Step onto the Hive & Honey Rooftop Bar at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum and one of the first things you’ll notice is the view. The panoramic outlook from Irvine’s first rooftop bar encompasses everything from Saddleback Mountain to the glowing lights of traffic on the 405.
The second thing you’ll notice is the two-gallon jar filled with honeycomb. That’s the main ingredient in the featured cocktail at the rooftop getaway — the Hive & Honey Old-Fashioned. The drink, which infuses rye whiskey with honeycomb, is just one of the seven craft cocktails you can request that features honey as a key ingredient.
“Honey has been used in cocktails for over 100 years,” says Chris Adams, managing partner of Ellis Adams Group, which is helping mold the bar program at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum. “The industry is becoming more complex. And with honey, you’re adding flavor profiles that might not have been there if you had used a simple syrup.”
Complexity doesn’t mean overly sugary, though. While honey is certainly sweet, the syrup Hive & Honey makes is carefully balanced to ensure honey flavors don’t dominate the drink but instead complement the other components.
“We don’t focus too much on the honey; we just make sure the honey is present,” says Keith Meadows, Director of Food and Beverage at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum. “When we make our honey syrup, we do it by volume of weight so the honey doesn’t become overpowering. It’s a very meticulous process. We weigh the water and honey to get the perfect measurement — because if we don’t, the honey can overtake the cocktail.”
Why a syrup and not straight honey? It comes down to physics.
“You can’t use straight honey in a cocktail,” says Adams. “The minute I put ice in, the honey will coagulate and become clumps.”
Meanwhile, Meadows says the Marriott Irvine Spectrum is working with a local brewer (California is a hotspot for craft beer, after all) to come up with a honey-centric brew, which will be privately labeled for the hotel.
As for mead (the wine made from honey), well, it’ll be on the menu, but no one’s expecting that to be a top seller. “I don’t know how much it’s going to take off,” concedes Meadows. “Mead has a cult following, but we’ll push it as much as possible.”
Of course, more traditional wines will be offered — and they’ll tie in with the bee theme, as well. The Marriott Irvine Spectrum offers Bee’s Box wine — a pair of offerings (chardonnay and pinot noir) from the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, where 10 percent of the proceeds from each bottle are donated to local beekeepers.
Naturally, honey-infused craft cocktails are the star at Hive & Honey. So what, beyond the Old-Fashioned, can you expect when you visit? Among the offerings is the Brown Derby, a mix of whiskey, grapefruit juice and honey, which Adams says offers an almost caramel hint to the drink.
Or if you’d prefer, you can ask for a Hey Boo Boo, an apple brandy with lemon juice, honey syrup, bitters and mint leaves topped with an orange-blossom mead. To complete the beverage, it’s served in a honey-bear jar.
“Honey is a huge win for bartenders,” says Adams. “The great thing about the use of honey here is it’s really pulling through the concept of the [hotel’s] story. The honey is being used in everything from the cocktails to the food to the beers and wines. They’re leaving no piece of the story untold.”
This story appears as a part of a partnership with Marriott Hotels and Travel Brilliantly, fostering the creativity of the inventive class through stories that motivate, inspire and fuel a constant quest for knowledge. Read “The Secret Life of Orange County Bees,” there.