Traditional sweetener is put to untraditional use in NYC bar.
The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen is the place to “bee” in New York City.
This bar, located inside the InterContinental New York Times Square, operates five beehives on the hotel’s roof, home to around 120,000 bees that produce some 16 liters of honey per year.
And the bar’s putting this sweet stuff to good use in its cocktails and food. On the drinks side it’s featured in one classic cocktail (The Bee’s Knees) and four craft cocktails: The Stinger (which contains Grey Goose Le Citron, lemon juice, and yellow chartreuse with a honey base); Mint to Bee (Havana Club Añejo Clásico, St-Germain, fresh squeezed lime juice, Truly Spiked Lime Seltzer, rooftop honey, and a mint leaf garnish); The Dalliance (Roca Patrón Reposado, Ilegal Mezcal, passion fruit juice, and rooftop honey with a chipotle spice salt rim); and Bee Good.
Two giant cocktails (punch bowls) also include honey. There’s the Queen Bee and The Honey Rum Punch. The former is glazed (finished) with honey, says Raul Abrantes, director of outlets at the InterContinental, and they’re both more popular now summer is here.
“They’re more of a vacation or a brunch party drink, definitely most popular amongst the ladies and less popular in the winter months,” Says Abrantes.
One mocktail contains honey, too. The Stinger Iced Tea features fresh squeezed lemon juice, organic peppermint tea, and honey.
The Stinger donates $1 to charity for the sale of every Stinger and Bee Good cocktail. These donations go to The Best Bees Company (the company that manages the bar’s beehives) and Urban Bee Keeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary. Both, says Abrantes, “fund research to improve bee health, educational programs for schools, and provide beehives for communities in need.
Honey is a great addition to cocktails and a fantastic substitute for sugar, Abrantes says. “Sugar in cocktails is what would cause you to have a headache or hangover if you drink one too many. Honey is natural and healthier, and it helps balance the cocktail. If you have fresh squeezed citrus it’s perfect to balance the acidity of the cocktail.”
The Stinger’s cocktails are available in three sizes: the Beehave, a 2-oz. pour for $9; The Buzz, a 6-oz. pour for $18; and the Sting, a 12-oz. pour for $28. “The Buzz is the most popular, but for a large party it’s the Sting,” Abrantes says. “People have The Beehave if they want to try lots of things and are not sure what to order; they might order three and then choose their favorite.”
The only disadvantage to producing one’s own honey is that demand can outstrip supply, according to Abrantes; the bar was forced to buy some honey last winter. The shortage was exacerbated because last winter the bar lost 80% of its bee population. Since it added three additional hives this spring, Abrantes believes the bees will be better prepared for the winter.
“The new hives are more modern and protect more against the cold. The other two were original ones from the hotel, and were pretty old.” Plus, the bar now pays The Best Bees Company to take care of them.
Abrantes guesses he won’t have to buy any additional honey this coming winter. “The bees are exceeding our expectations. I think we’ll have enough honey for our cocktails and food unless we start expanding our honey products to banquets and catered events. And that’s another step for us to take.”
The honey the bees produce changes through the year. “The spring harvest is a darker color, more concentrated, thicker, sweeter, with a tad of a bitter taste to it,” Abrantes says. “The fall harvest is lighter in color and has a hint of tart flavor.”
Created by Francesco Lafranconi, beverage director; Image courtesy of The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen
- 2 oz. Grey Goose Le Citron
- 0.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
- 0.75 oz. Lemon juice
- 0.5 oz. Rooftop honey syrup
Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Pour into martini glass. Top with homemade demi-sec mead.
For the demi-sec mead:
- 6 oz. Egg white
- 6 oz. Mead wine
- 1 oz. Lemon juice
- 1 oz. Honey syrup
- 1 oz. Water
Combine all ingredients in a cream dispenser then pour over drink. Garnish drink with a honey candy cluster.