While outside enjoying the mild, fleeting Alabama spring weather, I discovered a honeysuckle vine covering our azaleas. Instantly I envisioned a lemon honeysuckle cocktail. Honestly, is there anything more truly, sublimely Southern than a honeysuckle vine? To my delight, my two children took as much pleasure in tasting the dulcet nectar as I did at their age. For days, we had “Honeysuckle Time.” My two-year-old always squealed when she got a particularly juicy bead of nectar, prompting gales of laughter from her older brother.
Unfortunately, honeysuckle has a bit of a bad rap. Its sale and distribution has been outlawed in some states because of its invasive nature. We did not plant it, but rather discovered its existence, and I may incur gardener wrath for saying this, but I’m glad its here. It doesn’t seem to harm our azaleas in any way, and until it does, it’s here to stay.
I wanted to find a way to harness that flavor and be able to revisit it well past the time when the blossoms curl up and wither off the vine. Simple syrup came to mind. Stored properly, it can last for up to a month or more. Simple syrup is as versatile as it is simple to prepare. It was as easy as making a plain simple syrup and tossing a handful of stemmed honeysuckle flowers into the mixture and letting it cool, then straining it into a jar and stashing in the fridge. When it’s cool, you can add a few tablespoons to a cocktail, or a frosting, or a granita. As I simmered the sugar and water together, I thought,
“Honeysuckle champagne cocktail. Honeysuckle soda. Honeysuckle macarons. Honeysuckle granita…”
The possibilities seemed endless. A few days after I made the syrup, I made a honeysuckle French macaron (along with green tea and lychee), but the honeysuckle flavor didn’t come through strongly enough for me. It did, however, in this cocktail–a slightly tart, floral beverage perfect for steamy, Southern nights.
Lemon Honeysuckle Cocktail
- 3 ounces gin
- 3 ounces lemon juice
- 2 ounces honeysuckle simple syrup
- club soda for topping
- honeysuckle sprig and a lemon wheel for garnish
Combine gin, lemon juice, and syrup in a shaker and stir.
Fill two rocks glasses with ice.
Strain into two short glasses, top with soda and garnish with a lemon wheel.
Makes 2 drinks
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