Our first major hurdle here at MDR labs was the simple syrup. This is a key component to many drinks. The major purpose of the simple syrup is to sweeten a drink without adding too much volume, which would dilute the flavors. On a historical note, whenever an old recipe calls for powdered sugar, what they mean in modern standards is traditional granulated sugar. Refined sugar was much harder to get in the old days and often required clarifying, which it no longer does. Please keep that in mind if you try to compare the following recipe with an older version that you might find elsewhere.
You can also scale up this recipe to make larger volumes. I don’t recommend it for your first attempt, though as too much can go wrong. Also, since the Splenda version does not actually have sugar, it is more susceptible to bacterial/fungal contamination so smaller batches won’t be wasted as much if they do get contaminated. I like to add a shot of vodka to my syrup to help it keep longer without altering the flavor/sweetness too much.
Gum Arabic Half
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup gum arabic (acacia powder)
1 cup sugar (sub: Splenda, or sucralose)
1/2 cup water
*1/4 cup water (added at the end and explained below, only if using Splenda)
Heat the 1/4 water to where it’s just starting to boil, and slowly, while stirring constantly, add the gum arabic. This will make a sticky, disgusting, gooey mess, and you’ll wonder what you just got yourself into. We have a set of old bowls we don’t care about at home, and I always remove from heat and pour the hot water into a bowl rather than risk the gum making a mess of a pot. I’ve never had it ruin a bowl, though. I actually like to raise and lower the pot above the heat in order to more easily maintain a light boil. And by light boil I mean that it is just barely bubbling. It’s very easy to get to the full on boil and that’s where the bubbly mess starts.
No matter what you do, you’ll probably end up with lumps. Take a spoon (metal – I fear you’d never get a wooden spoon clean), and keep stirring, and stirring. When you find lumps, break them up with the spoon. Here, you can trade time for effort. It’s been my experience that you can be vigilant and smash all the lumps, and take about 15 minutes doing it. Or, you can take care of the worst offenders and get the mixture reasonably smooth, then just let it sit for a couple hours and let the water slowly work its way into the lumps (checking and breaking up the worst offenders as you go). People like bartenders that do this often just let the whole thing sit overnight to not have to deal with it. The gum is done when it’s no longer a gluey mass, but a thick kind of molasses consistency. You’ll know it when it happens, just keep stirring. It’s kind of like beating eggs.
Then make a simple 2:1 syrup – Put half a cup of water in a small pot. Put the heat on medium, add a cup of sugar. Grab a wooden spoon, and stir constantly until everything dissolves, but make sure the total time on the heat is about 10 minutes when using Splenda. The mixture should never simmer, though it’ll probably come close. With sugar, you can tell when it’s done because the surface of the water acts differently, so the solution must have a different surface tension. With Splenda, it does get a little bit of shimmer, but not a whole lot. It should be noted that it does not take very much heat at all to dissolve the Splenda so keeping the solution on the heat for the full 10 minutes is important (explained below).
Now pour in your gum mixture. Adding the now-cool gum will take the temperature back down while you stir it in to dissolve. This time, the mixtures should go together much more easily than when the gum was a solid. It’ll foam a bit though, especially as the mixture starts to simmer. You can utilize the floating pan trick mentioned above to lessen the foaming.
Remove from heat and using your metal spoon again, collect and discard as much of the foam as you can. It’s sticky, like marshmallow foam, so the task isn’t hard. Washing the spoon is easy with lots of hot water, or just allow it to soak in slightly soapy water overnight before washing.
In earlier attempts, when side by side sugar/Splenda batches were made, we noticed that the Splenda syrup was sweeter than the sugar syrup. We eventually determined that this was a density issue. While Splenda is volume to volume as sweet as sugar, it does not weigh the same, nor is it as dense, which means that the water displacement is less. I determined that the volume displacement difference was 0.4 cups for one cup in a 1:1 syrup. This means that after heating the water/splenda mix until it is totally dissolved, you must add 0.4 cups of water afterwards to maintain the correct sweetness to volume ratio. Since we are making a 2:1 syrup, the correction volume is halved. One quarter cup is close enough to 0.2 cups that it won’t make much difference, but be careful how much rounding you do if you scale up the recipe. The reason why this is added at the end, rather than during the heating process, is because the volume change correction takes into account evaporation loss during the 10 minutes of heating.
Once everything is mixed, let cool, and bottle. I like using simple brown glass Boston Round bottles with cone lined screw-top caps. Just make sure to sterilize beforehand by boiling, or just running in the dishwasher to minimize contamination.