Vermont has 2.8 million taps on 1,310 farms producing 645,000 gallons of syrup, by far the highest volume of any state, according to the USDA's 2007 census. The state has made a name for its maple syrup by protecting the geographic origins with rules governing the "Vermont maple" label.
The state's "maple cop," Henry Marckres, told me that the laws were initially designed to prevent manufacturers from making "Vermont maple syrup" on the backstreets of Chicago. In recent years, the rules have expanded to ensure that any product--wines, candies, syrups--labeled with the Vermont name actually originated in the Green Mountain state. (After all, Canadian manufacturers now make up an estimated 85 percent of world market. Making matters worse, some experts speculate that global warming could cause the annual flow of sap to move further northward or end the seasonal harvest of sugar maples entirely.)
While much of the sap is boiled down into syrup, drinking fermented beverages made with maple sap appears to predate the Puritans. In recent decades, syrup has also been distilled into vodkas and added to beers and liqueur. Another drink, a carbonated maple sap from Poultney, Vermont, seems to hearken back to the sugaring's frugal New England roots. It's called Vermont Sweetwater.