We had the most luscious honey the other day.
One of our favorite breakfast and lunch spots, the Village Bakery and Café in Atwater Village, is carrying local honey made by Feral Honey (aka “our friends Amy and Russell,” said owner Barbara). The beekeeping is hands-off for the most part, all natural and organic (no pesticides or hormones) and the honey is made by wild bees in the Silver Lake area. All the nectar they gather is from within a 3-mile radius in the neighborhood, and it tastes like what’s growing in the area, and what’s in people’s backyards.
The current batch tastes of lavender with a touch of minty eucalyptus (although not medicinal-tasting), rich and complex and absolutely wonderful. It’s not cheap, but you get a lot of honey-bang for your buck.
Besides just eating it out of the jar with a spoon (which we found to be dangerously enticing, ’cause we just might finish the whole thing if we’re not careful), the first thing we thought to do with it was try it in one of the great classic cocktails that I think needs a lot more attention.
The Bee’s Knees cocktail popped up sometime during Prohibition (although we don’t know its exact origin) as one of many ways to disguise the taste of, shall we say, disreputable gin. It’s a very simple gin sour, but the twist here is that the sweetener, as you may have gleaned, is honey rather than sugar. You have a lot of room for variation and creativity with the myriad flavors of honey that are available, and we thought this marvelously floral honey would be a perfect match with the new Beefeater Summer Edition gin.
Beefeater Master Distiller Desmond Payne, looking for a followup to the very successful Beefeater 24, sought to come up with a gin that’s a bit lighter and more suitable for warm weather and summery drinks. The limited edition Summer gin is lighter in proof, 80 as opposed to 94, a slightly lighter juniper profile and the addition of black currant, elderflower and hibiscus flower to the range of botanicals. In tasting the gin neat you can’t really pick these individual flavors out, but the combination plus the lighter profile makes it very refreshing. It’s floral without being flowery, and the combination of flavors in the gin seems to make it want to leap into the arms of other ingredients. (Wes has been playing with this a fair bit, and once we get back from Seattle I’ll post a couple of his recent concoctions.)
Grab Beefeater Summer Edition while you can, because it won’t be around for all that much longer (and I certainly hope it shall return next year).
Now, for that cocktail …
To make honey syrup, combine equal parts of honey and extremely hot water and stir until the honey is dissolved. For rich honey syrup, use 2 parts of honey to 1 part hot water. It’ll keep in the fridge for a few weeks, and longer if you add a splash of vodka as a preservative. It’s so easy to make on the fly, though, that I’ll usually just prep enough for the batch of cocktails I’m about to make.
You can serve this drink strained and up with a lemon twist garnish, or on the rocks with a lemon wedge. Try more robust gins, or try swapping out the gin for rum or tequila. If you’ve never had this one, you’re going to fall in love with it. Why, it’s so good it’s the … (you know).
2 ounces gin (substitute rum or tequila)
1 ounce honey syrup
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
Combine in a shaker with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist, or over ice in an Old Fashioned glass with a lemon wedge garnish.