Yuzu Maple Leaf Cocktail Recipe

Winter citrus juice + bourbon + a bit of maple syrup, chilled, and served a tiny glass, is good.

Yuzu Maple Leaf Cocktail

This is a drink to close out the year with - simple, strong, made for winter. It's a maple leaf cocktail (typically made with fresh lemon juice, maple syrup, and bourbon) with a few tweaks. I've been making them with whatever lemony-winter citrus is around. After starting with standard Eureka lemons, I branched out to Meyer lemons, and then onto yuzu, a varietal of Japanese citrus. Recently, I've been blending - the yuzu is intense, fat with seeds, on the dry side, while Meyers are more floral, with a softer flavor, positively gushing with juice.

Yuzu Maple Leaf CocktailYuzu Maple Leaf Cocktail

I add salt to this drink. I mean, the absolute smallest amount of fine grain sea salt. Barely a whisper. It works nicely to balance things out, snap flavors into focus - sweet, sour, salt, bourbon base. Not sure how people are going to feel about that, but there you have it, a little secret. If you want to be more exacting than I am, grind your salt powder-fine with a mortar and pestle before proceeding. It'll incorporate more quickly into the liquids.

I hope you like this as much as I do. In general, I like the combination of lemon and maple syrup. And not just in cocktails. But, I need something to edge out the sweet depths of pure maple. Lemon, or other lemony-citrus, tends to do the job. In fact, if drinks aren't your thing, I bet you could skip the bourbon altogether here and work this into a nice dressing with the zest, some herbs, and olive oil?

Yuzu Maple Leaf CocktailYuzu Maple Leaf Cocktail

A couple tips (I'll also include below): You can find yuzu at some winter farmers markets. They're also available at many Japanese grocery stores in the produce section, and they keep reasonably well refrigerated. Also, if you don't have a cocktail shaker, don't let that deter you. I don't have one, and I use a jar in it's place - use the lid to hold the ice back (you can also use a strainer). xoxo -h

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Yuzu Maple Leaf Cocktail

It goes without saying, but cocktails should be mixed to your liking. Feel free to make tweaks the same way you would with any other culinary creation. You might like these a touch more tart than I do, or a hint less sweet. Go for it. If you can't find yuzu or Meyer lemons, absolutely have a go with regular market lemons.

As I mention up above, you can find yuzu at some winter farmers' markets. They're also available at many Japanese grocery stores in the produce section, and keep nicely, wrapped and refrigerated. Also, if you don't have a cocktail shaker, don't let that deter you. I just use a jar in it's place, using the lid to hold the ice back (you can also use a strainer).

2 ounces / 1/4 cup bourbon (I used Michter's)
3/4 ounce / 1 1/2 tablespoon good maple syrup
1/2 ounce / 1 tablespoon well-strained, fresh yuzu juice
1/2 ounce / 1 tablespoon well-strained, fresh Meyer lemon juice
extra small pinch of fine grain sea salt

Chill a few small cocktail or cordial glasses in the freezer. I typically use ones that are larger than shot glasses, but not quite by double.

Combine the bourbon, maple syrup, citrus juices, and salt in a cocktail shaker or jar (with lid). Fill with ice, cover, and shake vigorously - well enough that that maple syrup gets well incorporated. It's heavier than the other liquids and likes to hug the bottom of the shaker, you also want to give the salt time to dissolve.

Strain into the chilled glasses and serve immediately.

Makes 2-3 small drinks, or one larger cocktail.

Prep time: 2 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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We made a dozen of these cocktails for James, Kristie, Caleb & Tricia last night. We had a hard time finding Yuzu, even herein the Bay Area. We substituted Bergamot/Meyer 50/50, and it was DELICIOUS!
I was concerned that he sugar/sweetness of the maple syrup would be overpowering, but the balance of fruit and sweet came out evenly and A+.


This sounds delicious, but does it have a cough syrup/medicine kind of taste? I’m worried the citrus, bourbon combination won’t taste that good together. What do people who’ve tried it think?


The Yuzu seems impossible to get hands on, but it doesn’t matter as it is still delicious without it.


This spirited cocktail is sure to cure me of my sore throat, or at least numbed it for a while. Nothing like healing one’s self through exotic libations.

Tom | Tall Clover Farm

Went to several stores to buy Yuzu. Even 99 Ranch didn’t have it. Must have to be mail ordered. The drink was still tasty without it. My family really enjoyed it too.


You make everything look so lovely!


Truly, a divine drink to enjoy on this first day of a new, fresh year. Thanks for sharing, Heidi!

Ariane (Living Seasonally Guidebook0

I’m definitely going to go on the hunt for yuzu! This looks fabulous!


I didn’t have yuzu but substituted with sour orange. It was a great nye party drink. Thanks!


This is such a unique cocktail and like nothing I have tried! I love cocktails after playing in the snow so I’ll have to make this after snow mobiling tomorrow!

Julia {The Roasted Root}

Cheers to you, Heidi, for a great year of writing and images and delicious sketches and full plates!

(I have to ask, where did you find your yuzu? I’m still waiting for it at the FP Saturday market.)

