I wrote a book called Savory Cocktails, but even I recognize that a truly balanced drink requires a sweet element. There’s even a sing-songy saying designed to help you make a balanced cocktail without a recipe: 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong and 4 parts weak. Sugar is often the sweet in “old-school” cocktails. Refined versions use a sugar syrup known as simple syrup. Both will get the balancing job done, but if you’re looking for a cocktail sweetener, why not look beyond sugar? Honey has far more nuance. Get ready for Ready Aim Fire.
As I said honey is a great cocktail sweetener but working with honey in cocktails not quite as straightforward as sugar. Honey may dissolve in hot tea beautifully, but in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, honey makes a gloppy mess. No worries, honey syrup will add all the benefits of honey with none of the sticky repercussions.
One of the advantages of honey over sugar is terroir, as the flavor of honey can be influenced by the nectar of local plants. Clover and orange-blossom are popular examples.
Steve Schneider (a talented bartender with a deeply moving story) takes this concept of flavored honey one step further. His Ready Aim Fire mezcal cocktail is sweetened, or I should say balanced, with a honey-pineapple pink peppercorn syrup. It’s the delicious originality of this syrup that originally caught my attention.
The syrup sounds exotic but is easy to make. Some recipes I’ve seen for honey syrup require heat. This one does not, which helps keep the pineapple tasting fresh and acidic. Speaking of balance this honey-pineapple is made just savory enough with a nip of pink peppercorn spice.
I chose Ready Aim Fire as my Fouth of July cocktail this year. However, celebrations being as they are, I didn’t get around to posting it in time for the holiday. No matter, I’ve made the drink several times since Independence Day. It’s a complex, smoky cocktail bolstered by habanero and balanced with the homemade honey-pineapple syrup. The name Ready Aim Fire alone is enough to make this cocktail appropriate for any holiday involving fireworks. But it’s the sweet and sour smoky heat that makes this cocktail worthy of sipping all summer long. GREG
PS: Where there’s smoke there’s fire. The heat in this cocktail comes from Bittermens Hellfire Habanero Shrub – an ingredient that has a permanent place in my bar. You should try some. It’s terrific in all sorts of tequila and mezcal cocktails. I received no compensation to make that statement.