Bees in Virginia have a wide array of pollen to choose from when they begin honey production in the spring, making for a variety of delicious honey that can add depth and complexity to cocktails. From springtime to the final harvest of honey in September, the commercial honey industry in Virginia produces around 250,000 pounds of honey each year from roughly 7,000 colonies, with a value of approximately $500,000 annually. When hobby beekeepers are included, these numbers increase to around 38,000 managed colonies producing about $1 million worth of honey.
In addition to its value as a sweetener, honey is also important for crop pollination in Virginia. Between 12,000-15,000 colonies are used each year for this purpose, primarily for apples, cucumbers, and melons, but also for pumpkins, squash, blueberries, peanuts, onions, cabbage, and peppers. The value of honeybee pollination to Virginia's apple industry alone is estimated at $23 million, contributing about $235 million to the state's economy.
An estimated 40% of invertebrate pollinator species, particularly bees and butterflies, are facing extinction globally. This is a serious concern because these species are critical for pollinating crops and maintaining healthy ecosystems, which directly affects our food supply and the balance of the planet's ecosystem.
Ethical honey production is important because it promotes bee welfare, supports sustainable agriculture, protects the environment, and supports local economies. By choosing ethical honey, we can help to ensure that bees are treated with respect and that their vital role in our ecosystem is protected.
Consuming honey responsibly and ethically involves being mindful of the well-being of the bees that produce it. Choose honey from ethical beekeepers and look for honey that comes from beekeepers who prioritize the health and welfare of their bees. They should use practices that don't harm or exploit the bees, such as not using pesticides, providing a variety of forage, and leaving enough honey for the bees to eat over the winter.
Raw honey will dissolve nicely in warm drinks, but it's best to blend it with water before slowly adding it to cold cocktails. Honey from different flowers will bring different flavors to your cocktails, from floral aromas to rich, natural flavors that can offset the acidity in sours or complement the flavors of gin, tequila, rum, and whisky.
If you're looking for a good local honey to use in your cocktails, consider sourcing one from Virginia. Check out our list of sweet suggestions for your ethically sourced honey options:
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