Tag Archives: cocktails

Harvesting Anchorage: Birch Tree Tapping

This summer my goal is to gather or harvest at least one plant a month. Usually I gather fiddlehead ferns and fireweed shoots in May, pick wild strawberries in June (I can’t disclose my secret spot!), hunt for boletes in the mid/late summer and harvest berries in the fall.

When UAF Cooperative Extension Service tweeted about birch tree tapping in mid-April, I knew I had to start my harvesting season early. I texted my good friend Ivan, knower of all things apian, and he told me I could find spiles, or birch tree taps, at Alaska Mill & Feed. I have several big birches in my yard, so it was worth a try!

With just a little hardware and a whole lot of stove time, you can have your own homemade birch syrup (I still haven’t reached syrup state, but you’ll see what I came up with in the meantime if you read below). I didn’t take step-by-step photos only because they would be pretty boring. It’s a lot of boiling. Follow this handy guide for a complete explanation.

Please keep in mind that I’ve never done this before, so I have no idea whether I’m doing it incorrectly. The instructions below is what worked for us. Let me know if you use a different/better technique!

Birch tree tapping | Make your own birch syrup | Alaskaknitnat.com

Birch Tree Tapping in Anchorage


  • 2 or more 7/16″ birch tree spiles ($5.99 each at Alaska Mill & Feed)
  • 7/16″ drill bit
  • Power drill
  • Rubber mallet
  • 2 or more 2-gallon buckets
  • 3 or more 5-gallon buckets
  • Tall kitchen bags
  • Pushpins
  • Wire sieve
  • Two large soup pots
  • Small saucepan
  • Cheesecloth
  • Lots of freezer space
  • Candy thermometer

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Birch Tree Tapping

Hurricane Sandy Cocktail

While I’m here in Anchorage, avoiding the 24-degree chills outside, my good friends Gary and Kasandra are hunkered down in their Connecticut home, waiting for the fierce Hurricane Sandy to wreak havoc. I imagine Sandy as a middle-aged woman, possibly Roseanne sized, with a bathrobe and curlers in her hair. Also, she’s shaking a rolling pin at you.

Gary and Kasandra have taken all the necessary precautions — parked the cars in the middle of the driveway to avoid trees, secured the house and such, and now there’s nothing left to do but wait. But wait! — they can still have a good time.

May I present via long long long distance, the Hurricane Sandy.

Since they have all the time in the world, my East Coast pals are hand squeezing their juices. And since the next three days of school are cancelled, they’ve decided to clean out their liquor cabinet on this drink. Use all the booze! Better ration, buddies. You still have a lot of time.

1 oz. vodka

1/4 oz. grenadine

1 oz. gin

1 oz. light rum

1/2 oz. Bacardi 151 (wooo now it’s a party!)

1 oz. amaretto

1 oz triple sec

grapefruit juice

pineapple juice

Combine all but the juices in the order listed into a tall glass. Top with equal parts of the two juices. Garnish with tiny umbrella and drink with a bendy straw. Repeat.