The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2015

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Page 133 of 136

november 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  133 The key to honey's appeal for bartenders is its natural complexity, and flavor range from darkly tannic to delicately floral and herbal, depending on the varietal. Importantly, the area where bees live and create their food stores of honey has a huge impact on its flavor— it's an interesting point in the world of craft cocktails where terroir and locality of ingredients is increasingly a part of the conversa- tion. Lavender honey, for example, comes from farms where "beehives are in or near lavender fields, where they source their nectar," explains Hawkins. That fact is resonating with a craft cocktail con- sumer base that values the same farm-to-table approach they seek in their restau- rants and grocery stores. "A lot of people are embracing that all-natural honey is a great alternative to traditional sweeteners," says Kim Haasarud of Liquid Architecture and consultant to the National Honey Board, which promotes honey in the United States. "I think there's even a lot more that can be done with it." So what happens when you have some honey and a cocktail shaker handy? Hawkins recommends starting with using a one-to-one ratio of honey and water to create a "honey water" or honey simple syrup. Then, the bar is your oyster, but Hawkins suggests you reach for gin first. "Honey is made for gin; they just play together so well," says Hawkins, noting shared herbal and botanical notes. It's no surprise that the Bee's Knees, the classic three-ingredient cocktail made with gin, honey and lemon, is one of her favorites. (See sidebar for recipe.) "Honey plays really well with whiskey too," Hawkins adds. Bourbon, with its rich corn content, is a prime choice. It works with honey "in a wonderful way, because bourbon is usually sweeter than the honey, and they don't try to out-sweet one another," says Hawkins. "Think about it like an old-school method of dessert pairing, like crème brûlée with dessert wine." Honey is also what Hawkins prefers in her Old Fashioned, especially one with Scotch—like a Chestnut honey, which is "a little bit bitter, with a dried tobacco finish." Haasarud breaks it down to the building blocks of a cocktail: "You can actually use honey to bring out elements of a spirit," she says. "For example, certain gins pair wonderfully with Alfalfa honey—it really emphasizes the grassy notes. And some honeys mimic barrel notes of aging, like vanilla and baking spices," she says. "I can make a blanco tequila taste like a reposado or añejo using Clover honey." One thing is for sure . . . Honey is everywhere, and more and more bartenders are following Hawkins's lead and incorporating it into their cocktails. We'll raise a Bee's Knees to that. Bee's Knees 2 oz. Beefeater Gin ¾ oz. honey ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice Shake all ingre- dients and strain into coupe. Lacy Hawkins is a bartender at New York's Clover Club. For honey and beekeepers in your area, the National Honey Board offers a database at

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