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, where we’ve been posting our experiments before they make their way onto this column!)
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper