As winter announces its overdue presence and maple harvest time looms, we yearn for maple syrup more than ever. We pour it on pancakes, use it to glaze bacon for our burgers, and drizzle it over snowball-sized scoops of ice cream. However, there’s no place we like it more than at the bar. That’s because the amber liquid has a rich, deeply flavorful sweetness, which works well to mellow out liquor’s sharper tones. Here are 13 amazing maple cocktails.
Charcut, Calgary, Canada
Bar manager Mackenzie Oullette has fond childhood memories of making lollipops by pouring boiling maple syrup into the snow. Now she makes a similar maple taffy to garnish her whiskey rich Fléche cocktail, which gets a sugary lift from even more Grade A syrup. Make a reservation at Charcut.
Burritt Room & Tavern, San Francisco, California
The phrase ‘study abroad’ used to conjure images of drinking in foreign countries while trying to improve international relations one hookup at a time. But now that we’re older, slightly wiser, and a tad more refined, the phrase makes us think fondly of this cocktail with the same name. Bourbon based, it’s sweetened with dark Grade B maple syrup and given some nuance through the inclusion of pear liqueur, allspice dram, and lemon juice. Make a reservation at Burritt Room & Tavern.
Almanac, New York, New York
Simply called the Maple, this cocktail is essentially a seasonally accented Old Fashioned. The kick of the Overholt Rye and the botanicals of the dry vermouth are smoothed out by a dose of salted maple syrup and a couple of dashes of housemade orange bitters. Make a reservation at Almanac.
The Salty Sow, Austin, Texas
The Maple Glazed Old Fashioned sounds like it could be an amazing doughnut. It’s also the name of this self-explanatory sipper, which features the classic cocktail sweetened with…yeah, you guessed it. What gave it away? Make a reservation at The Salty Sow.
Gather, Berkeley, California
Earl Grey-infused maple syrup perks up this scotchy sipper, which would most certainly appeal to Ron Burgundy. Dubbed the Northern Exposure, it’s filled out with lemon juice, egg whites, and bitters. Here it goes, down into our bellies. Make a reservation at Gather.
Wildwood Kitchen, Bethesda, Maryland
The Sunday mornings cocktail evokes brunch in a glass. Bacon-washed bourbon is mellowed out with hickory-smoked maple syrup, and vanilla and cinnamon tincture. The glass is finished off with a Serrano ham chip and an orange peel. Make a reservation at Wildwood Kitchen.
The Smith-Midtown, New York, New York
Named after the lovable pig in Charlotte’s Web, the Sweet Wilbur aims to evoke the countryside. Sugar maple liqueur is blended with bourbon, allspice dram, apple cider, and bacon bitters (an item that made it into our Christmas stocking). To complete the cocktail, the rim is rolled in vanilla salt. Make a reservation at The Smith-Midtown.
Brabo by Robert Wiedmaier, Alexandria, Virginia
High-end Blis maple syrup sasses up the Machinist cocktail. Its caramel-y notes leaven the kick of the rye and ably complement the pop of the maraschino cherry liqueur. The tipple pairs well with a stack of pancakes and a pile of regrets. Make a reservation at Brabo by Robert Wiedermaier.
Trummer’s On Main, Clifton, Virginia
Owner-mixologist simply calls this cocktail the Maple, but he should have called it the Maple Squared. That’s because maple and cider caramel add candy tones to this bourbon and sherry powered sipper, which is topped off with a cloud of maple froth. Which makes us wonder if we could use the latter in which to take the sweetest bubble bath ever. We can dream. Make a reservation at Trummer’s On Main.
Gracie’s, Providence, Rhode Island
Meet the What the Sap! A heady mix of Sapling maple bourbon, gingery liqueur, and the kind of spices Grandma used to put in her apple pie. It’s winter warmth in a glass. Make a reservation at Gracie’s.
The Garden at the Four Seasons, New York, New York
The Headless Horseman is part cocktail, part dessert and all delicious. A mix of pumpkin ale, bourbon, mandarin orange puree, maple syrup, and ginger gelato, it hits all the right buttons for us. Make a reservation at The Garden at the Four Seasons.
Brine, Newburyport, Massachusetts
Yo, ho, ho, and two bottles of rum – plus a bottle of maple syrup – are the backbone of the Maple Trader cocktail. Bartender Drew Hart adds in a little lemon and egg white, then garnishes the drink with walnut bitters and sea salt. Long John Silver would surely approve. Make a reservation at Brine.
Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago, Illinois
Who could resist a cocktail called the Gobbler Cobbler? Certainly not us! Rum rich, it includes maple syrup, sherry, pumpkin butter, lemon, Angostura bitters, and cinnamon. Make a reservation at Three Dots and a Dash.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Wildwood Kitchen courtesy of RW Restaurant Group; Almanac by No Entry Design;