As the weather begins to change, the leaves begin to turn, and the chimneys begin to smoke, we all start thinking about a new palate of flavors. I’m not talking about pumpkin spice lattes, either. Sophisticated palates like yours and mine think of more traditionally evocative flavors—baking spices, gingerbread, apples, and maple syrup.
I’ve spoken before about the bartender trick of making variations on an Old Fashioned by matching the sweetener to the spirit. Agave syrup and anejo tequila. Demerara sugar and aged rum. But what about matching them up in a less literal way? Maple syrup makes me think about Canada, and Canada makes me think of Canadian whiskey.
Historically among the lightest of the world’s whiskies, Canadian whisky is what most novice drinkers would describe as “smooth”: high in sugar content, low in flavor, and soft on the palate. But what has been derided by spirits professionals for years as “aged vodka” isn’t always what you get when cracking open a bottle of Canadian whisky. Take, for instance, the Forty Creek Double Barrel Reserve, a richer, more complex Canadian offering than you’d expect, with huge baking spice aromas and roasted walnuts on the palate. Then there’s the Pendleton 1910, a 12-year-old 100% rye whisky, where the spiciness of that grain shows through in every sip.
A note about maple syrup: contrary to what common sense might tell you, there is no difference in quality between Grade A and Grade B. Unlike, say, meat, the grading system refers to the color, and not the quality. Grade B maple syrup is darker in color, and more “mapley” in flavor, as it’s harvested toward the end of the season rather than in the beginning like its lighter, A-grade cousin.
Mix up one of these northerly-inspired sippers on the next cold day and just try to tell me it doesn’t inspire thoughts of snow-peaked mountains as you bask in its rich, spicy, deep holiday flavors.
Maple Old Fashioned
2 oz. Canadian whisky
1 tsp. 2:1 maple syrup*
2 dashes Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel Aged Old Fashioned bitters
Stir ingredients with ice until combined and chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with an orange peel.
*To Make the syrup dissolve 2 parts, by weight, maple syrup to 1 part water in a saucepan over low heat.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.