When life hands you gin, make a honey cocktail.
Even better if that gin comes from Standard Wormwood Distillery, a Brooklyn-based, small-batch distillery dedicated to experimenting with wormwood, one of the key ingredients in traditional absinthe.
We recently met the masterminds behing Standard Wormwood, and, always up for an adventure, brought some of their Wormwood Gin back to the office.
We've spent serious time with spirits and honey in our test kitchen, creating a collection of go-to recipes for any occasion. But wormwood gin presents a different challenge. Distilled "with the whiskey drinker in mind," Standard's offering lands heavy on the palate, with notes of moonshine, hay, and smoky cardamom.
Needless to say, Wormwood pushed the Bee's Knees, our favorite bright and summery cocktail, entirely off balance. (Make it with a London dry gin, however, and you've got yourself a pleasant afternoon.)
So what do you do when your gin need more serious cocktail, something with more heft?
Break out the amaro.
We tried a negroni first, substitututing honey syrup for sweet vermouth, then went down the rabbit hole as follows:
- Campari, gin and honey syrup 1:1:1 → too sweet, cloying
- Campari, gin and honey syrup 1:1:1 + spoonful Cynar → deeper, more rounded flavor, still too sweet
- Campari, gin, honey syrup, Cynar 2:2:1:1 → smoky, like a Cuban cigar, but smokiness not marrying with the sweetness
Our thirst quenched but not satisfied, we hit the books, looking for an alternative that might play better with a mysterious gin and raw honey.
We hit the jackpot with the Martinez, a cocktail widely considered the predecessor of the martini. The ingredients in a Martinez offer just the right balance, creating a cocktail with up-front sweetness that gracefully folds to the influence of bitter wormwood and Angostura.
In our version we substituted honey syrup for maraschino liqueur, and the balance we sought was finally ours.
Our final recipe is below, but we encourage you to experiment further. Let us know your what you come up with with hashtag #sweetenyourgame
Combine gin, vermouth, honey syrup, bitters and 2 cups ice in a large glass. Stir for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.