Birch Syrup Is The Extra Kick Your Cocktails Need, But You'll Have To Pay

Classic drinks like martinis, Manhattans, and gin and tonics usually come to mind when choosing a cocktail, but sometimes, you're looking for a drink that feels like an occasion in itself. And for those occasions, birch syrup deserves acclaim. If you've only ever thought about birch trees as being a beautiful part of the scenery, you're missing out. Birch has a unique flavor profile that brings a lot to the table — or glass — and it's worth checking out.

Birch syrup is what it sounds like — syrup made from the sap of a birch tree. Consider it maple syrup's cooler, savvier cousin. Birch syrup is similar to maple syrup but does not taste the same. It offers a flavor profile all its own, with woody notes and a certain sweetness, but it's also exclusive. There's very limited production of the syrup, which means: Along with that unique flavor comes an upscale price tag.

Birch syrup is a pricey but delicious addition to your bar

Birch syrup has a deep, rich taste reminiscent of wood and herbs, but it also has a syrupy sweetness to it, resulting in an ingredient that is decadent but balanced. In an interview with Serious Eats, Dulce Ben-East described the unique taste, saying, "It's very complex ... and it varies so much throughout the season ... There's a woodsiness about it. It's velvety." Ben-East is an expert when it comes to birch syrup, since she and her husband make the stuff.

Kahiltna Birchworks, now known as Alaska Wild Harvest, is responsible for producing most of the birch syrup on the American market, and the reality is: There's not a lot to go around. Even the birch syrup that does exist can also be hard to come by; it takes considerably more birch sap to produce syrup than it does for maple syrup, and birch trees produce sap less often than maple. In 2020, for instance, the company produced just 1,500 gallons of their finished product. Not only does it offer a new taste experience; it offers one with a hefty price tag — bottles start at $13 a piece.

Birch syrup plays a key role in an Icelandic specialty

Birch syrup may be produced frequently in Alaska, but it's also produced in Iceland — and it plays an important role in an Icelandic specialty: birch liqueur. Walk into any bar in Reykjavík and you'll spot it on the shelf, tall bottles of birch liqueur, often sporting a birch twig in the bottle. The most famous is Bjork: a liqueur infused with a dose of birch syrup for a shot that's crisp and sweet and forest-y all at once. It can be sipped as a digestif or added to drinks for extra depth and richness.

The distillery that produces Bjork also produces other birch boozes, including schnapps with a 36% alcohol content and a crisp, birch-infused vodka. Both birch-infused liqueurs and spirits are fantastic on their own and open a whole new world of possible drinks. Trying a birch liquor that's already on the market is great, but if you can get your hands on a bottle of birch syrup, there's no limit to what you can make.