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Category: HOME BAR

How to Use Honey in Cocktails

From serious eats cocktail contributor:

Michael Dietsch

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Tips on using honey to add flavor to your drinks. [Photo: Jennifer Hess]

If you’re looking for a cocktail sweetener, it’s time to look beyond sugar.

For bartenders and home drink-makers who strive to introduce a locavore element to their cocktails, honey is a goldmine. Honey from your local food shed is made by bees that feast on the nectar of local plants, carrying subtle flavors and scents from the plant back to the hive, where the honey is made. If you live in an area known for its blueberries, say, or its oranges, you can find honeys that carry the essence of blueberry or orange blossom. Find them at a farmers’ market or health food store and mix them thoughtfully into a drink, and you can add a subtle locavore kick to your cocktails.

But even clover honeys or those you find at big-box groceries—y’know, the honeys you buy in bear-shaped bottles—impart enticing floral notes you can’t find in sugar. You can make great drinks with mass-market honey, thanks to honey’s ability to pair well with spirits, citrus, and other cocktail ingredients.

At the recent San Antonio Cocktail Conference, Charlotte Voisey led a discussion of how to use honey to make layered, lightly floral cocktails. Voisey started in restaurant management at the age of 18 and opened her own bar—London’s Apartment 195—six years later. She’s now a brand ambassador at William Grant and Sons. The seminar got me buzzing with ideas, and today, I’ll talk about how to mix with various types of honey and create balanced cocktails, and how to make honey syrup.

[Photo: Jacqueline Raposo]

Need to brush up on what honey is and how it’s produced? Jump over here for a peek into the secret lives of honeybees.

There’s one more thing I should mention: since honey is an animal product, many vegans don’t eat it. Further, some people are allergic to honey. If you use it in a cocktail, be sure you let your guests know, no matter whether you’re a bartender or a home-mixmaster.

Which Type of Honey Should You Use?

[Photo: Jacqueline Raposo]

Honey ranges from lightly floral varieties such as clover honey all the way up to earthy, dark, and rich options such as buckwheat honey. Which type you choose depends on the direction you want for your cocktail and the other ingredients you’re using.

    • Clover honey is light in both color and flavor, sweet, and mildly flora. It’s a workhorse behind the bar, and it’s hard to go too wrong using it. Reach for clover honey in any cocktail that calls for honey, unless the recipe specifies a certain type.

 

    • Alfalfa honey comes from the alfalfa plant, which grows mostly in Western states. It’s mild, with a subtle grassiness; it’s a common table honey, and in cocktails you can generally use it interchangeably with clover honey, although you should account for the fact that it’s both lighter tasting and sweeter than clover honey. Unless a recipe specifies a certain honey, alfalfa will work fine.

 

    • Orange blossom is also a mildly-flavored honey. The name is a bit of a misnomer, since it can be made from grapefruit or other citrus blossoms as well as orange. The flavor is mildly sweet and has light hints of fresh citrus. Orange blossom is a good choice for citrusy drinks, or paired with lighter spirits, such as gin or vodka, where its floral notes will really shine.

 

    • Blueberry honey is made by bees feasting on the nectar of blueberry bushes, mostly in New England and Michigan. It has noticeable berry flavors, and it works well in cocktails made with fruit and berry flavors; it’s also nice in drinks where you might want a delicate berry flavor without using actual berries—for example, in a delicate gin cocktail, such as a French 75, with the honey syrup subbing in for simple.

 

    • Buckwheat honey is a dark brown and strongly flavored variety that tastes much like very dark molasses. Funky and earthy, it has flavors of dark chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. Use it in rich cocktails where the complex, dark flavors won’t overpower the other ingredients. Pair buckwheat honey with rum, bourbon, rye—even a peaty Scotch would be a good choice.

 

  • Other honey options. There are many, many more types of honey; hit your local markets and see what’s available to you. Honeys that come from herbal sources, such as sage honey and thyme honey, offer savory notes that could play well with tequila or gin, two spirits with flavors that reward savory experimentation. Chestnut honey’s flavors of wood and smoke are nice in a hot toddy made with a great blended Scotch or Irish whiskey. Guajillo honey, if you can find it, is almost jammy, with flavors of stone fruit; try using it in a margarita variation.

