Recipes that fail: Mold, decay, and curdling

homemade grenadine, aspergillus mold comes free of charge

I recently ruined a whole batch of awesome mixers. I’ve since figured out ways to make things keep longer – more on that later. For now, I wanted to share these pictures for fun and as a warning to not do what I did!

So, in my quest to make perfectly clear ice cubes, I set the thermostat on my cocktail fridge (what, doesn’t everyone keep one of those?) to its warmest setting.

Unfortunately, this put all of my syrups and mixers right into the danger zone.

The temperature danger zone is easy to remember – it’s 40F to 140F. Food kept in that temperature range will spoil rapidly because bacteria grows best at those temperatures.

moldy and separating almond orgeat

In addition to mold and bacteria growth, I also noticed that some of the orgeat’s I had made had separated over time. This isn’t quite the same thing as curdling, but it’s similar, so let’s call it that.

what happens when coconut syrup separates

Both separation and mold growth hit my coconut syrup as well. Anything with a high fat content can separate, even refrigerated.


  1. Frederic July 24, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I always spike my syrups with grain or vodka (1 oz of vodka per 12-15 oz of syrup, or half that volume of 95% grain) which minimizes contamination; it will stop pretty much all bacteria and many fungus. Eventually, you will get the “fuzzies” but keeping the time that the cap is off (as well as not passing your body over an open bottle) and keeping it refrigerated help. Also, instead of spiking the vodka into the syrup (although this is what I do when I buy Trader Tiki syrups) is to do double duty with it – add it to the empty bottle, cap it, shake to sterilize the inside, then pour the syrup into it.

    For the separation, have you tinkered with emulsifiers like gum arabic?

  2. Kevin July 26, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Frederic: get out of my head, man! :-) you are definitely up my alley of thought with your ideas.

    As far as gum arabic, it is the standard choice for emulsifying mixers, but I would like to do a test with it against other emulsifiers and stabilizers. More on that later…

    I’ve used the vodka trick and Camper English proved that adding vodka to simple syrup significantly and measurably improves storage life.

    However, I have some reservations because even high proof alcohol won’t lower water activity to a safe level. I’m planning on more tests in the future.

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