Are you a fan of hard cider? I’ve tried many different varieties, including some excellent ones produced in my home province of Ontario. I got to thinking about making cocktails with cider, and fortunately there was a great, natural ingredient close at hand to work with. Spruce tips are the tiny little bits of new growth that appear each spring on many varieties of spruce trees (see photo below) and they are delicately flavoured but offer a nice citrusy, earthy tone to food and drink. As a bonus, they’re also packed with Vitamin C! They’ve become popular with chefs who pickle them and use as garnishes; they’re equally delicious steeped in hot water and sugar to form a sprucey simple syrup to flavour cocktails and mocktails. I’m pretty confident the flavours of the syrup would add an amazing boost to gin and tonic, which I plan to try with my next batch of freshly-harvested spruce tips. If you head out to forage, be sure to pick tips from a tree that is not too close to a roadway and also only pick a tip or two from each branch.
- 1 ½ cups spruce tips, papery husks removed
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 can hard cider (or soda water)
- Make the spruce tip syrup by combining the spruce tips, water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
- As soon as the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat. Cover pot and let sit 30 minutes.
- Using cheesecloth or a small strainer, filter syrup into a clean jar, discarding spruce tips. Refrigerate until chilled. Note that spruce tip syrup can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for longer storage.
- To make one cocktail, put 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of spruce syrup in a glass. Add 4 – 6 ice cubes and top with 1 cup (250 mL) of cider. Stir and start sipping!