Last week, we talked about one of the simple little things turned newest obsession that came out of Easter dinner. Today, we’re going to talk about the other: pear-infused honey syrup.
(I am pretty excited about this post, you guys. First of all, this syrup is dang delicious, especially with just the slightest hint of thyme added to it. And second, I get to talk about one of my favorite Vermont businesses, whose raw honey and booze [yep, they do both] are rarely absent from my kitchen and liquor cabinet. We’ll talk more about this in a moment. I just wanted you to know that I’m psyched.)
First, let’s talk about the syrup. The idea for this came about when I was trying to figure out toppings for little untoasted bread slice appetizers. (Help me, what do smart people that know stuff call these? Tartines?) I started envisioning feta and rosemary, then honey and walnuts. As I flipped through The Flavor Bible to confirm my choices, my eyes settled on the bold, all caps PEARS under the walnuts section, and I instantly became obsessed with creating a combination of pears, walnuts, and honey. Since I’m not big on the texture of pears, I decided an infused honey syrup was the way to go.
I prepared the honey syrup the evening before and let it steep overnight in the fridge. (It smelled and tasted so good on Saturday night, and even better on Sunday.) Things went slightly awry when I looked at my jar of walnuts on the shelf and wondered, “hmmm……when did I buy those?” I opened up the jar, smelled them, then tasted a couple, and something about the aroma immediately brought me back to the many days I spent hanging out at my dad’s workshop after school as a kid. I googled “can walnuts go bad?” and quickly found something that stated “if your walnuts taste like paint thinner, they’re rancid.” Bye bye walnuts. I opted for bacon instead, which made for a FAR superior appetizer anyhow. (FYI: I highly recommend cooking up some bacon, covering it in this syrup, and feasting on it like there’s no tomorrow. You will die of happiness.)
Between the appetizers, the bottles of champagne that no longer had citrus juices to accompany them (um yeah, pear-honey syrup + champagne — do that), and my decision that nearly everything I was making could be improved with a splash of syrup, the stuff disappeared quickly. I knew that I needed to make it again ASAP so I could tell you guys all about it, and that I wanted to showcase it in a cocktail. And my thoughts immediately turned to The Bee’s Knees and Caledonia Spirits.
Back at the end of February, Josh of Post Prohibition (one of my favorite drink blogs) did a post on Caledonia Spirits, and I was so psyched to see a favorite Vermont business of mine making its way into other states and getting props for being super freakin’ awesome. But that excitement also made me wonder why I’ve never given them a proper showcasing here. That was something in need of remedying.
I first discovered Caledonia Spirits at the Burlington winter farmers’ market in 2011, after my friend Mara asked me if I’d tried the amazing vodka from one of the new winter market vendors. To which I replied, “No…… And there’s gin too, you say? Interesting……” I made it my first order of business to find them at the next market, and happily waited and listened while Todd recounted to another couple his tales of beekeeping and branching out into elderberry syrup, then into meads and spirits. Once the couple had bought their bottles and moved on, he enthusiastically offered me samples. (These are the people that offer you samples of vodka and gin and wine at 9:00am, and you say yespleaseandthankyou. End of story.)
The Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill gin and vodka are both infused with raw honey, and are so, so darn smooth and delicious. Their vodka has become my vodka of choice, as vodka, by nature, is really just there to punch up the booziness of a drink while letting the rest of the flavors of the drink come through. It’s honestly something that I could probably drink on the rocks with a little splash of something else, and that’s saying a whole lot, as I am not really a vodka gal. And their gin……oh, their gin. It is a beautiful little spirit. It works splendidly for even the most delicate gin-based drinks as it plays very well with other subtle flavors, rather than burying them with prominent juniper overtones. For this version of The Bee’s Knees, it was perfect.
If you’re curious, you can purchase their spirits in VT, MA, NY (NYC, Hudson Valley, and Long Island), NJ, DE, MD, Washington D.C., and Japan (!). Their meads can be found only in VT and MA. If you don’t happen to live in one of these areas, you can also purchase them online through a number of vendors. And to read more about their history (which I barely grazed the surface of), you can read Todd’s story here. (I also want to note that this isn’t some sort of promo gimmick. I just really, really love these guys.)
Now, let’s talk about this cocktail! The Bee’s Knees is a classic cocktail made with gin, honey syrup, and lemon juice. While it is quite tasty as is, the pear-infused honey syrup definitely brought it to the next level. I also decided to throw a couple sprigs of thyme into the second batch of syrup I made, as I thought it might work well to add just a hint of herbal complexity to the syrup, especially when pairing it with gin. And it did.
I highly, highly recommend using raw honey for the honey syrup. (If you happen to have really bad allergies, however, be careful of local raw honey, as raw honey will often have traces of pollen in it. While some people do take very small doses of local raw honey to build up their tolerance to the local pollen, it’s also possible that it could trigger a reaction in larger amounts. So just keep that in mind.) But the flavor of raw honey is absolutely wonderful, and it worked so well with the pear and a subtle hint of thyme. I used the Caledonia honey as well (since they give you a free jar if you buy two bottles of anything — win!), and the end result was a delightful little drink.
Thyme-Kissed Pear-Infused Honey
1 pear, diced
1/2 cup of honey
1/2 cup of water
2 sprigs of thyme
Add water and honey to a heavy saucepan and heat over low heat. Once honey has dissolved (raw honey is usually pretty thick), add the pear and the thyme. Stir for a moment, then cover and remove from heat. Let steep for half an hour, then remove the thyme sprigs. Cover again and let sit until cool. Transfer to a jar and let sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, strain syrup through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. (Don’t throw out those pear bits! Use them for something……anything. I put them in a blueberry pie I made on Easter, and it was awesome.)
The Bee’s Knees
2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. pear-infused honey syrup
1/2 oz. lemon juice (you can actually bring this up to 3/4 if you want more citrus, but I dialed it back to taste the gin and the honey syrup)
Add gin, honey syrup, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake well. Strain into a coupe glass and add the lemon twist. (I, unfortunately, don’t own coupe glasses. But small martini glasses worked great as a substitute.)