HS: Me too! I got these in Japan Town. I’ve been using them for a bunch of savory dishes lately too :).


This drink looks like the winter version of my summer “Montreal lemonade” : equal volume of lemon juice and maple syrup, ice, and top your glass with sparkling water. That could be a festive alternative for friends who don’t drink alcohol. But I do, so I’ll definitely try your drink! 🙂


The Simple Tomato Soup looks so hearty–will try it. I just discovered cream truffles and add it in tomato and asparagus soup recently. Happy feasting!


This is amazing! So good…the perfect mid winter nip. Thanks!


I love this cocktail, but for me its season is earliest spring (or latest winter, depending on your perspective) – sugaring season here in Vermont. Several of my friends boil their own maple syrup, and Meyer lemons are more apt to be available here that time of year. I’ll have to try and get my hands on some yuzu, or other more exotic citrus. I bet this would be great with something more towards the orangey end of the spectrum!

GG Mora

this looks very good , i am very tempted to give this a try, it is a cold and wet day here today , might give it a shot


Hi Heidi,
Thank you for a lovely recipe! I have a huge bottle of rum sitting around. Do you think it would be OK to replace the bourbon with rum? Or would that be an absolute horror…


this was great. All I had in the house was ordinary lemons, but they worked fine.


Great recipe…we have been looking at yuzu for drinks and this looks like a good place to start. Thx

Stewart Putney

Hi Heidi,
Thank you for a lovely recipe! I have a huge bottle of rum sitting around. Do you think it would be OK to replace the bourbon with rum? Or would that be an absolute horror…


I adore cocktails with bourbon and lots of lemon. I’ll have to try adding maple syrup next time. Happy holidays, Heidi.

Cookie and Kate

This drink looks fantastic. I also love the idea of the dressing. I am definitely going to have to try that.
I bought your books a few weeks ago. (I know, I am a little late on the draw!) But, I’ve so enjoyed reading through them and drawing tons of inspiration.
Heidi – when you were writing your second book I thought I recalled a post you wrote about how you organized your notes and recipe ideas. I have searched through your site and can’t find it. Would it be easy for you to point me to it? I always appreciate seeing/reading about your organizational tips.

Kelly Turnbull

I’ve never come across a bourbon drink that I like, but with all that citrus and maple in there I reckon this would be lovely! Happy New Years to you Heidi xx

Emma Galloway

This looks good. I can’t get yuzu out here but can get meyer lemons. What kind of bourbon do you like to use?
Hannah, I think thyme sounds good, what do you think of sage in there?
Thanks for the good post and have a Happy New Year!

Fork and Whisk

I always think of orange with maple, but we love lemons and our meyer tree is always producing more than we know what to do with. Perhaps on NYE this will be in the mix. I’m also super intrigued by the salad dressing idea … I’m not totally sure what herbs would pair well. Chives? Lemon thyme? Hm.


I am so jealous of your lemon selection in California- so much harder to find different citrus varieties in Canada!! That said, I have also always added some salt to my citrus drinks- it does just give it a little extra something 🙂


This looks fantastic! My dad uses a pinch of salt in sweet lassis (sugar, saffron, pistachio/cardamom powder) and it makes them over the top delicious.
Looking forward to trying this on a winter evening. Thanks Heidi!


Never had yuzu in a cocktail, great idea for new year’s eve, thank you !


My mouth watered just reading this!

Tricia Rose

This sounds completely delightful — I’m always looking for ways to introduce my Dutch friends here to flavors from my homeland, and this might just be the ticket!

Valerie {all mussed up}

I do this with 3/4 ounce of lemon juice (and no yuzu — never even heard of it out here in the Midwest!) and use Canadian whiskey (meant to go with maple syrup) and top it off with a cinnamon stick twizzler. The cinnamon stick really makes a difference.


How divine. Maple is abundant here in Michigan, and this puts it to exceptional use. Happy New Year!

Maureen Abood

What grade of maple syrup did you use?

HS: Hi Anna – In general, I always use grade B, unless I can get my hands on the Remonte-Pente 70 brix (which I now tend to keep a couple bottles in reserve).


Relatives gifted us a bunch of maple syrup and bourbon so we’ve been enjoying a really similar version of this over the holidays too. Ours have been hot toddy-style to help us face the mountains of snow with some warmth and fortitude :). Happy new year to you!


The flavors in here sound AWESOME, and I love the pinch of salt to balance everything out.

Little Kitchie

Love yuzu, its unique flavour really sets it apart from other citrus fruits. What a gloriously refreshing cocktail.

leaf (the indolent cook)

I need something strong after Christmas 😉 It could be a nice beginning of a NYE. Addition of a maple syrup sounds very interesting.

Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today

I don’t think I’ve ever had yuzu. I’m intrigued…I definitely need to know more about it!


This looks great! Im a big fan of a citrusy cocktail


Looks like a wonderful cocktail to bring in the New Year. Maple Syrup and lemon are a winning combination all round. 🙂


I don’t think I’ve ever had yuzu! But with the meyer lemons and bourbon and maple, this drink is destined for success!

Averie @ Averie Cooks

Love this cocktail – fantastic flavors! 🙂


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