Honey was surely served at the first Happy Hour. About 9,000 years ago, the world’s earliest barflies drank it fermented in humanity’s original tipple: mead.
While the natural sweetener has been eclipsed by other mixological ingredients, it’s now staging somewhat of a comeback, with both distillers and bartenders rediscovering its nuanced, floral flavor.
A few years back, Wild Turkey relaunched its bourbon-and-honey liqueur ($22). “Since we renamed it American Honey, it’s really got people’s attention,” said the brand’s legendary master distiller Jimmy Russell, and sales have recently increased rapidly.
Other American whiskey makers have taken notice. Evan Williams Honey Reserve ($15) was introduced in late 2009, and Jack Daniel’s ($22) just released its new Tennessee Honey (pictured above) this spring.
Even the historic honeyed Scottish concoction Drambuie ($30), whose recipe dates back to the 18th century, got spiffy revamped packaging a couple years ago.
But it’s not just brown spirits that are being combined with the sweet nectar. 42Below Honey Vodka ($22) from New Zealand has notes of beeswax, smoke and spice. (Enjoy it in the thirst-quenching Honey Berry Sling.) And New York State’s aptly named Bee Vodka ($49) is actually made entirely from honey and has a slight floral aroma.
Mixologists are also using honey in cocktails instead of the more common sugar-based simple syrup. Try it in the complex Zacapa Perfect Manhattan or the rich Lavender Honey Cream and you’ll see what everybody is buzzing about.