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

Runamok Maple Mixers.png

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.

So Sweet: Michigan Maple Syrup

            Early spring is sweet in Southwest Michigan when the sap rises ready to be harvested and turned into sticky sugary and wonderful maple syrup.

           Surprisingly, there are many maple syrup producers in Southwest Michigan, some who market their syrup throughout the state and beyond and others who are known locally and sell just as long as their supplies last.

           Denise Klopfenstein of Galien, Michigan comes from a long line of family members who make maple syrup and she’s long listened to stories about how her grandparents’ sugar shack was destroyed in a tornado back in the 1940s. But she never had plans on producing syrup herself. That is, until, worried that her son Tyler, who was 12 at the time, didn’t take enough interest in outdoor activities, she decided to turn to her family traditions into a way of motivating him.

            “I knew he liked business and he liked money,” says Klopfenstein who invested in some rudimentary syrup processing equipment and designed a sugar shack–the term for the building where the sap is cooked down into syrup, naming the business Ty-Kat Sugar Shack.

Maple Bourbon Chicken Wings
Weber’s Ultimate Grilling by Jamie Purviance

            Relying upon mentors like Don Dodd of Niles who has been making syrup for years, the Klopfensteins have increased their yield and upgraded their equipment several times over the last few years.

            “Tyler’s always working at it–he spent his own money this year, money he’d made from making maple syrup to buy an even larger evaporator,” says his mom.

            “I’m hoping for a nine-week season this year,” says Rachel Ridley, who with her husband Brian, owns Ridley Family Sugar Farm in South Haven. “The sap is in the trees all the time but it’s only accessible to us at certain times. You need freezing nights and warm days for the sap to rise. Last year we only had six weeks of production because of the weather but this year seems more like 2014 we hope.”

            Not only do the Ridleys produce pure maple syrup, they also work with other local farmers to create about 14 or so specialty syrups using fruits such as dewberry, apple, pear, peach, blackberry, plum, cherry, black walnut and blackberry.

            “Everyone likes maple syrup on their pancakes,” says Ridley, “but products like our apple and pear syrup is good as a meat marinade.

Also going beyond just maple syrup, Christy and Bryan Olson, owners of Maple Row Sugarhouse in Jones, Michigan, create a variety of maple syrups infused with blueberry, raspberry, cinnamon and coffer among their other specialty syrups.

            “We also make other products such as our Maple Cajun Seasoning which has our maple sugar in it as well as such spices as cayenne, paprika, garlic and onion which you can use as a rub or in soup,” says Olson. “I make maple candies, maple hot sauce, maple garlic seasoning, maple barbecue sauce and maple cream which has the consistency of peanut butter and is good as an apple dip. And this year I’m partnering with a chocolate maker and making both dark and milk maple cream chocolates.”

            Olson says they have over 10,000 taps (the spikes that are used to drain sap from the trees) and produce 3000 to 4000 gallons of syrup each year from about 100,000 gallons of sap.

            “40 gallons of sap make about one gallon of syrup,” says Olson, noting that Michigan State University is doing research on the trees they tap. “Towards the end of the season it can take about 100 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup. The content of sugar in sap is about 1% to 3% and if it’s below the 1% mark, that about when you’re done for the year.”

            The Olsons also host an annual maple syrup festival at their farm.

            John Newell, owner of Primal Woods in Hartford, says he and his wife Geri, started tapping trees as a hobby in the spring of 2014 for their own use.

            “We got our first evaporator two years later and ran that one for two years and then scaled up to 750 taps,” he says. “Now we’re making about 150 gallons, 16 half-pint bottles of every gallon and about 2400 bottles.”

            Describing what they’re doing as small to mid-size, Newell says that in Vermont, guys go out and tap 70,000 trees.

            “To do that, they’re using industrial equipment, which gets the people out of the whole process,” he says. “We’re not about that. We’re still using buckets, we’re never going to tubes, it makes the woods look like an extensive care unit.”

            Newell isn’t a fan of reverse osmosis either. That’s the process many maple syrup gatherers use to filter out the water in the sap to limit the time it takes to cook the sap down into syrup.

            “Maple sap is usually 2% sugar,” he says. “With reverse osmosis, it’s eight ounces. But using it changes the color of the syrup and the flavor typically goes with the color. There are four colors—golden, amber, dark and very dark and the darkest has the most flavor. I guess overall, we’re still doing it the old fashioned way. My analogy is we live in a deep maple sugar forest and the taste of the syrup reflects the biodiversity of the forest.”

            About five years ago, John Muellen, who lives on 40 acres in Baroda, ten of which are tillable and the other 30 woodland, was feeling kind of bored so he started off tapping maple trees and cooking the sap down in roasting pans suspended over cement blocks on a log burning fire. Getting into the process even more, he made a boiler out of a fuel oil tank, lit a fire inside and set buffet pans the flames.

