Tea requires it. English muffins were made for it. Cocktails yearn for it: Honey is the borderline magical ingredient that both tastes like candy and is somehow good for you.
Though the buzzy sweetener has been featured in cocktails for more than a century and used to make mead, a honey wine, for much longer, honey has only recently become the distiller’s ingredient-of-the-moment. Whether it’s used as a base to distill a spirit or added into the finished product, honey’s potential as a boozy beverage has come full circle. These are six honey-laced spirits to try for yourself, from gin and vodka to a barrel-aged rum.
What better way to create a Bee’s Knees (gin, lemon and honey) than with this honey gin from Caledonia Spirits in Vermont? The gin is not distilled directly from the sweet nectar; instead, raw honey is added before bottling. This unique step makes the flavor present but not overpowering and provides a complementary sweetness to the juniper-forward botanicals. The super-drinkable gin is a natural in cocktails, but you may find yourself wanting to sip it on the rocks—which is not what you can say about most gins.
2. Bee Vodka ($49)
New York State sure does have a thing for bees. This buzzy vodka is made at Hidden Marsh Distillery in the Finger Lakes region. It’s triple-distilled from honey produced by local honeybees that feast on the region’s wildflowers. Bee Vodka is smooth and velvety, with a hint of those floral notes leading to undercurrents of caramel on the finish. But despite its raw ingredient, this bottle is not sweet, which makes it a good candidate for mixing into classic cocktails, like the Moscow Mule or a Vodka Martini.
Comb Jarhead Gin is made in Port Chester, New York, at Stilltheone Distillery, where it’s distilled from a combination of local organic wheat and honey. The honey gives the spirit a floral and citrusy flavor that complements the gin’s other botanicals, including juniper, coriander, fresh citrus, floral lavender and spicy galangal root. It comes alive in a Bee’s Knees and tall, effervescent drinks like the Tom Collins.
If you ever wanted to drink a liquid showcase of orange blossom honey, this is your chance. Comb Vodka is an unfiltered vodka that is distilled exclusively from orange-blossom honey, and it’s also courtesy of New York’s Stilltheone Distillery. It’s rich and smooth, with a mild fruity sweetness and floral notes of orange blossoms. You can sip this vodka, if that’s your thing. Otherwise, try pouring it over ice on a hot day, topped with plenty of soda water or ginger ale. Highballs don’t get much more refreshing than that.
You can trust Dogfish Head to deliver solid craft brews, like its famous IPAs. But did you know that the company also distills spirits, including a white rum and this Barrel Honey Rum? The honey-laced offering is distilled from molasses, aged in charred American oak barrels, and then sweetened with a touch of wildflower honey before bottling. It’s intensely flavorful, with notes of caramel, buttered cookies, vanilla and honey, followed by a warming finish of fruitcake spice. The sweet-and-spicy profile is a great match for a Rum Old Fashioned.
Forget orange blossoms and wildflowers: This Pennsylvanian take on rum is made from the slightly more weighty buckwheat honey. The distillery sources honey in small batches, distills it in a copper pot still and then rests the spirit in charred oak barrels. The end result, which by law can’t be classified as rum, has a slightly smoky flavor, with a strong vanilla nose and complex body full of pepper and fig. Pour yourself a glass on the rocks, or swap Landlocked into your favorite rum cocktails. If you really want to be creative, the spirit works admirably in brandy and whiskey drinks. So stir some into your next Manhattan.