Holiday RECIPE: Mabel Hill’s North SK Spruce Cocktail

This cocktail tastes like an evergreen forest in a glass, with a sharp, earthy flavour and subtle notes of citrus from the spruce tips. A bright green colour, spruce tips are the new shoots of a tree, and Mabel Hill sources them directly from their farmyard for this cocktail. You can buy spruce tips from specialty retailers or forage them when they’re in season, which is late May or early June in Saskatchewan. Fresh spruce tips can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month. If you have leftover syrup, try drizzling it on pancakes or ice cream. Note that you have to let the syrup steep overnight before you can use it.

Caramelized Spruce Tip Syrup

4 cups packed spruce tips, fresh or thawed*
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water

North SK Spruce Cocktail

1½ oz Stumbletown Rock N’ Rye**
½ oz Stumbletown Maté Amaro**
1½ tsp caramelized spruce tip syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters Ice cubes
1 boozy cherry, for garnish (maraschino works well)
1 piece of orange peel, for garnish

 

Caramelized Spruce Tip Syrup

  1. Place the spruce tips and sugar in a food processor or blender, and blend on high speed until well combined.
  2. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Add the water and bring to a rolling boil, undisturbed, on high heat. Boil for 2 minutes and then remove from the heat.
  3. Let the mixture sit, uncovered, for 10 minutes on the counter to cool slightly. Then cover it with plastic wrap, or transfer to an airtight container, and allow it to sit on the counter to steep overnight.
  4. The next day, strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. You may have to press on the mixture with the back of a spoon to release all the liquid.
  5. Cook the syrup, uncovered, on medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture resembles a honey consistency and is dark amber in colour, 20 to 40 minutes. The syrup will start to turn amber after 20 to 25 minutes, but cooking it longer will result in a deeper colour and flavour and a thicker syrup. Cooking times may vary depending on the saucepan and stove, but note that the syrup will continue to thicken as it cools. If the syrup is too thick once cooled, you can add it back to the saucepan with a bit more water (start with 1 Tbsp) and reheat it to thin it out.
  6. Once the desired consistency is reached, remove from the heat and let cool completely in the saucepan at room temperature.
  7. Store the cooled syrup in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. If it hardens, you can simply heat it up again on the stove or microwave it for 20–30 seconds to thin it out prior to using.

North SK Spruce Cocktail

  1. Place the rye, amaro, syrup, bitters, and a scoop of ice cubes in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Using a spoon, stir the cocktail for 30 seconds, or using a cocktail shaker, shake hard for 30 seconds.
  2. Place 1 or 2 ice cubes in a short rocks glass.
  3. Strain the cocktail through a cocktail strainer or a small sieve into the rocks glass.
  4. Add a boozy cherry and a piece of orange peel for garnish. Serve immediately.

*If you have frozen spruce tips, thaw them overnight in the fridge prior to starting the recipe. Note that freeze-dried spruce tips will not work for this recipe, as they lack moisture and will simply absorb all of the water.

**Mabel Hill uses Rock N’ Rye and Maté Amaro from Stumbletown Distilling in Saskatoon. Although you can substitute another brand of rye or amaro in this recipe, I recommend using Stumbletown’s products. Their Rock N’ Rye is a unique cherry old-fashionedstyle product, using Saskatchewan-grown sour cherries, rock sugar simple syrup, dehydrated fruit, and infused botanicals. Other ryes typically don’t contain fruit and are unsweetened, so for an authentic version of this cocktail be sure to try it with Stumbletown’s spirits.

Tip: At Mabel Hill, this cocktail is served with a spruce tip ice cube. Simply add a couple spruce tips with water to an ice cube tray and freeze.

Excerpted from Only in Saskatchewan by Naomi Hansen. Recipe copyright © 2022 by Mabel Hill Farm Kitchen and Marketplace. Text copyright © 2022 by Naomi Hansen. Photo copyright 2022 © by Garrett Kendal.