7 Honey Cocktails to Start Your Buzz

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When an overly bitter cocktail needs a shot of sweetness, there are a number of fixes in a bartender's arsenal. You might think to grab your trusty bottle of simply syrup to take the edge off, but others are adding in a more natural option: honey. In many cocktails, honey's thickness and depth of flavor can stand up against other ingredients, whereas simple syrup or agave nectar often recede into the background. Just imagine a Bee's Knees without the stick stuff. All you'd be left with is a glass of gin and squeeze of lemon juice. Squeeze in some simple syrup and you'd have a gin sour--a fine cocktail, but one with a completely different flavor profile.

Frank Caiafa, beverage manager at Peacock Alley at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, has been a fan of honey cocktails for much of his career. His fascination with the ingredient reached a crescendo last year when the hotel installed beehives on its roof deck on the 20th floor. Since then he has been tapping the hives for the sweet stuff and creating a steady stream of honey cocktails for the bar. "I try to include at least one cocktail on the list at all times," he says. "Honey adds viscosity to drinks, and it's thicker than simple syrup, so it's a nice alternative."

So in honor of National Honey Month, the millions of bees who work to produce what has become a staple for some of the best bartenders around, we've asked them to share a few recipes for honey cocktails for their respective bar menus. Once you try these out at home, you may very well find yourself pushing that bottle of simple syrup into the depths of your liquor cabinet.

1. Wax Poetic

"This drink is based on the Bee's Knees. If you don't have bison Grass Vodka, you can substitute it with a London gin like Tanqueray or Beefeater."

-Frank Caiafa, beverage manager at Peacock Alley at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City


2.25 oz. Vodka or Gin

1 oz. honey syrup (one half honey to one half hot water)

3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice


Add ingredients over ice and shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a blade of bison grass (if available).

2. 53 for the S.P.

"The honey is the glue that makes this drink work. It's the right amount of sweet, plus the rich maltiness and the full mouth feel. Imbibers will feel the weight and richness in this cocktail."

-Karl Goranowski, bar manager at Saint House Rum Bar in Tucson, Arizona


1 oz. White Rum

3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

3/4 oz. honey syrup (one half honey to one half hot water)

1/2 oz. Angostura bitters


Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. 

Garnish with a lime wheel through a cocktail pick

3. Ms. Camille

"The name is a reference to Hurricane Camille, which was a big storm that hit the Gulf Coast before my time and was the stuff of legend. This drink is a variation on a French 75."

-Kirk Estopinal, bartender at Cure in New Orleans.


1.5 oz. Bourbon

1 oz. Chamomile Liqueur

3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice

1/4 oz. honey



Shake, strain, and top with champagne. 

Garnish with a lemon twist.

4. Devil's Advocate

"I prefer a little heat in my cocktails. I like to use peppers of some sort, but a problem that arises is that sometimes they are too hot for the average consumer's palate. Honey is ideal for knocking that heat down a peg. It also does a great job of not overpowering the somewhat vegetal qualities peppers offer to a cocktail."

-Bradley Bowden, bartender at The People's Last Stand in Dallas


1.5 oz. bourbon

1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz. honey

2 muddled jalapeno slices

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Ginger beer


Muddle the jalapenos in a shaker tin and add bourbon and lemon.

Shake with ice and serve in an old fashioned glass with ice.

Top with ginger beer.

Garnish with a jalapeno slice splashed with two dashes of Angostura bitters.

5. Bricks and Ivy

"I was looking for something refreshing on a hot, humid day for our summer cocktail list. I also wanted a green drink, the color of ivy. I am a huge Chicago Cubs fan so Bricks and Ivy was the perfect name to evoke Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs."

-Joshua Steffen, bartender at Proof on Main in Louisville, KY


3 thick slices of cucumber, muddled

1 1/2 oz. Lime Vodka

1/2 oz. St. Germain

1/2 oz. honey syrup (one half honey to one half hot water)

1/2 oz. fresh lime juice


Shake and strain on fresh ice into a rocks glass topped with soda.

Garnish with a cucumber wheel.

6. Nice Melons

"This cocktail is lightly based on a non-alcoholic drink my mom would make for me as a kid. Every summer she would work some magic with cantaloupe, sugar, and water."

-Shawn Vergara, proprietor of Blackbird in San Francisco


1.5 oz. Vodka

1 oz. Contratto Vermouth Bianco

1 oz. puree from a Sharlyn (or cantaloupe)

1/2 oz. honey syrup (one half honey to one half hot water)

1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice


Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glass.

7. The Gold Rush


1 1/2 oz. bourbon

3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice

3/4 oz. honey syrup (3 parts honey, 1 part warm water)


Fill a rocks glass with big ice cubes.

Shake up all the ingredients and pour them over the top.

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