Craft Syrups to Sweeten Your Dishes

Your deliciously sticky cheat sheet to the artisan maple syrup movement


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The Wine Link is Real 

Syrup makers liken maple groves to vine rows, they’re obsessed with terroir and pre-barreling sip sessions are as rigorous as a wine tasting. “We start by cupping the syrup. We’re focused on clarity and color,” says Jacob Griffin, chef for Crown Maple Syrup in Dover Plains, New York, which tapped former Per Se sommelier Nathan Wooden to be its “syrup somm.” “We then check the nose, looking for a pronounced, sweet scent. Finally, we taste it. We want a balanced maple flavor that has both quality and complexity. Aftertaste is important; you want your mouth to feel refreshed and clean like a terrific glass of wine.”

Not-So-Simple Syrup

New school producers rely on reverse-osmosis to evaporate water without heat to prevent any burning or embittering of the syrup, which historically was a major roadblock to small-batch syrup making. Artisan sapheads are also adding new flourishes like aging it in Bourbon and rum barrels and infusing it with logical ingredients, like vanilla or cinnamon; and the not-so-logical, like Scotch bonnet peppers or coffee beans.

It’s Not Just For Breakfast

Envelope-pushing chefs and bartenders see syrup as much more than just a pancake topper. To them it’s an often-organic, viscous sweetener that’s infinitely more nuanced than cane sugar, honey or agave syrup. And maple syrup isn’t overly sweet, so it’s ideal for complex marinades and tempering saltier fare. “Syrup’s versatility is seemingly endless because it’s subtle and it can balance savory dishes,” says Harold Dieterle, chef and owner of Marrow in New York City, who uses Coombs Family Farms organic syrup in his brioche pain perdu topped with duck liver mousse.  


Tap These (Sorry, Aunt Jemima) 

 

1. Butternut Mountain Farm Vanilla Bean 

Best for: An Ice Cream Topping

2. Crown Maple Syrup Medium Amber

Best for: Cocktail Mixing

3. Burton’s Maplewood Farm Bourbon Barrel-Aged

Best for: Marinating Meats

4. Langdon Wood Rye Barrel-Aged 

Best for: Upgrading Pancakes

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