Dondurma Days Revisited – Mastiha Liqueur

March 18, 2013

Back in my chemistry lab days, I worked for a pretty cool adviser in Professor Kirshenbaum. On the side from our day to day, we had a number of really interesting food-science related experiments running along with this amazing speaker series called “The Experimental Cuisine Collective” he initiated. I had always been excited about the overlaps between the science and food world myself, so to have been a part of the early days of this work is still something I’m really proud of. And one of the more interesting pieces of work we had going on was related to Dondurma.

Dondurma is a stretchy (yes, I said stretchy) Ice Cream from Turkey that is not only delicious, but pretty entertaining. While the ingredient list is fairly simple (typically milk, sugar, salep, and mastic), it’s the salep itself that we were most interested in. Salep (a flour made from Orchids) has a polysaccharide component called “glucomannan” that helps give the ice cream that stretchy consistency. This same characteristic also provides a sense of satiety making this ice cream particularly interesting as a “better for you” alternative to high sugar, high calorie traditional ice cream. The only problem was (maybe still is?) the Salep flour was not intended to be exported. Therefore we got to work on alternative ingredient choices as a means to make our own version of stretchy Ice Cream.

But as cool as that all sounds, it was actually the Mastic component of the Ice Cream that came flooding back to my brain this weekend. Mastic is a resin from the Mastic Tree that has been used for centuries in candy and gum creation. The flavor is intense and distinct but I hadn’t encountered since I finished school years ago. That is until this weekend when I came across Skinos Mastiha Liqueur. My buddies at Alphabet City Wine Co. had a number of unique spirits they had been tasting and I happened to stop by at the perfect time. This mastiha liqueur grabbed my immediate attention, even above all the other amazing grappas, cognacs, and whiskeys they had available.

As a liqueur, I expected this stuff to be quite sweet but the mastic flavor is what really got me. If you have never had it on it’s own before you’ll probably pick up some “bubble gum” like flavor references. But for those who have tried the resin, this liqueur is undeniably mastic in origin. I’m not sure exactly what I’d end up doing with this stuff but in cocktail mixing there is definitely some potential. Check back for more ideas later once I get a chance to play around with it but in the mean time, go check out more stretchy ice cream YouTube videos and check out the Experimental Cuisine Collective here!

God, I love Science!


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