The Press Hotel grows honey on its rooftop and uses it in cocktails. Photo courtesy of The Press Hotel

I’ve never appreciated honey, not even when I lived in places like Yemen that are famous for honey (and for Al-Qaida, but they try not to advertise that export). While working on a column about how to incorporate fresh herbs into cocktails, however, I made a Sage Bee’s Knees (gin, lemon juice, fresh sage and a honey syrup) that transformed my opinion. As a result, I now present to you something as sticky as the July weather: honey-forward cocktails.

I immediately thought of the Press Hotel, which maintains hives on its rooftop. They work with a Portland-based business called The Honey Exchange to extract the honey from the hives each year in late June/early July and, if they’re lucky, a second time in September. They use the resulting honey to make some phenomenal cocktails, including the $14 Everything Gold.

You can make The Press Hotel’s Everything Gold cocktail at home. It’s OK to skip the gold flake. Photo courtesy of The Press Hotel

If you can’t make it into Union (the Press Hotel’s restaurant) to order one for yourself, you can recreate the Everything Gold at home by combining 1.5 ounces of Bombay Dry gin, half an ounce of orange juice, 0.75 ounce ounce of fresh lemon juice, an egg white and 1 ounce of honey/ginger/turmeric syrup. Don’t forget that cocktails involving egg whites are typically dry shaken (shaken with no ice) before being strained and shaken again over ice before serving. Union garnishes the cocktail with a gold flake, but I’m assuming you don’t have a big bowl of those lying around your house, so feel free to omit that step.

Don’t be intimidated by the honey syrup. Just like simple syrup is made by dissolving one part sugar into one part warm water, honey syrup is made by dissolving one part honey into one part warm water. Using honey syrup instead of straight honey makes it easier to mix the honey with other ingredients and greatly reduces the sticky-icky factor without diluting the taste. It takes only a few minutes to make, but allow time for it to chill before adding it to a cocktail.  Some bartenders prefer two parts honey to one part water, and I’ve seen a few use a 3:1 ratio.

I started by making an Eau de Lavender: 1.5 ounces tequila, 0.75 ounce fresh lemon juice, 0.75 ounce honey syrup, one egg white, and a heavy dash or two of lavender bitters. It was light, refreshing, and fragrant – a perfect summery delight. I then moved onto a mocktail-eventually-turned-cocktail based on a drink called the Blaylock: one part fresh lemon juice, one part honey syrup and three parts grapefruit juice, served over ice and topped off with grapefruit seltzer. Normally when I have a mocktail, I envision which alcohol I should add to it, but this one didn’t need it. That did not stop me, however, from replacing the grapefruit seltzer with some Hendrick’s gin for my second glass. Even better.

Rosemary honey vodka spritzer Photo by Isabel Rioja-Scott

Honey syrup also pairs beautifully with apple-flavored alcohols or with spicy ones such as Absolut Peppar vodka. Go with the basic cocktail-building approach of one part sweet (honey syrup) to one part sour (usually fresh lemon or lime juice) to two parts alcohol. If you can’t be bothered making honey syrup, you can just use straight honey in drinks such as a rosemary honey vodka spritzer: 1 part lemon juice, 1.5 parts honey, 2 parts vodka, and loads of fresh rosemary, shaken vigorously before straining, serving over ice, and topping with club soda.

If you’re making drinks for friends, always mention if you’ve included honey, as strict vegans don’t consume honey and some people are allergic to it. In other words, bee careful.

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.


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