I discovered this cocktail on Cocktail Database while looking for a drink that used both gin and apple brandy, and what drew me to the original recipe was its incorporation of maple syrup and apricot liqueur. I think maple syrup is a great winter cocktail ingredient; I had great success with a drink on the Whistler's menu this past winter that included it (a variation of the Applejack Rabbit).
However, this particular recipe didn't call for a single drop of citrus. In fact, the original proportions were equal parts gin, apple brandy, apricot liqueur, and maple syrup, which didn't seem as though it would create anything close to a balanced cocktail.
I made a few variations that included lemon juice, but each time the drink was still too sweet. Even dialing down both the maple syrup and apricot liqueur wasn't quite enough. Bumping up the gin and adding Angostura bitters certainly helped, but it wasn't until I swapped lemon juice for lime juice that I felt I had really unlocked the cocktail's potential. Limes added the much needed citrus, but also lent a brightness that I wasn't able to achieve with lemon juice.
The Vermont Cocktail
1 oz Broker's gin (or any London dry-style gin)
1/2 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
1/4 oz Marie Brizard Apry (apricot brandy)
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Grade A maple syrup
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake and double strain into double old fashion glass.
In the end, I really like this variation of The Vermont Cocktail because of its strong gin backbone. The maple syrup gives it a richness, the apricot brandy a sweetness, and the brightness of the lime juice tempers it all. The slight cinnamon and clove finish from the Angostura works well with the apple brandy and gives the cocktail a holiday feel, which is perfect for this time of year.