A maple syrup cocktail seems like something you’d be served at either a New England farmhouse by a crunchy Vermont lesbian or a tourist trap bar in Montreal. But I’m here to tell you that maple syrup plus booze equals a clear-cut revelation. It’s my firm belief that every serious drinker needs a bottle of quality maple syrup in their arsenal. Who am I to say so? Fair question.
I was born and raised in New Hampshire, where maple syrup courses through the veins of the community and is deeply entrenched in the culture. Earlier this year, my company, Bushwick Kitchen, launched a full line of maple syrups. And in February, my cookbook, Maple Syrup, was published with 20 recipes spanning a full day of eating, cocktail hour included. So I can confidently say I know a couple of things about maple syrup.
When it comes to maple cocktails, there are a wide variety of options. Sortilège is the Canadian gold standard in maple liqueur, and I love the Maple Bourbon and Maple Rye from Vermont’s Saxtons River Distillery. Every maple producer everywhere seems to have a batch of syrup aging in a bourbon barrel, which is always delicious. But for my money, a pour of pure, untouched maple syrup is the ticket. Try a small drizzle in, say, an Old Fashioned at first to find your balance. But I encourage you to open your mind to a new world of maple possibilities every time you’re about to measure simple syrup or crush a sugar cube.
In my cookbook, I delve into recipes for a Maple Alexander, Maple-Sage Daiquiri and, my favorite, a Maple Sazerac. But here we’re going to get a little more elemental with my recipe for a Maple Beet Shrub. The beautiful thing about shrubs is that there are only two rules: something sweet and something acidic. From there, your imagination can run wild. Typically some variety of sugar does the heavy lifting, but here I turn to maple syrup for a perfect hit of character and complexity. And although the beets maybe seem like an odd or unnecessary addition, they actually keep the sweetness in check with a welcome earthiness.
Once your shrub is ready (the longer you let it sit, the better), it’s a fantastic mixer in a variety of cocktails, including these three favorites: the Shrub Julep, the Shrubarita and the G.C.S.
But at its core, a shrub is a beautiful thing all on its own. The sticky-hot days of summer are right around the corner, and I think this Maple Beet Shrub in a tall glass of ice with a sizzling splash of seltzer water and a big squeeze of lemon is one of life’s most heavenly refreshments.
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tspn mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tspn kosher salt
Peel the beets, cut each into eight wedges, and add to a 1-quart jar along with the ginger, mustard seeds and bay leaf. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, maple syrup and salt with 1 cup of water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour enough liquid into the prepared jar to cover the beets and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 2 weeks, shaking the jar every few days to distribute the flavors.