Like tasty maple syrup or demerara, honey is a great cocktail ingredient that can impart flavor and sweetness. With much more character than, say, simple syrup, honey can improve drinks across the board, from a steaming Hot Toddy to a Bee’s Knees cocktail.
We like a nice dose of honey in everything from a great hot cocktail to a classic bourbon creation like an Old Fashioned. But not just any honey will do and, often, you don’t just want to throw it in last minute. Instead, honey can be prepped a bit so it can enter a drink seamlessly. Moreover, you can source some delicious higher-end honey that will offer lovely floral components and easy-to-mix-with flavors. Here’s how to mix cocktails with honey.
Ready to give honey a go at the home bar? Great, we’ve got some more pro tips on the topic below, along with a handful of great cocktails with honey recipes.
Often, the drink you’re making is cold and doesn’t take to honey as kindly as you like. The last thing you want is your lovely sweetener, sunk at the base of your glass and not even close to integrated. Try making honey syrup. This essentially entails mixing honey with warm water. Just remember to seal when not using and know that as a major sugar source, it will want to ferment on its own if you don’t use it soon.
With warm drinks, honey integrates pretty well so you can almost always get away with just adding it straight. Start small, however, as you don’t want to over-sweeten your cocktail. Adding honey directly like this is also a fantastic way to add to the texture of your cocktail.
Good honey can be swapped for a lot of things, from simple syrup to agave. Start trying it in some of your favorite cocktail recipes, especially tiki-style drinks like the Jungle Bird. If a drink calls for something sweet, even a liqueur, try plugging your favorite honey in instead.
And don’t limit yourself to a single kind, like the ubiquitous clover honey. A lighter, sweeter honey like orange blossom can be great with something herbal and aromatic, like gin. Manuka honey from New Zealand is richer and does great with spirits like rum and bourbon. Buckwheat is one of the darkest honeys and fares well with the spicy kick of rye or even some scotches. Talk up your local specialty shop owner or honey producer and get experimenting.
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a global bee shortage. Do your part and start your own hive! It’s actually an amazing hobby and you’ll learn about terroir in the process. The flavors your colony produces will be unique to your locale, as well as the time of year. Think floral late-spring honeys or a honey with some tropical notes if you reside closer to the equator. While beekeeping, you’ll be aiding the biodiversity at play in your region and experiencing the reward of mixing with something you helped make (or at least harvest).
This cocktail calls on the tropical notes of the Rampur whisky and the lovely bond they form with the buckwheat honey.
- 2 ounces Rampur Asava Indian Single Malt Whisky
- 1/4 ounce buckwheat honey
- 2-4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Orange peel
- In the bottom of a large rocks glass, combine the orange peel, bitters, and honey.
- Muddle to combine flavors and release the orange oil.
- Add whisky an gently stir to combine.
- Add ice, and stir again to further combine the ingredients and chill to dilution.
Here, take in the lovely interplay of this juniper-leaning gin with orange blossom honey, in syrup form.
- 1 ounce Jaisalmer Indian Craft Gin
- 3 ounces dry champagne
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce orange blossom honey syrup*
- 1 drop orange blossom water
*Honey Syrup: Mix 2 parts honey with 1 part warm water.
- In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, citrus, and honey syrup.
- Shake, but not to bruise.
- Double strain into a tall flute and top with dry Champagne.
- Garnish with a lemon twist and add one drop of orange blossom water.
We had to include a favorite Hot Toddy recipe. This one brings the bergamot of Earl Grey, enriched by honey. We suggest a lighter honey, like orange blossom or eucalyptus.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 4 ounces hot water
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon honey
- 1 bag Earl Grey tea
- Add bourbon, lemon, and honey to a heatproof mug.
- Make Earl Grey tea as usual, then add to mug.
- Stir to mix, garnish with a lemon wedge, and enjoy.
Ditch the simple syrup and give honey a try next time you’re looking to sweeten up a drink. Again, it’s a great way to round a cocktail out while adding some like-minded flavors. And keep in mind that while honey can last for years, it may darken and harden if not stored properly, making it a bit harder to work with.
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