Camp Runamok: Barrel-Aged and Smoked Maple Syrups

Maple syrup, one of the original cash crops, is the rich and delicious gifts the sugar maples give us every spring–at least for those willing to tap and collect the thin sap that is then boiled down to a thick amber consistency. For Eric and Laura Sorkin of the Vermont-based Camp Runamok, who make barrel-aged and smoked maple syrups, it’s more than just a pancake topping in the morning. One of Runamok Maple’s core missions has always been to educate consumers about the versatility of maple as an ingredient and they recently upped the ante with a variety of fascinating products such as their special-editions syrups including Cocoa Bean Infused made with only two ingredients–organic maple syrup and cocoa bean nibs

The Sorkins also produce jazzy Maple Sparkles (yes, just like the name implies it’s sparkly), and Strawberry-Rose Maple Syrups that can be used as a topping on pancakes and waffles and also in such recipes as Crepes with Sliced Bananas and Peanut Butter Pie.

Now they’ve upped the ante with their their new collection of cocktail mixers includes four syrups – Maple Old FashionedMaple TonicSmoked Old Fashioned, and Ginger Mule – and three different kinds of bitters – Floral MapleAromatic Maple, and Orange Maple.  All are made with 100% pure Vermont maple syrup. The cocktail syrups can easily take the place of simple syrup, and will leave cocktail enthusiasts wondering why they hadn’t previously opted for the rich, complex flavors of maple syrup instead. The maple-based cocktail bitters are jam-packed with earthy, botanical flavors and will quickly elevate cocktails with just a few drops. Customers can purchase 250 mL bottles of the cocktail syrups for $16.95 each and 100 mL bottles of the bitters for $11.95 on

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The line of cocktail mixers will feature four different syrups – Maple Old FashionedMaple TonicSmoked Old Fashioned, and Maple Ginger Mule – along with three different kinds of bitters – Floral MapleAromatic Maple, and Orange Maple.

“At Runamok Maple, we have been creating cocktails using our infused and smoked maple syrups since we started production,” said Laura Sorkin, co-founder of Runamok Maple. “Through our experimentation over the years, we have come to realize that our maple-based creations are, to this day, some of our favorite cocktails. With the launch of our new cocktail syrups and bitters, we want our customers to experience those same flavors that we have been sharing with our family and friends.”

Most cocktails feature a touch of sugar, which most commonly comes in the form of simple syrup, but the process can be tedious, particularly for the home bartender, and the taste of the granulated sugar dissolved in water is sweet but plain. Runamok Maple’s new cocktail syrups feature the rich, robust, and nuanced flavors of organic Vermont maple syrup, along with additional flavor notes from high-quality ingredients such as ginger and orange. The cocktail syrups, which are priced at $16.95 per 250 mL bottle, also have the added bonus of already being in syrup form, eliminating the extra step of dissolving sugar.

Made with 100% pure Vermont maple syrup, the Maple Old Fashioned cocktail syrup is an infusion blend of real herbs and spices, without any refined sugar. The syrup features a slight bite from Runamok Maple’s very own bitters, along with the subtle essence of orange and cherry, making it the perfect all-encompassing mixer to add to your favorite bourbon or whiskey. Similarly, the Smoked Old Fashioned cocktail syrup is packed with all of the classic Old Fashioned flavors – only this time Runamok Maple uses its Smoked with Pecan Wood maple syrup to add a unique flavor dimension. Maple syrup and whiskey are the perfect pairing, with each offering complex flavor profiles that bring out the best in the other. The added element of smoke creates the perfect drink to enjoy near a fire on a crisp fall evening. 

In addition to the Old Fashioned, Runamok Maple drew inspiration from two more classic cocktails, the Gin & Tonic and the Moscow Mule, for its other cocktail syrups. The Maple Tonic combines Runamok Maple’s signature organic maple syrup with the addition of quinine extract, lemon, and lime, giving the mixer a bright, refreshing taste that will have cocktail drinkers quickly forgetting about traditional tonic water. Mixing the Maple Tonic cocktail syrup with gin and seltzer water makes for an easy and delicious summer cocktail. Like the others, the Maple Ginger Mule cocktail syrup features 100% pure Vermont maple syrup as its base. Runamok Maple then infuses fresh ginger and lime into the cocktail syrup to give it a crisp, zesty flavor profile and a cleaner overall taste than mixers that use artificial flavors. 

