one hundred cocktails

drinking with a purpose


The Alamagoozlum Cocktail

27 Jan 2011

I’m pretty sure Ted Haigh has a goal with the first cocktail in his book, and it’s “put this book down unless you’re going to take this adventure seriously.” I don’t have any intent of reproducing the recipes in the book, but let’s just take a look at the ingredients we need to make the first cocktail in the book:

To this point in my life, a complicated cocktail is an Old Fashioned, and making a cocktail amounts to making the perfect martini, at best. The Alamagoozlum’s similarity in name to an amalgamation seems hardly a coincidence. If I’m going to take this adventure seriously, I needed to prove I could handle this little challenge. Let me illustrate, in pictures, what goes into an Alamagoozlum cocktail:

tons os ingredients

The first tricky bit was the gomme syrup. The book offers that gomme syrup is anachronistic and arguably redundant, given the egg white. Nonsense, I say! This is a book of anachronisms, it seems downright evasive to substitute simple syrup for gomme syrup! Of course, nobody sells gomme syrup anymore, so I had to figure out how to make it. First, I tracked down a supplier of gum arabic powder. I managed to secure a pound of the stuff from an herbal supplier on the Internet:

A picture of a bag of gum arabic powder

The powder has a funny feeling, is extremely fine, sticky, and coats everything. I made a solution of 2 ounces boiling water and 2 ounces gum arabic powder. This was a bit of an exercise in frustration, as the powder just formed a little seemingly hydrophobic raft on top of the boiling water. After about ten minutes of fighting with whisk, burner, and singed hand hair, I ended up with something not quite homogenous, but as good as it was going to get. I left it to cool to room temperature:

gum arabic solution

Essentially, gomme syrup is just a simple syrup with gum arabic in it, meant as an aide to emulsification, resulting in a “smoother, silkier feel on the tongue.” While the book advises not bothering, I can’t help but assume that it make a difference. Unfortunately, I haven’t been particularly scientific about this, and for reasons that will be clear later, I was a little discouraged and hampered in my ability to do a side-by-side comparison. The gomme syrup definitely has a flavor distinct from simple syrup, and I think it has effects beyond those provided by the egg white.

syrup being strained

Onc cooled, I mixed it with a cup of sugar and half a cup of boiling water in a small saucepan – too small a saucepan, it turns out. Let’s just say a 1-quart butter warmer is not really sufficient for this particular job. I’m still wiping the burned-on glue-like crap off my stovetop. When you’re making even this quantity of gomme syrup, I recommend a much larger saucepan (at least two quart) to contain bubbling and also allow for whisking (you’re going to do a ton of it to try to get the crap to integrate). In any event, I strained the gluey mess into a fifo bottle, chilled it,and thus ended the saga of the gomme syrup.

gomme syrup mixed with liquor by accident

Okay, that’s not actually how the gomme syrup ends. There’s one last little treat. While I was mixing the first batch of ingredients, I gave the fifo bottle a good squeeze and … blasted the cap off the fifo bottle, along with most of the gomme syrup. The picture above shows roughly how things ended up – everything above the lid is liquor, everything below is gomme syrup. Of course, I did this after I dumped all of the liquor into the glass, meaning I would need to dump the expensive portion of the cocktail down the train. Bummer. I managed to scrape enough out of the fifo bottle (remember that this stuff has the consistency of partially cured epoxy resin) to make another round, but let this be a warning: Measure stuff into an intermediate jigger/measuring glass before adding to your mixing vessel.

Much ado in the book is made about the egg white being a “scary” ingredient. Statistically speaking, there’s what, a 1 in 10,000 chance of getting salmonella from raw egg? And hey, we’re tossing the egg white in with high-proof stuff like Chartreuse (and you better believe I’m using the real stuff, green, not that wimpy cousin yellow), right? Honestly, though, I wasn’t particularly concerned; raw never killed anybody (no, really). The book was correct in that dividing an egg white into two equal halves is a bit tricky (thus causing the in-book recipe to yield six servings … ouch), but I manage to finagle it somehow. Pre-mixing, the solution sure looked gross as hell, though:

egg + liquor = nasty

Damn, I think I threw up a bit in my mouth just now. It wasn’t pleasant looking at the time, either. Whatever. Into the shaker with ice it went, and I shook until the thing frosted over. The end results looked something like this:

a finished alamagoozlum cocktail

I should note I used The Bitter Truth’s aromatic bitters instead of the Angostura bitters, mostly because I’m not as fond of Angostura bitters … especially when half an ounce of the stuff is being dumped into a cocktail.

I like simple things. I tend to assume that complicated preparations, recipes, and ingredients lead to complicated results – hard to get right and often complicated more for the point of being complicated than for a good reason. With that said, the Alamagoozlum cocktail is an interesting beast. It has a nice gingerbread/licorice flavor. Somewhat reminiscent of buttered rum, except it’s cold and way more complicated. Consistency is very thick; it coats the mouth like heavy cream or a melting milkshake. The bitters note is pronounced (not surprising given the volume), but using a high-quality bitters makes this intriguing rather than distracting – this is a cocktail that features bitters as a component. The flavors of the Chartreuse are also teased out, though any subtleties in the milder ingredients are blasted away – don’t bother with high quality rums or genever.

I don’t know if I would make one again. It is certainly an interesting conversation piece and a complex and contemplative adventure, but it seems a little too much work for the end result – a good sazerac is, I think, more compelling and straightforward.