The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2015

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Page 34 of 136

on Honey After a full day of honey education at last year's Honey Beverage Summit, a group of attendees—some of the spirit industry's most influential tastemakers—gathered for a nightcap. The topic quickly turned to honey and how the captivating ingredient filled a much-needed void in the cocktail culture's ongoing quest for alternative sweeteners. So it was no surprise that when we caught up with Jason Asher nearly a year later, he was still talking about honey in the sweetener alternative sphere: "Alternative sweeteners are a huge deal," comments Asher. "Folks are paying more attention to ingredients. I used to think about creating cocktails with just a balance of acid and adding some simple syrup; thinking about an alternative sweetening agent just didn't happen for a long time. But now, using something like honey adds so much more flavor." With his alternative sweetening dreams coming true, Asher has also set out to explore honey varietals that are reflective of Arizona's unique landscape and vegetation. "I really enjoy visiting our farmer's markets and discovering different kinds of honey," he says. "Olive honey, Mesquite honey, Acacia honey—all of these honeys from throughout Arizona taste incredibly different and have different applications in cocktails. I might walk in two weeks later and find a slightly different Mesquite honey, too," continues Asher. "It might have been pulled from a different part of the hive, or from a different apiary, so it is important to treat honey like any fresh ingredient in a cocktail." Asher also points out that honey is a natural fit in today's handcrafted cocktail culture: "From start to finish, every bit of where honey comes from is handcrafted. From the farmer to the beekeeper, there is an art and hand- crafted element that translates really well into specific craft cocktail applica- tions. Honey is an integral part of bringing those cocktails to life." Jason Asher, Director of Craft Spirits and Mixology for Young's Market Company of Arizona, cites Mesquite honey as his favorite varietal. "Here in Arizona, the Mesquite is awesome," he says. "It resonates with the Sonoran desert, and you really taste Arizona in it." As our industry continues to seek new paths toward inventive cocktails, honey is hotter than ever. From classic tiki interpretations to innovative foams, syrups and surprising garnishes, this sweetener is a natural. Throughout 2015, THE TASTING PANEL looks at honey's impact on the beverage industry, one tastemaker at a time. The Walking Stick 1 oz. mezcal 1 oz. Demerara Rum ½ oz. Campari ¼ oz. Cherry Heering Liqueur Bénédictine ¾ oz. lime ½ oz. cinnamon-infused Arizona Mesquite honey Swe et Jason Asher, Local Flair and Flavors with . . . Director of Craft Spirits and Mixology, Young's Market Company of Arizona 34  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2015 by Rachel Burkons / photos by Grace Stufkosky

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