On the back side of each cocktail syrup bottle and on their website, customers will find a suggested cocktail recipe to use with each syrup, including the Amber Old Fashioned (using Maple Old Fashioned), Tapper’s Tonic (using Maple Tonic), Leather & Velvet (using Smoked Old Fashioned) and Green Mountain Mule (using Maple Ginger Mule). 

Launched alongside the cocktail syrups is Runamok Maple’s collection of cocktail bitters. Made in the traditional way with all-natural herbs and root extracts infused in alcohol, Runamok Maple delivers its version in a maple base. Though they’re maple-based, the bitters pack a punch, like traditional bitters, and just a few drops can take a cocktail to the next level. Each 100 mL bottle of bitters is priced at $11.95.

With notes of cardamom and ginger, the Floral Maple bitters combine botanical complexity and subtle aromas with a smooth maple base. The addition of rose, citrus, and clove makes these bitters perfect for any gin or vodka cocktail. Built on a warm base of maple, cinnamon, clove, and allspice, the Aromatic Maple bitters meld perfectly with the flavors of darker spirits, like bourbon and whiskey, and even feature subtle tasting notes of sarsaparilla and vanilla bean. Lastly, the Orange Maple bitters are perfect for brightening up any cocktail – whether fruity or neat. The citrus aromas, layered on top of a subtle maple base, make it a wonderful addition to cocktails made with vodka, gin, and even bourbon.

Pistachio Cardamom Cake

Runamok Maple’s full collection of products – including specialty maple syrups like Bourbon Barrel-Aged, Cardamom-Infused, Cinnamon + Vanilla-Infused, and Pecan Wood-Smoked – are available on The products can also be found on the brand’s Amazon page, as well as at specialty food shops across the country. 

For making cocktails, there’s a selection for mixing Manhattans as well as several types of bitters and with Mother’s and Father’s Day coming up, the gift packages should make any parent happy.

The following recipes are courtesy of Camp Runamok.

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Roasted Pears with Royal Cinnamon Maple Caramel

2 pears, ripe but not too soft

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/3 cup Runamok Royal Cinnamon Infused Maple (can also use Sugarmaker’s Cut Pure, Cinnamon+Vanilla Infused or Whiskey Barrel-Aged)

1/3 cup heavy cream

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Peel the pears and then cut them in half. Remove the cores with a melon baller or pairing knife. Slice the pears starting an inch down from the stem, keeping them still attached (if a slice comes off, just roast it next the the pear in the pan and add it at the end).

Find a pan that fits all four halves snugly but in one layer. Put the butter in the pan and heat on the stove until melted. Place the pear halves in and fan the slices gently. Baste with a the melted butter and then sprinkle the sugar on them evenly. Place the pan in the oven and roast for about ten minutes or until they have just begun to brown. Remove from the oven, take the pears out with a spatula and set aside. Pour the maple syrup into the pan and heat to a boil. Add the cream and stir, cooking about another five minutes until the sauce has thickened. 

To serve, put two pear halves on a plate and drizzle with the warm maple caramel sauce. Add a dollop of vanilla ice cream if you like. Serves 2.

“If they are not crispy, chicken wings can be a big disappointment,” writes Laura Sorkin in this introduction to Wings with Maple Hot Sauce.  “I never cared for them until I tried a recipe that involved baking them in high heat for almost an hour.  Wow, what a difference.  Most of the fat is rendered, leaving crispy skin and tender meat.  Wings are now my son’s yearly request for his birthday dinner and we are always game for trying new sauces.

