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Three honey-based summer cocktails

Beekeeper Amy Newsome shares three refreshing drinks from her debut book.

With the heady warmth of summer in the air, those barefoot-in-the-grass gatherings are high on our agenda – not forgetting a glass of something refreshing in hand. And if you’re keen to serve something extra special, Amy Newsome’s debut cookbook Honey: Recipes from a Beekeeper's Kitchen features plenty of cocktails to sweeten your summer evenings.
When it comes to honey, it’s fair to say that garden designer, beekeeper and culinary whizz Amy Newsome is somewhat of an aficionado. ‘It offers so much more than sweetness; there are hundreds of types. Each has a distinct flavour, from mild, hint-of-citrus acacia and malty, nutty buckwheat honey to dark, aromatic chestnut or deliciously floral lavender,’ she explains. ‘As bees forage on plants within 1-3 miles of their hive, it’s the nectar of the specific flowers surrounding the hive which dictates its flavour.’
And, it's this diversity of flavour which makes honey such a versatile cocktail ingredient. 'Sugar syrup features in so many drinks recipes, but honey's essentially a liquid sugar packed with heaps of aromas,' she says. While strong, characterful woodland honey, for example, might not work well on toast, 'in a whiskey or rum cocktail, it just works.'
For Amy, creating bloom-to-plate – or glass – recipes featuring honey became a way to tie together all her passions 'in a sort of magical triangle.' After entering the working world and realising the office grind wasn’t for her, she started growing fruit and vegetables and this set the wheels in motion for learning the art of beekeeping, and a four-year course in botanical horticulture at Kew Gardens. Now, as well as being a full-time garden designer, Amy’s spent time at Raymond Blanc’s famed Le Manoir kitchen gardens, looked after bees at Soho Farmhouse, led urban beekeeping experiences in London and is now a recipe book author.

Her journey has, in many ways, been a return to her nature-loving roots: hailing from the Stratford-upon-Avon countryside, and a family of gardeners, her summers were spent playing in her Grandad’s groundskeepers cottage. ‘It was a kid’s dream, full of tiny little worlds. I’d pick berries in the fruit cage to make gooseberry jam, hang out in the mini orchard’s treehouse, and get completely absorbed in the ponds and hedgerows,’ she says.
These days, summer – honey harvesting season – is busy. From her weekly suited-and-gloved trips to lift heavy, sticky boxes from the hives she oversees to her day job designing gardens. Evenings, however, are spent 'whipping up dinners for friends’ surrounded by a haze of barbecue smoke in her fern-filled back garden in London. Accompanied, of course, by her tasty honey-based cocktails.
While Amy hopes her book will spur people to expand their honey horizons and appreciate its provenance in the same way we do single estate olive oil or chocolate, as well as thinking twice before picking up a squeezy bottle of honey from the supermarket shelf – which have often been blended, heated and micro filtered, resulting in huge loss of favour – really her recipes are 'more a jumping off point for people to get excited about the amazing aromas and flavours which make honey special.' 

Feeling inspired? Here are three of our favourite cocktail recipes from Honey to try at home…

Bergamot Bee's Knees

What’s the buzz?

‘I love cocktails, I love bees, I love citrus, and I love a good story. The Bee’s Knees is not just a great turn of phrase, along with the Cat’s Pyjamas, it’s also a cocktail, thought to originate in prohibition-era New York, where honey and lemon were used to take the edge off bathtub gin. The ‘official’ recipe now has equal parts lemon and orange juice, for a slightly more quaffable drink. Using seasonal citrus varieties is a great way of adding a fresh twist to classics when you feel like it; one weekend I picked up some bergamots, which have a spicy violet perfume that brings some sultry sophistication to this simple drink. Use carefully; bergamot juice is face-meltingly sour, so don’t be tempted to sub out all the lemon or orange. The magic is in its perfumed zest, so I’ve used it three ways: a rough strip to rim the glass and add to the shaker, a classic twist (thin piece rolled round a chopstick to create a corkscrew) to garnish, and a round disc piece, called a cheek, to squeeze over a flame for the final party trick, releasing the bergamot oil over the drink.’

