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the maple leaf

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two rocks glasses of Maple Leaf cocktail

Fall is in the air, even if daytime temperatures in Maryland these days sure doesn’t feel like mid-November. Walking my daughter to the bus stop along leaf covered sidewalks and hearing the crunch, crunch, crunch of leaves underfoot is one of favorite moments of each day. The sky has been clear blue and the trees are a beautiful mosaic of red, orange, yellow, and brown. I love this time of year. It's not just the colorful trees and the dry air I enjoy about fall, it's the food and drinks. Cinnamon! Apples! Pumpkin! Butternut squash! I could go on and on.

Two rocks glasses with deep golden cocktails over large squares of ice

With the sun setting earlier, curling up with a good book and some tasty treats just seems instinctual. While mulled apple cider, with or without bourbon, is a lovely accompaniment to one of our house favorites, chocolate chip pumpkin cookies, sometimes a cocktail is in order. I stumbled upon this Maple Leaf recipe quite randomly while perusing a Crate & Barrel store with my sister a year ago. I neither had, nor was familiar with amaro, one of the ingredients. I was intrigued though, and let me tell you, purchasing a bottle was definitely worth it.

Amaro is an Italian herbal liqueur that can be served chilled and served as a digestif, or mixed into a number of cocktails. Think herbs, flowers, aromatic bark, citrus peel and spices. It's a little sweet and a little bitter, and it adds complexity, rounding out the spicy rye, sour lemon juice, and sweet maple syrup in the Maple Leaf. Add a couple of drops of bitters—my current favorite is a black cardamom bitter I picked up from Bluecoat Distillers in Philadelphia last summer—and you’ve got the perfect fall drink.

Bottles of jack's black cardamom bitters, salt water, maple syrup, rye, and amaro

The Maple Leaf

Elements of sweet, sour, bitter, and herbs meld together for a perfect fall cocktail with notes of caramel and spice.

NOTE: I've started using a simple saline solution in some cocktails since a discussion with a bartender at Thatcher and Rye. Just like in food, salt in cocktails helps open and highlight flavors.

Recipe adapted from TastingTable.com for Crate & Barrel


2 oz. rye whisky

3/4 oz. lemon juice

1/2 oz. pure maple syrup

1/2 oz. amaro liqueur

2 dashes bitters

4 drops saline solution, optional (see note)


Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well, and strain into a rocks glass over a large piece of ice. Garnish with a thick piece of lemon peel if desired.