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Virginia Honey

Bees on a Honeycomb
While many of us associate honey with breakfast food or hot tea, have you ever thought of adding honey to your cocktails? You may be surprised to learn that this natural sweetener can bring a lot more to your drink than just sweetness. Honey's rich taste profile, derived from the pollen of various flowers, makes it a versatile ingredient that can enhance the flavors of your favorite spirits. Like simple syrup, honey can add sweetness to your drink, but it also brings a lot more to the glass. Honey is a rich source of vitamins, proteins, and minerals, and its journey from a flower to your cocktail can tell a remarkable story.
Beekeeper with bee hive in hand

A Buzzing Business

Bees in Virginia have a wide diversity 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.

Crop Contributions

In addition to its sweetness, honey is very 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 Virginia's economy.

Save the Bees

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, and protects the environment. 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. Choosing 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.

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For the Love of Honey

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:

  • Try our newest Signature Cocktail, Couple Goals, that features wildflower honey and expertly fuses it with blackberry liqueur and lime juice.
  • Check out Virginia ABC's Cooking with Spirits recipe, Honey Glazed Bourbon Salmon
  • Try Virginia distiller Belle Isle's Honey Habanero Moonshine, which sources local honey from an apiary in Waynesboro.
  • Use Local Honey Finder to source honey from local hives; raw honey with local pollen, Manuka honey, honey in combs or other types of honey in Virginia. 

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