Maple Cocktail Season

Snow, slush, freezing rain: By March, winter’s weather has lost all of its charm. But there’s an upside: maple syrup season. As we make the transition from winter to spring,  over a massive swath of North America, from West Virginia to Nova Scotia, the sap is flowing.

Yet when it comes to cocktails, maple syrup is typically cast as a fall or winter ingredient. These cold-weather  concoctions, including the Maple Old Fashioned, are great, but if maple syrup is a spring product, why can’t we use it immediately?

In fact, we can. It just takes a little imagination. In its fall and winter wardrobe, you find maple syrup accessorizing brown liquor—bourbon, apple brandy, etc.—with which its caramel nature works very well. But it’s actually quite versatile.

Most maple syrup cocktail recipes recommend the darker, richer, maple-ier Grade-B version. (Maple syrup is graded by its color.) Indeed, Grade B expresses itself more loudly with heavy spirits. But the lighter, elegant Grade-A syrup is also useful, as it plays nicely with lighter base spirits like vodka, gin and even pisco. Texturally, it’s lithe and robust, as maple syrup is chock full of minerals and antioxidants. Flavor-wise, it’s complex, with a compelling buttery richness.

To get the sap flowing in your home bar, try my Trees Cocktail, which pairs maple with another forest favorite, pine. Or my attractively red Papal Maple that matches it with Italian staples grappa and blood orange juice. And the Master Cleanse (pictured above) is a shot or short drink I created as a more enjoyable alternative to the famous regime that allows solely lemon juice, water, cayenne pepper and maple syrup to be consumed.

Let’s drink to maple syrup season!

Trees Cocktail

Contributed by Jordan Mackay

  • 2 oz Gin (Fords or Plymouth)
  • .75 oz Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur
  • .5 oz Maple syrup
  • 1 oz Fresh lime juice
  • Club Soda
  • Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6
  • Glass: Collins

Add gin, Zirbenz, maple syrup and lime juice to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Fill with club soda, stir and top with a few drops of bitters.

Papal Maple

Contributed by Jordan Mackay

  • 2 oz Grappa
  • .5 oz Grade-A maple syrup
  • .5 oz Blood orange juice
  • .75 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Glass: Cocktail
  • Garnish: Laurel branch

Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a laurel branch.

Master Cleanse

Contributed by Jordan Mackay

  • 2 oz Campo de Encanto Pisco
  • 1 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • .5 oz Grade-A maple syrup
  • 1 generous shake Ground Cayenne pepper
  • 1 generous shake Chili powder
  • Glass: 2 tumblers or 2 shot glasses

Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into two small tumblers or two large shot glasses.

Jordan Mackay is a San Francisco-based writer and co-author of the James Beard Award-winning book Secrets of the Sommeliers.

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