The Papal Maple – Cognac, Blood Orange Juice and Maple Syrup

I was born into a Catholic family. I need to get that out in the open so that someone doesn’t think I’m making fun of Catholics with this Papal Maple cocktail. My Aunt Jane goes by Sister Mary Lizette so I mean a REALLY Catholic family. My Dad was the Catholic and my mom was the ‘I’m not sure’ but as kids we went to church, had Holy Communion and I’m even old enough to say we had to sit through Latin masses – talk about LONG!!!

I may have long left Catholicism for more moderate pastures but I don’t know if you can be immersed in that culture during your childhood without some reverence for the history along with the pomp and circumstance and that includes the naming of a new Pope.

In 1993 I actually saw Pope John Paul II in Denver. World Youth Day was being hosted in our fair city and my girls and I played host to 4 young women from Paris, France. We have such fond memories of those girls; how they got in the car that first night and knew the words to all of the music on our radio stations; how the ONE thing they had to have more than anything else was a pair of  Levi’s jeans and especially funny since they came from the land of amazing food the fact that taking home a huge bag of chocolate chips was 2nd in importance after the Levi’s on their agenda.


We took them to a local parish each morning accompanied by a brown paper bag filled with goodies to get them through the day and then they were our treasures in the evening after I picked them up from the church parking lot.  We shared so many laughs over language and more and I hope they will always remember us as fondly as we do them. One of the biggest parts of the week long event was the Papal Mass to be held outdoors at Cherry Creek State Park  (above) just minutes from my home. As a resident that meant a lot of security and passes for my car to prove I had a right to be coming into and out of a large area that was assigned as one huge NO PARKING zone.


It was a hot, hot day in Denver and it would have been so much easier to have stayed home and watched the Mass on television with one of these cocktails in hand but I know my Aunt Jane and other relatives would have never forgiven me if they knew I had a chance to see the Pope and didn’t bother,  so my girls and I made the trek on foot and joined a few others who walked there from all over the city. Few as in 500,000 people! It was pretty amazing; I’m reminded of the event occasionally when I go by a commemorative marker at the park but it all came rushing back with the flurry of activity, the waiting for whether it would be black or white smoke and the naming of a new Pope. This drink seemed an appropriate way to celebrate; the issues I take measure with the Church on aside, it’s still a magnificent historical moment and this cocktail sounded like it had great potential.

cranberry-bitters My inspiration came from a cocktail by the same name that I saw on I’m sure my subbing of grappa with cognac and other derivations makes it taste considerably different but the name struck my fancy and now this cocktail has too. The Italian grappa would have make it entirely different but I don’t favor it or at least not any I’ve tasted thus far so subbed it with cognac. The original used Angostura Bitters but I wanted to try some of the Cranberry Bitters I had received from Fee Brothers; I thought their tart, fruity sweetness a perfect complement for the other ingredients. My version upped the fruit ante a bit too. Not only am I madly in love with blood oranges but I thought that without the Italian grappa, the connection to Rome was lessened and the blood oranges became the main Italian representative. The additional of maple syrup was genius as the sweetening agent and I’ll be using it more often.

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed this cocktail; beautiful to look at and with a very lush taste it’s a winner; I say this makes for a very Good Friday!

Papal Maple
Prep time
Total time
Serves: 2 cocktails
  • 5 oz Cognac
  • 1.5 oz Grade-A maple syrup
  • 4 oz Blood orange juice
  • 1.5 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Cranberry Bitters
  • Blood Orange Slices for garnish
  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add everything but the blood orange slices.
  2. Shake and strain into an ice filled glass.
  3. Garnish with slice of blood orange.

I received a sample of the Fee Brothers Cranberry Bitters for review however all commentary is my own.


  1. says

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  2. says

    I’ve seen the location at Cherry Creek State Park where the Pope visited and can’t picture how 500,000 fit– I guess they just spread out and squished in as best they could. Your cocktail looks like another great one with blood oranges. Pinned it for later.
    Holly Most Recent Post: Easter Basket Cookies

    • Creative Culinary says

      It was a veritable sea of people Holly and if you had lived here then; many would have walked down Cherry Creek Drive to get there! I’ve read some tomes that attack that number but it was the official number given so I went with it. I’ve seen the marker too and wondered if they put it where it was easily found and read…because the masses (of people and the actual mass) were in that area shown in the photo; a huge area that ran parallel along Belleview.

    • Creative Culinary says

      I thought of that too Abbe…although blood oranges seem to show up in Denver more mid to late December. I think a cranberry, maple somethin’ somethin’ could be on the agenda. :)

  3. Peter Schurman says

    Thank you for sharing; I will look today for the cranberry bitters. I have every thing else. But what I really enjoyed was reading your remeniscing of your times as a Catholic youth. I also have many stories from grammer school through high school, from the mid-1950’s through the late 60’s. Terror-filled, but a good education.Nowadays at age 63, I do forward lunges, in boot-camp exercise class, better on my right knee/left leg better than the left knee/right leg, thanks to daily mass for twelve years. My stories could go on for days!
    Thanks again.

    AMDG -Jesuit speak(Latin)-For the Greater Honor and Glory of God

    Peter Schurman

  4. says

    I love grappa, but have never thought of having it in a cocktail (and am actually having trouble mentally tasting it in this). I should give it a try, I guess, but I like the cocktail that you’ve devised here. This I definitely can taste, mentally (if you know what I mean! There should be a word for that.), and it tastes wonderful. Love the idea of cranberry bitters – Fee Brothers do good stuff.
    john@kitchenriffs Most Recent Post: Eggs Benedict


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