“Runamok Consiglieri, Curt Alpeter is all about wings and developed this sauce using the Cardamom Infused Maple for the sweet counterpart to the heat of Texas Pete’s.  Curt is from Ohio which is near enough to Buffalo, New York that we are going to allow that he is a wing expert by proxy.  He has related to me that the chopped scallions and cilantro are key.   I did not include measurements because it should be a little-of-dis, little-of-dat kind of dish.”

Wings with Maple Hot Sauce

Chicken wings

Vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce or similar

Runamok Cardamom Infused Maple Syrup

Butter, softened

Scallions, chopped

Fresh cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 400.  Place wings in a sturdy pan, making sure there is enough room for a single layer.  Drizzle just a tad of vegetable oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper.  Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, flip the wings over and return to the oven.  Bake until crispy and brown, about another 20 – 30 minutes.

In the meantime find a bowl large enough to hold all the wings.  Pour equal amounts of hot sauce and maple syrup and butter.  If you are cooking a few pounds of chicken, try 1/4 cup of each.  Combine with a fork, mashing up the butter and blending it.  Don’t worry if the butter leaves chunks, it will melt when you add the hot wings.

When the wings are fully brown and crisp, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and put in the bowl with the sauce.  Add scallions and cilantro.  Toss until coated and serve immediately with plenty of napkins.

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Sparkly Maple Bourbon Smash

2 ounces bourbon

1 ounce Runamok Maple syrup (Sparkle Syrup or Sugarmaker’s Cut)

1 ounce lemon juice

1 lemon twist

Combine over ice and serve.

Historic Spirits: Preserving the Past and Connecting to the Present with Journeyman Distillery & the Field Museum


The dazzling 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition brought 27 million people to Chicago which was no small feat given that the first gas powered automobile is credited to Karl Benz in Germany in 1886 and Henry Ford’s 1908 Model T was the first car easily accessible to people other than the wealthy.FieldVodka_HighGarden (1)

The crowds came to see all the newest inventions like the Ferris Wheel, the zipper and Cracker Jacks, diet carbonated soda, Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix and Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum. Plus it was at the Exposition that Pabst Select won the Blue Ribbon in the beer competition and hence forth became known as Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

But there were other attractions less awe inspiring or recognizable but as important if not more so.Field Gin Fizz

1500 botanicals (a term used to describe seeds, berries, roots, fruits and herbs and spices) were brought from around the world to the exposition to the Field Columbian Museum (now the Field Museum). Among the 40 million objects belonging to the museum—only 1% of which are on display—the majority of these botanicals remain.

Megan Williams, Director of Business Enterprises for the Field Museum, started a beverage program around seven years ago in celebration of the museum’s 125th anniversary. Her idea was to use some of these botanicals as a way of connecting the museum’s past and present.FieldRye_FigOldFashioned (1)

“I am not a researcher here,” says Williams discussing her background, “though I used to teach environmental science. I joined the Field museum as an account manager and then took over the restaurant. I wanted to create a sense of community, a place for people to sit and talk and what better place for that than a bar.”

Combining the communal ambience of a bar with the awesome history of the museum was one of the reasons Williams started the beverage program.

“I wanted to educate people through taste and smell, to be able to taste or smell something that has a historic significance,” she says.

Williams described it as an opportunity to bring people together who love spirits and love learning.FieldGinandOysters

“It’s not just putting a museum label on something though there’s a legitimacy in that,” she continues, noting she’s worked with brewers and wine makers as well in developing Field branded drinks. “But we wanted to take it another step further, working with people who have a passion and understand the museum’s language and mission.”

Contacting the Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, she invited Matt McClain, Journeyman’s lead distiller and owners Bill and Johanna Weller to view the botanicals to look at the botanicals.

“The first spirit we talked about was rye, that ended up as the last one made,” says Williams.  “We asked questions such as what would work well in making gin—what could–out of these 1500 botanicals—and where could we source them.”

McClain spent several months researching the botanicals that were at the museum, to determine their history as well as their availability.

“I found that a lot of them were not considered safe or even poisonous,” he says. “Standards were different back then.”FieldVodka

From there, he and Bill Weller chose those they thought would be a good fit for the spirits they wanted to create.

