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Weekend Sip: This ‘buzzy’ honey-flavored gin is all about the bees

The bottle

Barr Hill Gin, $39.99

The back story

Some of you may be familiar with the expression, “You’re the bee’s knees.” But what about the Bee’s Knees cocktail?

The classic Prohibition-era drink — a mix of gin, honey and lemon — has been finding fans of late. Trendy bars are featuring it on their menus. A popular booze-centric site ranks it the 30th most popular cocktail, ahead of such other trendsetters as the Cosmopolitan and the Dark ‘n’ Stormy.

And now, there’s even a whole week devoted to celebrating the sip.

Credit Caledonia Spirits, a Vermont-based distillery whose roots go back to 2011, with the idea for Bee’s Knees Week, which kicked off on Sept. 22 and runs through Oct. 1. It makes sense when you consider that Caledonia was started in part by Todd Hardie, a beekeeper and farmer who used raw honey in his small-production winery. He partnered with Ryan Christiansen, who had been in the homebrewing business.

Their idea? To create a distillery that would honor the bees so important to our food systems. As Christiansen, who now owns the distillery, told MarketWatch, “They are essential to biodiversity and they produce one of the most unique and complex natural ingredients — raw honey.”

Sure enough, honey finds its way into one of Caledonia’s signature products, Barr Hill Gin — specifically, the spirit is finished with locally sourced raw wildflower honey, which Christiansen said serves as the perfect balance to juniper, the key botanical in gin. Christiansen added that 2,600 pounds of raw honey is used in every batch of Barr Hill.

This beehive of gin-making led to the establishment of Bee’s Knees Week a few years ago. Christiansen said that almost 2,000 bars, restaurants and spirits shops participated in the efforts to celebrate the cocktail last year.

What we think of it

I love a good classic London Dry gin, but Barr Hill is in the style of what’s dubbed a New American gin — a style that tends to be more eclectic. In Barr Hill’s case, it’s the addition of honey that’s so fascinating and critical, resulting in a gin that’s slightly sweet in a very appealing way. In short, it’s well worth trying.

How to enjoy it

If there was a cocktail that’s tailor made for Barr Hill Gin, it’s the honey-flavored Bee’s Knees. But you can experiment with the gin in other cocktails — and it works well on its own, kinda like a martini with a hint of honey.  

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