            “I was constantly improving,” says Muellen, owner of Mulln-Heim Vineyards. “Last year, I came across a reverse osmosis machine from a brewery and modified it to use for making syrup. It’s all part of wanting to make money from the forest in a way that’s not harmful to the environment. Because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Maple Row Sugarhouse

12646 Born St.

Jones, MI

(269) 816-4838;

Mulln-Heim Vineyard

522 E. Shawnee Road

Baroda, Michigan

(269) 932-8180;

Primal Woods


Ridley Family Sugar Farm

743 70th St.

South Haven, MI

(269) 206-2135;

Ty-Kat Sugar Shack

19465 Cleveland Ave.

Galien MI

(269) 357-3539

Maple-Roasted Root Vegetables

Maple sugaring time comes just about when the root cellar is nearly empty. Oven roasting concentrates vegetable flavors and the syrup pulls it all together. Roast a chicken and there’s dinner. The house-apartment-condo will smell wonderful.

3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks

3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks

1 small (1/2-pound) yellow turnip, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup bourbon or rum

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the carrots, parsnips and turnips in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan.

Heat the butter and maple syrup in a small saucepan just until the butter is melted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the rum.

Pour the maple mixture over the vegetables and toss to coat. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, stir the vegetables and bake, uncovered, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes longer.

Maple Sour Cream Bran Muffins

This ab-fab recipe took first prize in the 1999 recipe contest sponsored by the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association.

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch salt

1 cup bran flakes

1/3 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup sour cream

2 large eggs

For the topping

3 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium-size bowl. Add the bran flakes, raisins and walnuts.

Combine the maple syrup, sour cream and eggs in a small bowl. Add them all at once to the dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Using a 1/3- or 1/2-cup measure, fill the muffin cups three-quarters full with the mixture.

For the topping

Combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the topping on the batter in the cups.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown. Makes 12.

The above two recipes are from The Maple Syrup Cookbook by Ken Haedrich (Storey Press).

Maple Bourbon Chicken Wings

Here, you brown the wings first over direct heat without any sauce. That’s when the skin gets

crispy. Then you move the wings over indirect heat, where it is safe to layer on the sweet sauce

without the threat of it scorching.

12 large chicken wings, about 3 pounds total

Extra virgin olive oil


1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


3/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup bourbon

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

The chicken wing is made up of three sections: the drumette (attached to the chicken body), the wingette (or flat; the middle section), and the tip. Each section has a bone ball socket, or joint. Flex each section to find the joint.  Using the tip of a boning knife, and keeping the joint extended to expose the socket, cut through the ball socket connecting the drumette and wingette and then through the socket connecting the wingette and tip. Discard the wing tips or save for stock (they tend to burn on the grill).

Brush the chicken wings very lightly with oil. In a small bowl mix together all the rub ingredients, then season the wings evenly with the rub. Set aside at room temperature while you prepare the grill. Prepare the grill for direct cooking and indirect cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).

In a small saucepan, combine all the sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat on the stove, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the chicken wings and drumettes over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, for 10 minutes, turning once or twice and watching closely for flare-ups that could scorch the skin.

Brush the chicken pieces with sauce on all sides and move them over indirect medium heat. Continue to cook, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the meat is no longer pink at the bone, 10 to 15 minutes. During this time, stay vigilant, as the sugars in the sauce could burn. Remove from the grill and serve warm.

The above recipe is excerpted from Weber’s Ultimate Grilling by Jamie Purviance. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Saffron, Maple, and Vanilla Kefir Milk Fizz

Saffron, Maple, and Vanilla Kefir Milk Fizz
From Ferment by Holly Davis with permission by Chronicle Books

Fizzy milk is an acquired taste, but once acquired you will likely want more. And this flavor combination transforms milk into something quite special. I tend to drink kefir plain and at room temperature throughout winter, but when summer comes, I serve it chilled and fizzing.

Small pinch saffron threads

1 3⁄4 ounces boiling water

21 ounces ripe kefir

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Combine the saffron and boiling water in a 4-cup jug and let it steep until cooled.

Once cooled, pour in the ripe kefir. Add the maple syrup and stir well. Put the vanilla bean in a clean 3 cup swing-top bottle, then pour in the kefir mixture (use a funnel to do this if you have one).

Close the lid and leave the bottle out at room temperature for 1 day, then open the bottle to release excess pressure and place it in the fridge. Ready in approximately 1–3 days

It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, but make sure to open (burp) the bottle once a day to prevent over‑carbonation.

Reprinted from Ferment by Holly Davis with permission by Chronicle Books