March in New England brings sugar season. Nights remain cold, but warming days signal time to tap the maple trees. Many maple syrup producers have been at it for generations and still do much of the work manually, collecting sap daily by hand, bucket by bucket. Then water is boiled off, leaving behind the amber gold. Of course, old-fashioned is as trendy with syrup as it is with cheese or bread.
Did you know that small-batch maple syrup producers have joined the rising tide of artisans across the land, trying things like whiskey-barrel aging to set their products apart from the pack. (Fancy prices are included.) Here are two standouts:
A lovely deep amber-colored syrup with rich flavor to match, and background notes from the bourbon barrels it's aged in. Use this to sweeten oatmeal, yogurt, even coffee. Or mix it in our Maple-Bourbon Sour (recipe below). (12.7-ounce bottle: $28, available at Williams-Sonoma)
CROWN GRADE A
Dark Amber syrup is velvety thick with flavors of butterscotch and caramel and the faintest coffee bite in the finish. The producers have taken the trouble to have their land certified, so you know that every drop is organic. (12-ounce bottle: $18, crownmaple.com)
Combine 6 tablespoons bourbon, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, stirring well. Pour mixture into a cocktail shaker filled with ½ cup ice. Cover and shake. Strain mixture; divide evenly between two glasses. Serve over ice, if desired.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy maple syrup?