Cinnamon Syrup

Except from Tropical Standard
“Common supermarket cinnamon sticks are usually Sri Lankan or Ceylon cinnamon. Unfortunately, this variety is too subtle when boiled in a syrup. Instead, try cassia, a type of cinnamon much more common in mainland Asia.”

Cassia, I learned some time ago is of lesser quality and can be toxic in larger quantities. Obviously a 15ml per cocktail is not a lot, but steeping it for 12 hours is concentrating it quite a bit, no?

Brian Miller (formerly of The Polynesian in NYC) prefers Saigon cinnamon. Would Saigon cinnamon be different than other types of cassia?

I have never let it sit for more than an hour or two, and even then it tasted like Big Red chewing gum from my youth. Even still, I am going to give it a shot since the Jet Pilot is one of my all time favorites, and since I am most familiar with this cocktail m, it will be a good benchmark or barometer to see how this approach compares.

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To followup, I allowed the cinnamon infused syrup to sit in the fridge for exactly 12 hours just like it says in Tropical Standard, and it definitely made a difference in my favorite Jet Pilot cocktail. I thought the cinnamon would become too “cinnamony”, too hot and too much like the old Big Red gum, but instead it just got a greater depth of flavor without becoming hot or overbearing. Definitely a winner. I probably knew that already, but not sure it was worth the effort and/or waiting 12 hours, but it is!


So, to be clear, your last reply refers to a batch you made with Saigon cinnamon?

I use cinnamon syrup quite a lot, and have always made the Jeff Berry recipe, which doesn’t specify any particular varietal — which means I’ve been using “supermarket” cinnamon.

Smugglers Cove specifies cassia too. If that’s what they’re using, then I have to assume it’s not killing their customers. What I’m more interested in, though, is what’s historically accurate. What was used for cinnamon syrup when canonical recipes were created?

To be clear, I have no problem with Martin Cate or Garret Richard saying what they think is better. Perhaps they’re right! I am totally up for checking that out. But if I’m making a Zombie, I first want to know what the baseline, original recipe is supposed to taste like, and from there I can consider adjustments for my own preference.

So I guess I’m curious what Donn Beach or Vic Bergeron used for their cinnamon syrup.

I’ve tried a few different types a few different ways. I believe The Polynesian in NYC used to use Saigon cinnamon, but if I am not mistaken, Sunken Harbor uses Cassia, which is more common (and mentioned in Garret’s book Tropical Standard). I am not sure it’s the type of cinnamon as much as the method. When I asked Garret about the length of time if 10-11 hours really mattered if it was precisely 12 hours, he told me that 12 hours was the “sweet spot”. I could not find the Saigon in local stores, so I think I ordered it online. In the book Tropical Standard its stated cassia is more common in Asia.

As far as health concerns, well, let’s not forget the alcohol should be the bigger concern over the type of cinnamon you are using a minimal amount of. There are dozens if not hundreds of supermarket items which are fully approved by the FDA that are harmful but still sold regularly. Just do a search on YouTube for Dupont or Monsanto, etc etc. If you do go down that rabbit hole, soon there will be nothing you will want to eat or drink. We had a US President who drank as many as a dozen Diet Cokes per day. Nearly every one knows diet may have less calories but it’s far more harmful. The former president is closer to 80, and I don’t know how long he has had this habit (we know he does not drink, ever), but if and when things take their toll, we never know. I’ve had aunts who smoked 2 packs per day well into their 80s and some even lived to be 90 and they died of something else. It’s all odds and dozens of other factors.

I see Anton of Fuchsia Tiki Barn in NY State just got mentioned on Punch for the Ultimate Zombie and his recipe calls for Cinnamon Bark Syrup made with Vietnamese Cinnamon if you are interested:

Cassia utterly dominates the “cinnamon” spice category in the United States, and I’m pretty sure it always has (outside of—maybe—New Mexico), at least through the 20th Century to now. We’re only just now starting to commercially acknowledge the difference between cassia and (true) cinnamon. The distinctions between Indonesian, Vietnamese and Chinese cassia are relatively unimportant. True (Ceylon/Mexican) cinnamon is a superior spice on its own merits, but it just doesn’t perform as a syrup in the specified quantities in historic tiki drinks. (Nor will it perform in the cuisines that cassia is local to.)

We really should be calling it cassia syrup.

It’s entirely possible that a true (Ceylon/Mexican) cinnamon syrup has useful applications in mixology. I can’t imagine there aren’t some examples out there from programs like Mace, but I haven’t gone hunting.

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Well that’s interesting. It seems that I have been using cassia all along, based on the images I get from a web search. In fact, a cite on Wikipedia asserts that “Cassia cinnamon is the most popular variety of cinnamon sold and consumed in North America.”

I still don’t know what would have been used for cinnamon syrup during the classic tiki years, but I’m starting to suspect cassia was used.

My current preferred method for making the syrup is in a sous vide at 55° for an hour and a half.

While it’s not exactly an approachable method equipment-wise, it has resulted in what I feel is the most aromatic and full flavored syrup I’ve made of this variety over blended and fridge steeped

The cinnamon is cassia - the Sri Lankan variety (same as Vietnam?) - just four sticks roughly broken for 306g of water and sugar.

For my personal falernum I use both cassia and Ceylon as Ceylon is a softer aromatic while cassia is bigger and bolder. I think they support each other quite well as one is more fragrance and the other one bolder and spicier.

That’s my two cents - no idea on the historical approach, my best guess is probably a blender and then steeped for a bit and probably whatever cinnamon was local to the area at the time and availible. The syrups may have even been seasonable based on what was availible.