Honey is a great sweetener for cocktails, however, it is not “cocktail ready.” If you were to just add honey to a cocktail and shake with ice, it would not integrate. You need to make it into a “honey syrup.” This means combining with water in a ratio of 2 parts honey to 1 part water (I also like a 3:1 ratio). To do this, use a measuring cup, add 1 cup of honey, then add 1/2 hot water. Stir to incorporate.
Honey adds a distinctively rich flavor and texture. We choose sweeteners often to match or enhance the flavors of base spirits or sometimes we choose a neutral sweetener, like simple syrup, when we want to add sweetness without flavor. Neither is right or wrong, they are just different applications. But, honey adds both a distinct flavor and texture. Since it is imparting so much of its own flavor, you can make a somewhat simple drink - say something with three ingredients like a Bee’s Knees - seem much more complex.
For general use, a clover or orange blossom honey is great for cocktails, but cocktails are all about layering flavors and I like combining flavors in my base ingredients (alcohol components) to create the primary flavors.
I like the remarkable flavor of buckwheat honey, but it can be a bit aggressive for a cocktail. For this reason, I blend it with orange blossom honeyin a 3:1 ratio of orange blossomto buckwheat. Then, I blend that in a 2:1 of honeyto water syrup.
And, the changes in honey flavors through the season (depending on forage and nectar flow) are a great way to incorporate what is happening in the local farms and fields directly into your drinks and cocktails.
Raspberries and mint are always refreshing. Add honey, and this tastes like a warm night, relaxing on a patio.
Garnish: Raspberries and mint
Method: Shake and strain
In a cocktail shaker add:
1 oz honey syrup
1.5 oz lemon juice
1 oz water
6 to 8 mint leaves
6 to 8 raspberries
Muddle briefly. Add ice and shake hard. Double strain (meaning use a small strainer to get rid of the small pieces of fruit) into a Collins glass. Add 4 ounces of bitter lemon soda, ginger beer, or soda water. Fill with ice and garnish.
I was really happy with the Airmailwhich we did at Sparrow , using the buckwheat honey blend I described above.
Method: Shake and strain
Garnish: Lime wheel & Angostura bitters
2 oz El Dorado 5 year Amber (or high quality aged rum)
75 oz honey
.5 oz lime
Add all cocktail ingredients to a shaker. Shake and strain into a Collins glass. Add 4 oz sparkling wine (or Prosecco or Champagne). Fill with crushed ice. Add lime wheel and a few dashes of Angostura.
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