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 at least as long, 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 distillate, honey’s potential as a boozy beverage has come full circle.
1 & 2. Comb 9 Gin & Comb Vodka, $33 each
Orange blossom honey couldn’t be better showcased if the hive had asked for it itself. Made in Port Chester, New York, at Stilltheone Distillery, Comb 9 Gin and Comb Vodka are both distilled from honey, which gives both spirits a floral and citrusy flavor. This works especially well for the gin, which is also made with lavender and galangal root.
3. Barr Hill Gin, $45
What better way to create a near-perfect Bee’s Knees than with this honey gin from Caledonia Spirits in Vermont? Though this gin is not distilled directly from the sweet nectar, the flavor is equally present (but not overpowering) when raw honey is added before bottling. The super-drinkable gin is a natural in cocktails, but you may find yourself wanting to sip it on the rocks.
4. Bee Vodka, $57
New York sure does have a thing for bees. This buzzy vodka is made at Hidden Marsh Distillery in the Finger Lakes. It’s distilled from honey produced by local honeybees that feast on the region’s wildflowers. While it’s also got a hint of those floral notes, Bee Vodka is smooth enough to make a delectable Martini.
5. Wigle Whiskey Landlocked, $36
Forget orange blossoms and wildflowers: This Pennsylvanian take on rum is made from the slightly more weighty buckwheat honey. This gives the spirit, which by law can’t be classified as a rum), a slightly smoky flavor. How do you use it? Swap it in cocktails in place of traditional rum or even brandy and whiskey. It’d make a delightful Manhattan.
6. Dogfish Head Brown Honey Rum, $25
You can trust Dogfish Head to deliver solid craft brews. But did you know that the company also distills spirits? Its Brown Honey Rum has been around for a few years now—and Dogfish make a white rum to boot. This honey-laced offering is distilled from Delaware wildflower honey and aged with American oak chips. Its natural sweetness is a killer match for an Old Fashioned.