A good cocktail tends to find a tidy balance of flavors. Thumb through just about any recipe book, and you’re likely to see a lot of simple syrup. But simple syrup is, well, simple, and not always cut out for a home mixologist like yourself.
Sure, it’s good to have some simple syrup on hand, especially a diluted version that’s roughly a 2:1 ratio of water to sugar. But as we enter fall and winter and search for deeper, richer, more complex flavors, why not try maple syrup? Cocktail artists have already shown the power of sweeteners like demerara sugar, muscovado sugar, and agave syrup. Now that we’re celebrating all things autumnal, it’s time to start mixing with maple syrup. Like a lesser-known liqueur, it can reshape a good drink for the better.
Before you start throwing maple syrup at vodka, we have a few suggestions. Think about your base spirit and how the flavors will meld with the birch-y syrup. You want to play off of the caramel, toffee, and nutty notes so look to spirits like whiskey (rye especially), aged rum, and aged tequila.
Another merit of using maple syrup is the added texture it can afford. Thicker than many sweeteners, it can create a luscious, velvety mouthfeel when mixed properly. And unless you’re making your own simple syrup or buying higher-end stuff, there’s a good chance maple syrup will be a bit healthier. Yes, it’s still sugar, but chances are good that it’s less processed (and therefore tastes better too).
Also keep in mind that maple syrup does great alongside citrus and the purest form of it is its best form. In other words, look at the label to make sure it is what it says it is (100% pure maple syrup). And know that sediment can settle at the bottom of the syrup container so you may either want to strain the last few pours out or dilute them a bit with some warm water.
You don’t need to do much to allow maple syrup to shine. Take this iconic three-ingredient cocktail, which becomes a bit earthier with maple. If you’re feeling like you want even more texture, add a single egg white and go without ice. And if you need a garnish, go with a dried citrus wheel or maybe even a cinnamon stick.
- 3 parts bourbon (try Frey Ranch Rye)
- 2 parts fresh lemon juice
- 1 part maple syrup
- Combine all ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously.
- Strain into a cocktail glass (with or without ice, dealer’s choice).
This recipe from Death & Co. offers another great example of how maple syrup can alter a classic cocktail in the simplest and best of ways. There are few ingredients but you still have to prepare it right, so be sure to have some good crushed ice on hand and a proper metallic or well-insulated vessel to make it in.
- 2 ounces rye (they suggest Old Overholt)
- 1/4 ounce maple syrup
- Mint bouquet for garnish
- Combine rye and syrup in julep tin and fill halfway with crushed ice.
- Stir with a teaspoon, churning the ice as you go, for about 10 seconds.
- Add more crushed ice to fill tin two-thirds full and stir until tin is completely frosted.
- Add more ice to form a cone above the rim.
- Garnish with mint bouquet in the center of ice and serve with a straw.
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