It is difficult to even attempt to tackle the history of honey because its use predates records, and not even by a little bit. Honey bee fossils date back around 150mn years, and cave paintings from 7000 BC display crude records of beekeeping.
In ancient times, honey was used as a sweetener, a gift to the Gods, an ingredient in both cake and embalming fluid (yum) and medicine. It was used in huge capacity, only fading out slightly in Europe when the Renaissance brought sugar from further afield into everyday life.
Even now, the nectar is cited for its medicinal properties – used to fight infections and soothe sore throats, and while it contains considerably more calories than sugar, it is widely regarded as a more beneficial alternative.
Once distilled, honey retains its sweetness and some of that luscious mouthfeel. It is a dominating flavour and certainly the lasting one, remaining on the tongue for some time after sipping. In the context of Gin, it can bring a richness to the mouthfeel, especially when teamed up with floral botanicals, as well as add a subtle depth depending on where it is sourced from.
Gins where honey is noticeable to taste:
Tamworth Apiary Gin is a bright yellow gin with a strong honey presence (it is added after distillation). Honey is also a strong feature in Barr Hill Gin, where it takes on a more floral profile. Dodd’s Gin also makes great use of the nectar, sourcing theirs specifically from the London Honey Company. Herno Old Tom Gin uses it during its distillation to add sweetness. It can be difficult to discern honey as an individual flavour, with the ingredient’s flavours taking a role in the backdrop, in the gaps between other botanicals and underpinning in the entire ensemble.
…in a cocktail like the Bee’s Knees. Those with a penchant for the flavour could also swap it for simple syrup when the latter is called for in cocktail recipes.
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