Vermont—where rustic charm and natural beauty meet—is home to one of the oldest traditions in America, maple syrup production. When you think of maple syrup, you think of waffles and pancakes, but so much more can be created using Vermont's prized product. Snow Farm Vineyard and Distillery uses maple syrup from our farm to make an exceptional and delightful maple liqueur.
It All Starts With Maple Syrup
The base ingredient for maple liqueur is, of course, maple syrup. At Snow Farm, maple syrup, made from the sap from the maple trees at the 120-acre farm, gives the liqueur the authentic Vermont flavor.
Vermont is the leading producer of maple syrup in the U.S. and is known for perfecting the process. The Lane family has been sugaring for three generations in the Champlain Islands of Vermont.
"There aren't a lot of sugar bushes in the islands. We enjoy working with the land as stewards to maintain a wildlife preserve while collecting sap from the maple trees every spring and harvesting firewood from the forest," Nick Lane of Snow Farm said. "The special thing about our operation is that you're always working with other family members in the woods or the sugarhouse. The balance of peaceful work in the sugarbush, tapping and tending the lines mixed with the activity and banter of the sugarhouse, always leaves you happy."
Maple syrup can only be produced for a few weeks each year in the springtime when the temperatures warm up enough during the day for the sap to flow and then cool down at night to extend the season.
First, the sap is collected from the trees and then boiled down to make the syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup! It's a special time of year when friends and family come together to do the rewarding work of making syrup as the sweet-smelling steam pours from the sugarhouse late into the night.
Maple syrup is classified into four grades: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark. Golden is the lightest and has a delicate flavor, while Amber has a slightly richer taste. Dark syrup has a robust flavor and is often used in baking and cooking. Very Dark syrup, which is the strongest in taste, is commonly used as a natural sweetener in recipes.
In addition to taste, the grade of syrup also indicates the time of year the syrup was harvested, with Golden being the first and Very Dark being the last.
The types of syrup Snow Farm Distillery uses for its maple liqueur are some of the darker and more flavorful styles.
"What I'm looking for in the syrup is a good balance of flavors and sweetness as it will be blended with our grape-based alcohol. You need a good balance so one flavor doesn't overpower any of the others," said Patrick Barrelet, head winemaker and distiller at Snow Farm Vineyard & Distillery.
Patrick’s artisan skills began at his family’s distillery in Bedford, Quebec, where his dad and uncle were distillers. Canada produces 71 percent of the world's pure maple syrup, so Patrick knows a thing or two about making concoctions with maple that will make you beg for more!
The Distilling & Blending Process
Maple syrup alone won't make a maple liqueur. It needs to be combined with spirits to create the final product.
At Snow Farm, spirits are made using grapes grown at the vineyard. They're fermented and distilled into a neutral spirit. The neutral spirit is like a blank canvas, ready to take on the flavor of whatever is added to it. The type of grapes used each year depends on the sweetness and quality.
"Our first batch of maple liqueur is made with alcohol from the Frontenac White grape skins and stems. We found the taste of it was strong enough to stand up to the hearty maple flavors, " Barrelet said.
The versatile spirit and syrup must be blended in the correct proportions to achieve the perfect balance of sweetness and alcohol content. Too little maple syrup and the liqueur won't capture the rich maple essence that makes it so sought after. Too much syrup and the alcohol content will be too low, resulting in a less potent liqueur.
At Snow Farm, they have perfected the blend to create the ideal balance of flavors while maintaining a 24% alcohol by volume.
"The maple liqueur is not overpowered with either maple or alcohol. For some, it may be a tad sweet on its own, but you can make great cocktails with it as well," Barrelet said.
The maple liqueur doesn't need to be aged and can be enjoyed soon after it is bottled. Though, if it is aged, the maple flavor will only develop and deepen over time.
Savoring the Maple Liqueur
Maple liqueur from Snow Farm is a true delicacy. The flavor is rich and complex, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and, of course, maple.
It's perfect over ice as an after-dinner drink or mixed with coffee or hot chocolate for an upgrade to your drink. The liqueur can also be used in cocktails, bringing a unique and delicious flavor to any drink.
Maple liqueur is a perfect example of Vermont's passion for all things maple. At Snow Farm Vineyard and Distillery, the result is an exquisite and unique maple liqueur that captures the essence of Vermont. Next time you're looking for something new to add to your bar, try the maple liqueur made at Snow Farm—it's sure to become a new favorite.
Snow Farm Vineyard & Distillery produces a line of spirits, including gin, grappa, maple liqueur, and more. Visit our distillery page to learn more.