Makes 1


5ml (1 tsp) hot water
10ml (2 tsp) borage honey
Bergamot peel: 1 rough strip, 1 classic twist, 1 ‘cheek’ disc
50ml (2fl oz) gin (2 shots)
25ml (1fl oz) lemon juice
15ml (1 tbsp) orange juice
10ml (2 tsp) bergamot juice


1. Chill a small coupe in the freezer.

2. Stir the hot water into the honey until mixed.

3. Remove the coupe from the freezer and rim with the rough strip of peel.

4. Combine the wet ingredients with the peel strip in a shaker with ice, shake until very cool. Pour into the chilled coupe and garnish with the twist.

5. For the flaming cheek trick, take your bergamot rind cheek, aka a disc of skin, in one hand, holding it with a thumb on one edge and forefinger on the top edge, rind facing your drink, about 10cm (4in) above the surface. In your other hand, take a lighter and light and gently warm the rind for a couple of seconds. Then, eyebrows and long hair safely kept back, hold the flame just away from the rind and pinch the rind quickly between your finger and thumb so that it bends in half towards the flame. The essential oils will burst over your drink and set light, causing a quick flash!
Amy’s tip: ‘Bergamot has a strong and uncompromising flavour, so needs to be treated with respect. Done right, sweet borage honey brings out the bergamot’s peppery violet flavour and smell in a mindblowing way, and this floral celebration of summer is punchy and invigorating.’

Stormy Black Lime

What’s the buzz?

A love letter to rich, slightly bitter buckwheat honey, this one is a grown up take on a Dark and Stormy. It looks like sunset in a glass and has a deep, botanical, savoury sourness to it thanks to black limes: dehydrated limes, used as a spice in the Middle East.

Makes 1


1 black lime
10ml (2 tsp) 1:1 buckwheat honey syrup (see method)
1 slice of fresh ginger
50ml (2fl oz) dark spiced rum
20ml (4 tsp) lime juice
4 dashes of Angostura bitters
90ml (3fl oz) fiery, good quality ginger beer (not too sweet)


1. Chill a highball glass in the freezer. Using a small, very sharp serrated knife, cut the black lime into 4 slices.

2. Make the 1:1 honey syrup by mixing 1 teaspoon of honey with 1 teaspoon of hot water. Remove the glass from the freezer and fill with ice.

3. Shake the lime slices, fresh ginger, rum, lime juice, honey syrup and bitters with ice, and strain over the ice-filled glass.

4. Transfer a slice of black lime and the ginger into the glass. Top with the ginger beer and briefly stir.

Amy’s tip: ‘For a deeper flavour from the gloriously fusty, mummified limes, infuse the rum with the black lime slices overnight, a week, or longer.’

Smoked Mezcal Margarita

What’s the buzz?

This citrussy cocktail is a real party drink, with a wonderful smoky flavour. You can use smoked limes OR smoked honey, or just a smoky mezcal, but I’m a bit of a sucker for a strong, punchy drink, so sometimes I go for all three. If smoking the limes and honey yourself, be very gentle and taste as you go; too long and they’ll taste like a pub carpet. Pair with tacos or the smoked lime and honey chicken.

Makes 1 


1 tbsp lime juice (smoked if you like, from 1 lime; see method)
15ml (1 tbsp) honey (smoked if you like; see method)
1 tbsp Tajin seasoning
1 fine slice of red chilli
60ml (2fl oz) mezcal


1. Chill a whisky glass in the freezer while you smoke the limes and honey, if doing so.

2. To smoke, light a handful of good lumpwood charcoal on the BBQ (grill), to one side. Once hot, add a small chunk of smoking wood such as cherry, or soaked chips, and place the grill rack on top.

3. Add a halved lime, and the honey in a shallow dish, to the grill rack, furthest away from the smoking wood and charcoal. Pop the lid on, have the vents open slightly, and smoke for about 20 minutes.

4. Spread the Tajin on a small plate. Remove the glass from the freezer and wet the rim with half a smoked lime.

5. Lightly dip the rim in the Tajin and fill with ice and the chilli slice. Add the mezcal, lime juice and honey to a shaker with ice and shake vigorously.

6. Strain and pour.

Amy’s tip: ‘If you can’t get hold of Tajin – a Mexican seasoning sprinkle, which adds an amazing salty kick – as an alternative, grind mild chilli flakes and chunky salt grains with a pestle and mortar, rim the glass with lime juice and then dip it into the chilli salt.’

Honey: Recipes from a Beekeeper’s Kitchen by Amy Newsome (Quadrille, £27) is available now. 

Additional words by Ianthe Butt
Photography by Kim Lightbody