How to Make Honey Syrup

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[Photo: Vicky Wasik]

Working with honey in cocktails is pretty simple, but the one thing you need to do first is to make your honey into a syrup. Honey on its own is a little too thick to mix well with other ingredients, unless one of those ingredients is hot. Honey in hot tea is fine, but honey in an ice-filled cocktail shaker won’t mix in nicely.

Making honey syrup is easy, almost as easy as making simple syrup. No, wait, it’s exactly as easy as making simple syrup. All you do is take equal parts honey and water and heat them in a saucepan until the honey melts into the water. Bottle, cap, and store in the fridge for two weeks. If you don’t need a lot, get a teeny pan and make a syrup of 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup water. If you need more, double or even quadruple the formula. The syrup shouldn’t separate in the fridge, but it doesn’t hurt to shake before using.

A one-to-one ratio of honey to water will make a mild-tasting honey syrup. For something richer, you can bump up the ratio of honey to water, making a 2:1 syrup or even a 3:1.

Another option is to make an herb- or spice-infused honey syrup, as the chef Jonathan Benno mentions in this piece on using honey in the kitchen. This is an opportunity to add more flavors that will blend well with your other ingredients. In the Bee’s Knees, for example; a little ginger works, as would lemongrass or thyme.

Just add the herb or spice (go light; a little goes a long way) into the pan with the honey and the water, and then strain them out when the syrup is cool.

Seeking Balance in Honey Cocktails

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[Photo: Jennifer Hess]

Before you begin making cocktails, taste the honey on its own. Make sure you understand its flavors and aromas. Taking notes is good, but don’t get caught up in tasting-note jargon; just jot down your general impression of the honey.

Ask yourself: how will this honey balance with the other flavors in the cocktail? Are the spirits and other ingredients you’re using light and herbal? Bold and aggressive? Somewhere in between? Intense buckwheat and chestnut honeys wouldn’t work well in, say, the Bee’s Knees, which is made with gin and lemon juice. But clover honey will work well, and orange-blossom honey will be even better.

Keep in mind that honey, especially the kind you get from local apiaries and farmers’ markets, is a natural product. It changes from season to season. The flavors and aromas you get from a jar in April won’t necessarily be the same in August. Taste each new jar you buy, and adjust your recipes if necessary.

If you’re adapting a recipe that uses sugar or simple syrup, it’s safest to start with less honey syrup than the recipe calls for. Honey syrup has more flavor than regular simple syrup, and you don’t want to overwhelm your drink. I suggest halving the sweetener, testing the drink, and then adding more honey syrup to taste.

Not sure where to start? Consider experimenting with apple brandy cocktails, swapping in honey syrup for other sweeteners, or using it to enhance the other sweetener. Apples and honey are a terrific flavor combination; I’m sure your parents sometimes offered you a honey-dipped apple slice when you were a child.

My Favorite Honey Cocktail

Because I love bourbon cocktails, the Gold Rush is my favorite honey-laced drink. Little more than a bourbon variation on the Bee’s Knees, it melds honey, lemon, and bourbon, which come together harmoniously in the cocktail. I find it to be a nice variation on a traditional whiskey sour, with the honey providing a complexity that sugar lacks. The honey also brings out the spiciness in the bourbon. The name helps, too, calling to mind a pre-Prohibition cocktail, even though the drink is only a little over a decade old.

Originally Posted on serious eats: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/03/how-to-use-honey-in-cocktails-drinks-at-home-alternative-sweetener.html

Recipe – Strawberry Margarita

Last night, my partner developed a strong desire for a strawberry margarita…but not just any strawberry margarita, she wanted one “like at the Mexican restaurant.”  What a request.  I have no idea what the specific protocol is at the local Mexican establishment, but I thought I’d give it a shot.  Here’s the recipe I came up with for the official Boozeblogger “Like at the Mexican restaurant” Strawberry Margarita.  Clearly, the idea here isn’t to make something classy, but just a nice drink to make when your significant other demands it of you.

