The Sibelius Tapiola

For December I wanted to craft a drink inspired by evergreens (the scent of the season!) and the composer who adored them, Sibelius. Tapiola is a famous tone poem by Sibelius; the work depicts, with haunting majesty, the Finnish pine-forests that surrounded Sibelius' home and a spirit that resides within. Regarding the work, Sibelius wrote,

Widespread they stand, the Northland’s dusky forests,
Ancient, mysterious, brooding savage dreams;
Within them dwells the Forest’s mighty God,
And wood-sprites in the gloom weave magic secrets.

There was no question in my mind: the drink would need some form of whisky as the base. Whisky, because of its woody flavor... and whisky, because Sibelius loved the stuff (perhaps a little too much). Yes, whisky is aged in oak barrels and not pine tree barrels, but it does the trick. The other ingredient of choice: rosemary. In my mind, rosemary is like an edible pine tree and makes almost everything taste better. 

The result, after a bit of trial and error, resembles a Manhattan and is like heaven in a cup. This is a seasonal drink, evocative of snow and pine trees, but it's also a serious drink meant for slow sipping (while listening to the music of Sibelius). It certainly isn't the festive drink one makes to accompany frosting-covered cookies! 

The Sibelius Tapiola

  • 3 ounces of rye whisky
  • .75 ounces rosemary simple syrup
  • 3-4 shakes of Angosturas Bitters

Combine ingredients in a chilled glass. Add a single cube of ice and stir. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

To make the rosemary simple syrup: combine 1 cup of water, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 4-5 sprigs of rosemary (chopped) to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. When the sugar dissolves completely, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Filter out the rosemary (and toss) and refrigerate the syrup.


  • Use fresh rosemary. Dried rosemary does not work well for this--it makes a bitter, nasty syrup!
  • This recipe calls for less sugar than usual. I was trying to balance the sweetness of the syrup with the intensity of the rosemary flavor.
  • Save the leftover rosemary simple syrup for the Auld Lang Syne in a few weeks--the most amazing champagne drink ever created!