Did you know that there are over 250 varietals of honey? The honey varietal is named after the flower nectar the bee is consuming and taking back to the hive - orange blossoms, alfalfa, wildflower, clover, etc, Honeys can range in flavor from sweet marshmallow to grapefruit citrus to baking spices to savory! It's not just a sweetener for beverages and cocktails, but it is also a flavor enhancer that can heighten specific aromatics and tastes within a spirit by pairing it with specific varietals.
For example, Alfalfa honey has flavors of grass and hay. It can enhance herbaceous notes in spirits such as tequila!. Or, some honeys can mimic barrel flavors (i.e. baking spices) and can make an unaged spirit taste like it's been aged! Or, you may want to enhance the floral or citrus notes in a gin - a wildflower or orange blossom honey would be a great fit.
Honey Grapefruit Collins
1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz orange blossom honey water *
0.5 oz lemon juice
2 oz pink grapefruit juice
2 oz club soda
Garnish: Grapefruit slice
Combine the gin, orange blossom honey water, lemon and grapefruit juices in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, then add the club soda to the shaken contents. Strain into an iced highball glass. Garnish.
Dark Side of Strawberry
Varietal Note: Buckwheat honey is one of the darkest, more savory honeys. A favorite among chefs. I would recommend putting it in cocktails balancing it with vinegar or other savory ingredients. (Also works really well in Bloody Marys.)
1 strawberry muddled
0.75 oz lemon juice
1 oz buckwheat honey water
Barspoon balsamic vinegar
2 oz club soda
1 oz Aperol
0.5 oz vodka
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberry with the lemon juice, buckwheat honey water and balsamic vinegar. Add the vodka and Aperol. Top with ice and shaker vigorously. Double strain into an iced highball glass. Garnish.
How to use Honey in Drinks
Honey is difficult to dissolve in cold drinks, so I recommend making a "honey water" or "honey syrup".
2 parts honey
1 part HOT water
Dissolve the honey in the hot water. Bottle and refrigerate until ready to use.
Honey is also a great way to incorporate a local ingredient. Not sure where to buy a local honey? On a small scale, Whole Foods and many grocery stores do carry local honeys. You can also go to www.honeylocator.com and plug in your zip code to find the local apiaries and honey makers. NOTE: Wildflower honey is usually a good bet in incorporating a local honey. That means that the beekeeper wasn't able to find the specific flower the bee was getting nectar from and could be a combination of flower types.
Last year, we helped develop a honey program for PF Changs, incorporating the varietal, orange blossom, into their food and drink menu. See menu insert and video below.
I'll be blogging later about using honey in other ways such as honeycomb infusions, crystallized honey as rimmers, barrel aged honey, etc. So, stay tuned!