"As a kid, you played baseball, and you either had a mouthful of sunflower seeds or a mouthful of Big League Chew," Michael Tsirtsis says. When Roger Landes (Mfk) challenged the Oak + Char bartender to create a cocktail with the shredded bubble gum, though, it had been years since he'd sat in a dugout pretending to chew tobacco. "While I was making the cocktail I had a big wad of it in my mouth the entire time, blowing bubbles—it kind of inspired me," he says. "I got it in my beard quite often."
The biggest challenge, Tsirtsis says, was retaining the bubble gum flavor while trying to eliminate "that processed, synthetic, unnatural flavor that comes with any type of chewing gum or processed candy." He looked back to the first chewing gums, made from tree resin, and decided to do "something really earthy that would complement the woodsy type of qualities that a natural gum would have." Tsirtsis made a syrup with toasted black and white peppercorns, green cardamom pods, star anise, and juniper berries steeped with sarsaparilla root; after removing the spices, he added three packs of original flavor Big League Chew and simmered the mixture for an hour and a half. The final step was removing the goopy, softened gum ("We went through quite a few slotted spoons," Tsirtsis says) and adding a little sugar.
Other ingredients included white rum, lemon juice, egg white, and a house-made tincture of sarsaparilla and cinnamon. To finish the drink, Tsirtsis infused Angostura bitters with Fresno and habanero chiles and grape-flavored Big League Chew, which he spritzed over the top. "It's really crazy how much [the cocktail] tastes like bubble gum," he says. "It's weird, but the bitters spritz on top takes away any medicinal qualities that the straight bubble gum has."
Tsirtsis has challenged Sammy Faze of Billy Sunday to create a cocktail with squid ink.
1 egg white
.5 oz lemon juice
1 oz Big League Chew, cardamom, and black pepper syrup
2 oz Banks white rum
5 drops sarsaparilla-and-cinnamon tincture
Angostura bitters infused with fresno and habanero chiles and grape Big League Chew
Reverse dry shake: add ice and all ingredients except the Angostura bitters to a shaker and shake well. Strain it and shake the cocktail without the ice, then fine strain into a coupe. Spray with infused Angostura bitters.