Delicious alcoholic drinks made with honey

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Drinks makers have long appreciated the magical charm of honey, using it to sweeten bland beverages or fermenting it instead to create entirely new brews. Here we guide you through some of our favourite honey based boozes.

Mead

One of the most ancient beverages, mead is simply made by fermenting honey that has been diluted with water.

It’s a slow process—a good mead can take over five years before it’s ready to drink—and the practice became less common as speedier forms of drinks making gained in popularity. But with the recent boom in artisanal drinks, mead is making a comeback, helped along by some canny operators who have worked out how to quicken the process through modern equipment.

There are also a few mead variations worth getting to know: metheglin is a mead that has been flavoured with herbs or spices while melomel has fruit additions.

You might also hear mead referred to as "honey wine"—although you can also find wines that have been fortified with honey that are confusingly labelled "mead" or "honey wine".

Try this: Lyme Bay Winery produce an impressive range of traditional and flavoured meads so if you’re looking to find a style you like it’s a good place to start.

 

Beer

Brewers looking to give their beers a light, floral twist will often turn to honey to produce the goods.

The sugar in honey ferments out completely so rather than add much sweetness to the beer it will more likely give it a drier finish, although many versions have some honey added after fermentation to restore the sweet notes.

Light or golden ales are the most common brews given the honey treatment but it’s also an effective addition for darker beers, as President Obama can testify—in 2012 he released the recipes for the White House’s own Honey Ale and Honey Porter.

Try this: Fuller’s Honey Dew is a delicious light, easy drinking organic golden ale brewed with honey.

 

Cider

With the trend for flavoured ciders showing no signs of slowing down, you won’t be surprised to hear that honey is used by numerous manufacturers looking to give their product added appeal. But the honey and cider trick is nothing new.

Whereas a lot of modern efforts feature honey as a last minute flavouring, the drink "cyser" (sometimes referred to as apple mead) is made by adding honey to cider and allowing it to go through a secondary fermentation.

This method not only imparts some of the honey’s flavour and aroma to the cider, but it also boosts its strength, making it even more potent than a traditional farmhouse cider.

Try this: Getting your lips round a decent, traditional cyser isn’t easy—it tends to be made by small West Country cider makers on a non-commercial basis. The best mainstream effort we can find is by Zymurgorium, hailing from the unlikely setting of Manchester.

 

Spirits and liqueurs

For high-strength booze there are numerous spirits and liqueurs that feature honey as a star ingredient. Bärenjäger is a famous German liqueur that blends honey with vodka and other secret ingredients, while a similar drink called Krupnik is a Polish favourite.

Whiskey is a popular choice for honey blenders with American brands in particular being keen on the sweet nectar—the likes of Jack Daniel’s and Wild Turkey produce variants of their whiskies flavoured with honey.

The current fashion for flavoured gins means that bees are now doing extra work for gin distillers, providing G&T fans with a natural honey twist to their favourite drink.

Try this: Warner Edwards Honeybee Gin is a fresh, floral gin made with 28 natural botanicals and infused with honey from the maker’s own hives. It even comes with a packet of wildflower seeds so drinkers can grow their own bee-friendly plants.

Cocktails

If reading this has given you the taste for boozy honey then delve into the pantry for a jar and try making your own cocktail.

There are countless concoctions you can try, from the gin, lemon juice and honey combination "bees knees" to classics such as margaritas, mojitos and sangrias that have been given a makeover with the injection of honey. But we also appreciate honey for its sweet, soothing and restorative properties, so here’s our own recipe for a Hot Cider Toddy…

 

Hot Cider Toddy recipe

  1. Pour 500ml dry cider into a pan with two teaspoons lemon juice, three teaspoons brandy, four cloves, a cinnamon stick and a generous teaspoon of grated ginger.
  2. Warm gently for a few minutes until it’s hot but not boiling (too much heat burns off the alcohol).
  3. Add two tablespoons honey and stir until dissolved. Keep on a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the spices to time to release their aromatic goodness.
  4. Pour through a strainer into mugs or heat-resistant glasses and sup slowly to let the spicy honey and booze work its magic.