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Mixologists Add Honey to Creative Craft Cocktails

Healthier, natural alternatives to sugar are on the rise and nothing says “natural” more than honey, which is now at the forefront of the movement.

Already an important ingredient in the food industry, honey has made a significant impact as part of cocktail creations. Bartenders serve numerous honey-themed cocktails as well as crafting their own concoctions with an infusion of honey.

The ingredient typically complements Rye whiskey and bourbon drinks extremely well. With sweeter bourbon-based cocktails, it matches the spirit’s richness, while in Rye-based drinks, it’s the ideal foil to spicier flavors.

According to a Datassential 2016 Honey Menu Report, honey cocktail recipes are ascending in the beverage industry, up an incredible 84 percent from 2012 to 2016. Bourbon and whiskey, whether heated or chilled, often make the best base for honey cocktails. A drink called the Gold Rush or Hot Toddy is a classic honey-infused cocktail. It is a simple recipe of bourbon, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, herbs or spices to taste, and warm honey complete with warm water.

However, honey is not solely utilized as a sweet additive. If a certain drink comes out a tad too bitter, honey makes the perfect naturally sweet addition, but it can also complement savory, even spicy drinks extremely well.

Bradley Bowden, bartender at The People’s Last Stand in Dallas, likes to create spicy cocktails infused with honey. A drink he calls Devil’s Advocate contains bourbon, lemon juice, slices of jalapeno, ginger beer, bitters, and of course, honey. As he stated in Esquire: “I prefer a little heat in my cocktails. I like to use peppers of some sort, but a problem that arises is that sometimes they are too hot for the average consumer’s palate. Honey is ideal for knocking that heat down a peg. It also does a great job of not overpowering the somewhat vegetal qualities peppers offer to a cocktail.”

While brown spirits are ideal complements to honey, the ingredient is versatile and can be used well with clear ones, as well. A simple gin or vodka cocktail with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of honey over ice can be a refreshing summertime sip. If you crave a more comforting drink, just add hot water to it.

Rum is a spirit that is utterly transformed when honey comes into the mix. Karl Goranowski, a bar manager at Saint House Rum Bar in Tucson, crafted a beautifully bittersweet cocktail rendition that showcases honey. “Honey is the glue that makes this drink work. It’s the right amount of sweet, plus the rich maltiness and the full-mouth feel. Imbibers will feel the weight and richness in the cocktail,” he told Esquire.

The Datassential report also lists examples of honey cocktails, which highlights how mixologists are testing different varieties of honey to create their lavish drinks. For example, the Snapdragon includes gin, lime, lavender honey, cardamom and ginger beer. The Blushing Dragon is made with hibiscus-infused tequila, mezcal and pineapple honey.

Flavorful, unique, and appealing craft cocktails are emerging as the go-to order at bars across the nation. Bartenders that conceive these smooth, delicious sippers are sought after and further applauded if they are especially creative with their concoctions. The depth of flavor that honey adds is starting a wave of new cocktails that are catching on and stand to grow in popularity in the coming years.

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