The first product they created was their Field vodka using Bloody Butcher Corn, an heirloom variety often used for making bourbon. The vodka then served as a base for the next distilled spirit, their Field Gin

“We wanted to make a global gin,” says McClain. “So we were pulling species from around the world. We narrowed it down to around 50.”

But once they had the botanicals and began developing recipes, they had to cross off a few more from the list.

“A lot of botanicals that look and taste good, don’t work where you put them in in alcohol, others that I wanted to use were hard to get or arrived too late, I still have agave in the cooler,” says McClain, noting  they used other criteria as well in the selection process. “Bill and I wanted the gin to be lavender focused. Obviously gin also has to have a heavy juniper taste as well. We wanted the gin to have tropical undertones and had to figure out those as well.”Field3Pack

Then they were down to 27 including not only lavender and juniper berries but also prickly ash, anise, mango, ginger, coconut palm sugar, pineapple, papaya, Valerian Root, cinnamon, coriander, Horehound, star fruit and Charoli nuts which are sourced from India.

For their Field Rye Whiskey, they tried several types of figs which McClain describes as the world’s oldest sweeteners, finally deciding that Black Mission figs worked the best. The figs were macerated or soaked in alcohol for three months, a process that brought out subtle and all-natural flavors of bananas, sweet melons and strawberries.

“It’s an incredible whiskey,” says McClain. “It has heavy caramel notes and soft marshmallow like palate.”

Bottles of the Field distilled spirits are available for sale. For those who would like to learn more about their taste, they’re also used in some of the cocktails served at the Staymaker, Journey’s restaurant.

Sidebar: Brews

Beer, which is so Chicago given its rich German heritage, was the first partnership Megan Williams embarked upon when she started her beverage program. Two Chicago breweries, Off Color Brewing and Two Brothers Brewing were among the first to use the botanicals to create beers for the museum. researchers at the Field Museum have spent years excavating and studying the Wari site in Peru. Toppling Goliath introduced PseudoSue pale ale, a nod to the museum’s famous 40 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hip, Tyrannosaurus rex.  Physically SUE is the largest specimen T. rex specimen that’s been discovered so far.

Off Color’s introduced Wari, their artisan beer based on the Peruvian chicha, a purple corn beer native to areas of Central and South America. One of its other tie-ins with the museum is that Field scientists have spent years leading excavations at Cerro Baúl, a remote mountaintop citadel which was the only contact point between the Tiwanaku and the Wari, considered two great kingdoms whose dynamic relationship ultimately contributed to the rise of the Incan Empire. According to Off Color’s website, an essential sacrament shared by both cultures revolved around chichi. It seems that both tribes liked to consume massive quantiles of chicha served in ornately inscribed drinking cups called keros that were discovered during the archaeological expeditions at Cerro Baúl. In this way, Wari and Tiwanaku cemented their relationships. In other words, next time you see a bunch of heavy alcohol consumers at bars, understand they’re just continuing a thousand year ritual similar to that of the Wari and Tiwanaku.

The following recipes are courtesy of the Journeyman Distillery.

Journeyman Fig Old Fashioned

1.5 oz Field Rye

0.5 oz Fresh Orange Juice

0.25 oz Journeyman Bourbon Maple Syrup

Dash of Journeyman Barrel-Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Dehydrated Orange Wheel


Stir ingredients and pour into a rocks glass, over ice. Garnish with dehydrated orange wheel.


Field Vodka Gimlet

1.5 oz Field Vodka

.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice

.5 oz Simple Syrup

Fresh Lime Wheel


Shake ingredients well and strain into a tall glass over ice. Garnish with a fresh lime wheel.


Field Gin Fizz

1.5 oz Field Gin

.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

.5 oz Pear Simple Syrup

1 oz Aquafaba or Egg White


Star Anise


Combine ingredients and dry shake before adding ice to the shaker. Wet shake until froth has built up. Strain into a Collins glass and top with soda. Garnish with Star Anise.