Me Irl

Me Irl

This recipe could probably make margaritas for around four people…or two people who want to get a little tipsy.  First, you need a blender capable of crushing ice, pretty much any blender with an option called “pulse” can crush ice like a motherfucker.  Crush up about 2 cups of ice.

After crushing the ice, add the following to the blender

2 cups crushed ice

1 cup tequila (it’s not everyday you measure out tequila in cups)

3 oz triple sec

a few handfuls of strawberries (you could use frozen or fresh, it probably doesn’t matter)

a little sugar or agave nectar

squeeze in some lime juice

Then, blend the shit out of that.

You could serve your margaritas in any number of glasses.  If you are actually going to split the drinks between 4 people, you could put them in rocks glass, but since my goal was to get a little crunk, I just poured them in some big mason jars and then cut a slice of lime as a garnish.

I didn't take this. this is way prettier than what I could ever make

I didn’t take this. this is way prettier than what I could ever make

Tips for Choosing the Right Wine Glass

Types-of-Wine-Glasses-Chart

Whether you’re serving your guests a glass of wine with dinner or rewarding yourself with a glass at the end of the day; choosing the right glass is important.  The right glass will allow your wine to develop its full bouquet, keep your champagne the proper temperature, and promote overall better flavor.  There are a bunch of legitimate reasons for choosing the right glass, but it also makes you look like a classy individual.  Impress or shame your friends by knowing how to navigate the intricacies of bourgeoise etiquette!

For Your Wine

For Your Wine

 

use a glass you barbarian

use a glass you fucking barbarian

For this article, we’ll look keep it simple and stick to three types of wine glasses and why they’re important.  The three and most important glasses to know right now are: Bordeaux, Chardonnay, and flute.

Size DOES matter (something something penis joke) 

 

BORDEAUXWorld Market’s Bordeaux Connoisseur

 

Your red wines will reach they’re fullest potential in a glass like the Bordeaux.  What is important to note here is the Bordeaux has a large wide bowl for holding generous pours (4-6oz) with room to spare and allowing the aromas to expand and proper aeration.  The rim of your red wine glass should come to taper but still allow your nose to take in the full bouquet of the wine.  The tumbler glass seems to be popular right now and in my opinion be suited for a red dinner wine.  Remember: these wines are served at or near room temperature.

 

CHARDONNAYWorld Market’s Chardonnay

 

White wines call for a glass with a smaller bowl and narrower opening.  Since they are to be consumed at a temperature near 50F, the slimmer glass will allow the wine to hold its temperature and the stem will help keep your fingers from warming the wine.  Also, like the Bordeaux, you want to fill the glass no more then half in order to enjoy the full bouquet.  A White or Chardonnay glass here will do the trick.

 

 

FLUTEWorld Market’s Champagne Flute

 

The Champagne flute is the narrowest of the three wine glasses.  The advantage of the narrower glass is that it holds temperature and retains carbonation.  The glass will allow bubbles to travel up the glass giving it the “sparkle” and adding a touch of sophistication.  Unlike the Bordeaux and Chardonnay, the flute should be filled with 6oz, and does not not need extra room in the glass.

 

 

 

5 Drink Recipes That Will Vastly Improve Your Spring

5 Drink Recipes That Will Vastly Improve Your Spring

After this most hellish winter, here are some recipes that will help you forget all about it.

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1. Spicy Jalapeño Margaritas

11Chris Perez of Citygram Magazine

Recipe here.

 

2. Blood Orange Sangria

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http://www.epicureanmom.com

Recipe here.

 

3. Pineapple-Ginger Infused Rum

med106560_0311_sea003b_verthttp://www.marthastewart.com

Recipe here.

 

4. Bramble Smash

bramble-smash-recipe-940x600http://www.bonappetit.com

Recipe here.

 

5. Black Swan

Black-Swan-11http://www.wine-girl.net

Recipe here.

 

 

Bar Cart

Click the picture to check out this awesome bar cart post from abeautifulmess.com!

