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The French Toast Flip cocktail at Joseph A. Magnus distillery and bar in Ivy City. (Photo courtesy: Joseph A. Magnus Distillery)

Is artisanal maple syrup the next big thing?

You might start noticing a sudden onslaught of maple-related deliciousness around town — and not just because the leaves are starting to fall. It could also have something to do with The Maple Guild, a Vermont-based maple company (read: not an actual guild) that aims to take the ubiquitous pancake sidekick to the next level with the introduction of products like maple vinegar, maple cream, maple-sweetened tea and its syrup infused with ingredients like vanilla bean or cinnamon stick.

The company is definitely appealing to an upscale urban market with such buzzwords and phrases as “single-source producer,” “organic” and “sap-to-syrup” (channeling the ubiquitous “farm-to-fork”). This farmer’s market type language should be your first tip-off that this isn’t like the corn syrup treacle found in bottles ridged like log cabins or shaped like friendly grandmas.

And with the current fitness craze taking over DC, workout fanatics will be particularly interested in the company’s flavored maple water that’s enhanced with antioxidants, B vitamins, electrolytes and green-tea flavonoids — a concoction that might also edge out your favorite hangover cure.

But before you can get to the hangover, there are several places around town incorporating the maple syrup into cocktails. Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster BBQ in Alexandria is named for the man who is also serving as the BBQ judge for a national recipe contest being conducted by The Maple Guild called Maple It. So, naturally, his restaurant uses that syrup in its maple butter served with the cornbread cupcakes appetizer, and the restaurant will add a maple cocktail in November.

Hen Quarter is another local bar currently incorporating it into its libations by stirring the Grade A maple syrup in its Maple Manhattan. You’ll also find the Grade A in the maple-pecan ice cream sandwich being sold by Captain Cookie and the Milkman, at its shop and from the windows of its roving food trucks.

In Ivy City, distillery and bar Joseph A. Magnus & Co. — which also happens to be the beverage judge for the Maple It recipe contest — offers a monthly rotating cocktail using the sweetener in enticing ways like a French Toast Flip that incorporates cinnamon-maple syrup. The spirits-maker also pours tastings of the syrup during distillery tours and sells bottles.

What makes this a superior syrup? Head distiller Nicole Hassoun says it’s the lightness, brightness and special steam-processing method that makes The Maple Guild’s products stand out from the pack. “They use steam to create the maple, which for me is really cool because I use steam to distill spirits every day,” she says.

Indeed, the company claims to have improved the syrup-making technique drastically by “using a reverse osmosis process called steam-crafting [that] enables The Maple Guild to produce syrup in just 90 seconds, which creates a pure-tasting maple unlike any you’ve ever had before.”

But beyond all the technical stuff, Hassoun — a lifelong maple lover — appreciates that the thinner viscosity means she can add it straight to cocktails without cutting it with water. “We’ve been adding a dash of that in an Old Fashioned, and people have been going absolutely crazy over it,” she says. “It’s the best Old Fashioned we’ve ever had.”

She’s so head over heels for it that she’s started tinkering with including maple in the distilling process — but she’s keeping the details a secret for now.

Hassoun says she met the folks from The Maple Guild at a food and beverage event, and the rest is history. “All I wanted was good maple syrup, and all they wanted was someone to make good cocktails with it, so it just made a lot of sense."

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