Food & Drink » Boozehound

Honey Liqueurs

BW reviews three entries with Scottish, Irish and German pedigrees


Honey liqueurs have a long and sticky history. Drambuie's Scottish origins can be traced to a secret recipe created for Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 18th century by his royal apothecary. Barenjager's roots stretch back even further—to medieval Germany, when "barenjagers," or bear hunters, would lure their prey with "meschkinnes," a mead-like moonshine made from honey.

Drambuie, $38.95

Drambuie derives its name from the Scottish Gaelic phrase, an dram buidheach, which translates to "the drink that satisfies." And, boy, does it. The liqueur pours a viscous honey-yellow, with thick, sugary rivulets that swirl in the glass. The nose has notes of oak, burnt orange peel and heathered honey, while spicy hints of clove and anise come through on the palate. Though sweet, its Scotch base adds a notable complexity.

Celtic Honey, $23.35

The crystallized sugar rim that coats this bottle's cap hints at its inferior quality. Though claiming to be "masterfully blended using local Irish ingredients," like Irish whiskey, wildflower honey and Irish spring water, the end result tastes artificial. It pours a pale caramel color and is the thinnest of the three. Powdered-sugar sweet, it leaves an unpleasant tingle on the sides of your tongue.

Barenjager, $28.45

Barenjager wins for "most honey-like" of the three beverages. This thick liqueur smells and tastes exactly like fresh honey. Though not particularly complex, it's so much like drinking a glass of boozy honey that you can almost taste the pollen. We tried the suggested "Bear-varian" cocktail—one part Barenjager, one part lemon juice and "your favorite beer to fill"—and it was awesomely refreshing.