1. LOG CABIN ORIGINAL SYRUP
General consensus: Log Cabin had it all -- the look ("deep, dark"), the consistency ("full-bodied"), the smell ("true maple-y"), and the taste ("burnt sugar" and "maple" notes). In the end, though, it won out for being slightly more natural than the other generic syrups, due to the exclusion of high fructose corn syrup.
Winning endorsement: "It's like they actually tried to balance the sugar and the flavor and make it be good [sic]."
Scathing pan: "It’s kinda like a pot of sugar. It’s good though!” (Even the most scathing pan was not truly that scathing.)
As much as we may preach about being all for "natural" products, the actual maple product in this taste-test got buried in the middle, and many of our tasters were suspicious of its watery consistency and slightly bitter, smoky profile.
Turns out that the syrups inspired by -- but not derived from -- the maple tree fared both better and worse than the real thing, due to a combination of factors: viscosity (thicker is better), sweetness (there's a fine line between ideal and over-the-top), and overall flavor (buttery, less chemical notes won out).
When presented with real maple syrup, would you choose it over a bottle of "pancake" syrup? Perhaps, perhaps not. Our tasters didn't -- but then again, there's a reason why people started making the artificial stuff in the first place.
Adam Lapetina is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist, and wholeheartedly believes that the best things in life are fried. Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.