Robert “Bob” Hausslein sells heresy in a bottle. His Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind Smoked Maple Syrup—paper thimbles of which he proffered at the sprawling New York Fancy Foods trade show—is, in a word, challenging. Dark, viscous and infused with the acrid funk of a charred forest, the syrup dares you to love it. It lays waste to your griddle-kissed childhood pancake memories. Saturday morning’s buffalo china is irrevocably shattered. For his chutzpah, you want to reward Bob with a bloody mouth. Take another taste, though, and the cogs churn in wondrous directions. Toward bacon. Toward sausages. Toward compound butters. Toward a tablespoon dropped in your pancake batter. Hell, toward whisky and a rocks glass. Quicker than sugar registers on a taste bud, you’ve prostrated yourself at Bob’s work boots.
How the hell did this happen? Here’s Bob to tell you.
Extra Crispy: Where did the idea for smoky syrup come from?
Bob Hausslein: A lot of the nerdy New York chefs, the Wylie Dufresnes, the molecular guys, they’ve been putting maple syrup in their smokers for years. So it’s not unheard of. But I mean, there’s a purveyor near us who puts our syrup in his chicken sausage. Just a guy, small operation, sells locally. It doesn’t have to be elevated to be delicious.
What kind of food wears Sugar Bob’s Smoked Maple Syrup best?
Most people put it on their bacon. It’s a bacon agitator. It’s a bacon disruptor. It doesn’t elevate bacon; it just gives the bacon more of what you love about it: that sweet smoke.
What many people don’t know about their bacon, though, is that the smokiness comes from liquid smoke. Aside from a few small purveyors, bacon’s almost totally liquid smoke. But we’re using wood. The maple gives us its sap, it gives us its sugar, it gives us its smoke. We’re taking the smoke and funneling it through the syrup. Our stuff is like Vermont on Vermont, with some Vermont drizzled on top.
How did you get your start?
We’re out of Landgrove [Vermont], and we started selling at the local farmers’ market in Londonderry. Things just caught on. I mean, I’m not a businessman; I’m a sugar man. But we’re doing direct sales from the website, and we’re starting to get some good distribution in the Northeast.
What meal is this for, anyway?
I like to tell people, “Think barbecue, not breakfast,” and they come back with, “What’s wrong with barbecue for breakfast?” That’s where we make a lot of friends. This syrup just perfectly complements breakfast meats. And on chicken and waffles? It’s bomber.
Smoke talks to us as humans. Smoke says, “Your food has been cooked.” If you’re a caveman, it says, “This is safe to eat.” It’s like studying wine. The range of smoke is really broad — and really, really tasty.