Looking to add a fresh spin to your cocktails? Consider shelving your simple syrup in favor of the sticky sweetness of honey. Its rich viscosity and distinct taste make honey a more bewitching sweetener than sugar, imparting a depth of flavor the white stuff just can't deliver.
“Honey is a time traveler with a provenance older than spirits, distillation or the cocktail itself,” says Nick Korbee, the executive chef and beverage director at Egg Shop in New York City. “Using honey in modern cocktail mixing is a simple way to coax the rich organic history of flavor from even the most rarified fire water.”
From the Bee’s Knees, a gin, lemon and honey combination that dates back to the Prohibition era, to modern classics like Sam Ross’ Penicillin, which combines scotch with lemon and honey-ginger syrup, the golden nectar has emerged as a prized craft cocktail ingredient. Not because it's new; quite the contrary. This natural, wholesome sweetener has been in the bartender's tool belt forever. See what the buzz is about with these eight recipes.
1. Tequila Honey Bee
Honey syrup comes together with reposado tequila, fresh lemon juice and aromatic bitters in this tall cooler. A mezcal wash imparts a hint of smoke that contrasts the sweet nectar and tart citrus brilliantly. Adding the bitters at the end gives the drink a shock of color up top. To make the honey syrup, heat a 1:1 ratio of honey to water and stir. Your new go-to sweetener will keep a month in the fridge.
2. Fallen Leaf
Honey and ginger are a match made in heaven, especially when heaven is a Hot Toddy on a cold day. Bourbon and brandy are shocked with ginger liqueur, allspice dram and citrus, then the lot is topped with a piping infusion of lemon peel and cinnamon stick. You might find yourself playing hooky for this one.
3. Eau de Lavender
This honeyed tequila and citrus drink has a bit of lavender for floral romance. An egg white gives it a rich, frothy cap. Quaffing this might inspire you to declare it "Spring in a cup!" But since the essence of purple flowers comes from the lavender bitters more than anything, you can sip it all year round.
4. Make It Count
New York bartender and beverage consultant Pamela Wiznitzer believes that if you have just one drink, you should make it count. This lovely red-hued cocktail takes the bitterness of Campari and mellows it with a little honey syrup and sweet blood orange. There's sparkle from soda water, too. It's a drink that's refreshing on a hot day or ideal as a pre-dinner treat.
5. Honey Kumquat Caipirinha
Looking for a citrusy and summery drink that's more interesting than plain ol' gin and juice? Start by muddling lime with kumquats, those tart little fruits that look like doll-sized oranges, then add the Brazilian cane spirit cachaça, richly spiced velvet falernum and honey syrup to create a zesty, tropical delight.
6. Bear With Me, Honey
This cheerful cup uses verjus, the highly acidic juice of unripe grapes, plus gin, honey syrup, orange liqueur and an egg white. It hits both sweet and savory notes—a couple dashes of saline solution provide a salty edge. You don't have to serve it in a bear mug, but, hey, if you have one laying around...
7. Honey-Kissed Cosmopolitan
A rosemary sprig is always a pretty garnish. Here, rosemary is also muddled with lime and honey for an earthier take on the Cosmopolitan. Ruby-red-grapefruit-flavored vodka and cranberry juice give you a sweet-tart tipple uplifted by that herbal infusion. It's a Cosmo for walking barefoot in the grass.
8. Smoked Honey Toddy
If you're feeling crafty and want to smoke your own honey, grab a briquette and start smoking. Otherwise, you can purchase a commercial smoked honey product. Either way, this warming Toddy variant will have you feeling toasty in no time. The scotch is optional, really: A booze-free version is just as nice.