 

5 Essential Tips For Starting a Home Bar 

 

So you want to start a home bar, huh? Well if you’re like most people the first thing you’ll do is head down to Lonnies Liquor Barn and grab twenty random spirits based on which bottles look the coolest, pick up an ugly shaker with six recipes you’ll never use printed on the glass, a muddler because smashing things sounds cool, seventeen lemons, and for the love of God don’t forget to get a giant bottle of Baileys! You’re going to need the Baileys…for…something.

That’s pretty much how I started my home bar. I always wanted to get into cocktail culture and when I came into a small bit of money I went wild buying all kinds of things that didn’t really mix well. I knew enough to get at least some of the each of the basic spirits (Whisky, Gin, Vodka, Rum etc.), but since I didn’t really know much about cocktails I ended up with a lot of stuff that I didn’t need and barely touched. Here’s how to start a home bar the right way:

"My cocktails have the side benefit of removing body thetans. That'll be $75,000 and your first born child, please."

“My cocktails have the side benefit of removing those pesky Body Thetans. That’ll be $75,000 and your first born child, please.”

1. Find a good bartender and make friends.    

A great bartender is going to be just as interested in cocktails as you are and happy to get to know someone who wants to learn about their craft. Tell them what you like and ask them to make you something they think you’ll enjoy. Depending on where you live finding this type of person can be fairly easy or next to impossible. For the last five years I lived in a small college town where the closest thing you could get to a cocktail was a Jager Bomb. Its not that you couldn’t order something slightly more elaborate, but the reaction I usually got when ordering an Old Fashioned was either utter confusion or, “Yeah, I think I can make that, what’s in it?” which never ends well. When you’ve found something you like, ask your bartender questions like, “What’s the secret to making this drink well? What do you recommend I try next?” Tip well and let them know you’ll be back for more.

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2.  Buy only the booze you need. 

Once you’ve found a few cocktails that you enjoy you’re ready to hit the liquor store. Resist the temptation to splurge on the most expensive brands or fanciest bottles of booze. Start small, check out our 5 Cheap Liquor Brands You’ll Love guide for the basics and besides that just pick up what you need to make the cocktails you already know you like. There will be plenty of time to expand on your cocktail repertoire and the base spirits you pick up will work for hundreds of different drinks with a few tweaks.

Bar Tools

Click here to find this great set on Amazon.com

3. Invest in some good tools.

Make sure in the course of your  conversation with your new bar-tending-buddy you find out exactly what tools they are using to make your drink. When you start out you’re probably going to need at least a shaker and a strainer. I’m partial to the Boston Shaker myself. This one may seem a bit pricey, but I’ve broken more than one so it’s worth buying something of higher quality. If you need anything else I recommend a kit like this one which includes the tools I use most in my own cocktail creations; namely a shaker, strainer, stirrer, muddler, and measuring jigs. There are many, many more, but these should be more than enough to get you started.

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4. Buy fresh ingredients 

If you’re going to go to the trouble of making your own cocktails at home do yourself a favor and buy some fresh ingredients. In a pinch you can get by with the stuff you get in the plastic lemon, but there’s really no comparison to fresh ingredients for your cocktails. The one thing to remember about fresh ingredients is only to buy as much and you need. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought way too much fruit thinking I’m going to go on a mixology spree and ended up throwing out good fruit. If you’re buying lemons be sure to check out our Make Your Own Lemoncello post and see how you can get the most out of your fruit.

Cocktail Glasses

Download this screensaver from foodswallpaper.com

5. Buy the proper glassware. 

Pouring your freshly homemade cocktails into a red plastic cup is a sin and the Good Lord will smote your ass if you do it. These days you can find proper glassware just about anywhere and it doesn’t even have to be expensive. Check out our post on The Best Way To Build Your Cocktail Glass Collection to see how we built our set from scratch. If leaving your couch to go on a glass searching adventure is a bit to strenuous for you then I say check out Amazon for your sets. If you’re making a Martini or a Manhattan try this one. Take a look at these if you’re trying an Old Fashioned or a Whiskey Sour.  Trying your hand at a Highball, Tom Collins, or Mojito? Check these out.

Know anyone else looking to start a home bar? Why not click here and share this post on Facebook? What was your home bar making experience like? Any tips for the rest of us? Leave us a comment and let us know how you did it.

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