In this instalment of his column, Oisin Davis looks at an inspiring story of a bartender in London that has turned his hand to beekeeping.
Should you be actively trying to avoid depressing stories about how we are all in the midst of a massive global climate breakdown? I think the only way to manage such a task is by relocating to a deserted island somewhere. The only problem with doing that, of course, is without proper knowledge of the rising of the seas, your chosen island itself might soon be engulfed in ocean water.
Regardless, if you blame it on pathological, reckless consumerism or just the Earth's natural cycles, there's are all kinds of ecological doom and gloom out there right now. But how do we go about tackling it? Sharing a David Attenborough video on your social media is grand and all, but that ain't really gonna help the melting of the ice caps and the extinction of animal species.
Shining a light on those who are actively trying to lead by example is certainly something we can all do. People across all walks and areas of life are getting stuck into projects and initiatives that they feel are helping to fix certain issues. None more so than my trusted comrades in the hospitality sector!
I recently met a superb bartender from the multi-award-winning London cocktail bar Artesian, who are putting serious work into the crucial realm of beekeeping. Allow me please to introduce you to Englishman Alex King and his rather amazing Jameson cocktail – 'Highgate's Companion'.
Recipe courtesy of Alex King, Artesian
The Langham Hotel, 1C Portland Pl, Marylebone, London W1B 1JA
- 45ml Jameson Ipa
- 20ml N6 Highgate Honey (2:1 with water)
- 12.5ml Fino Sherry
- 15ml Lemon Juice
- 1 dash Orange Bitters
- 1 dash salt solution (4:1 ratio)
- Chill a tumbler with some ice.
- Pour all ingredients into a shaker with some ice, seal it and shake hard for 10 seconds.
- Strain the cocktail.
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@alext_king places a lot of focus on sustainability and investing in local communities, which will be his core message when representing the UK this month on the global final for the @jamesonwhiskey Barrelman's Homecoming in Ireland. He will be incorporating locally produced @highgatehoney from North London, and even though #WorldBeeDay has come and gone, their importance in our ecosystem should never be overlooked. If you're ever with us and he happens to be around, do yourself a favour and lend him your ears, as you will always walk away having learned something new. Good luck Alex!
Bees are kind of a big deal
For those of you who may not be aware, bees are kind of a big deal. A third of the food items we consume depend on the pollination of bees. If they die out, one could argue that we could go with them. And yet that is precisely what's happening.
When we roll out our available arable lands and limit them to only one or two crops, it doesn't create a balanced diet for the bees and thus weakens them. It's also now generally accepted that many of the pesticides we spray on fields are decimating bee populations.
Anyone who wants to help out our beekeepers is definitely sound in my books, especially when there are cocktails involved. Alex has been bartending in the Artesian for over a year now and recently won the UK round of the Jameson Barrelmen's Homecoming Competition. The theme for the competition was 'From Farm To Glass' and dozens of countries participated taking inspiration for their whiskey creations from what was farmed, grown and cultivated in their own localities. When I asked him about why he chose to engage with an apiary in his own neighbourhood, I could really see why.
Beekeeping in London
"So I’ve lived in my area, Kentish Town, for close to four years now and I’m relatively familiar with my area. However, it was a friend of mine that pointed me in the direction of Highgate Honey at the beginning of this year. They’re a family run business who collectively share a passion for not only honey, but for the conservation of all bee species. I was blown away by their work and knew I had to collaborate with them."
When he probed a little deeper, it became apparent that the Highgate crew had some very unique selling points. "Highgate is quite special in the way they work. They’re unlike any other apiary in London as they do two very interesting things. Firstly, with the six hives they have, they only jar from each individual hive, so there’s no blending (unlike our friends at Jameson). Secondly, they only harvest every two weeks which shows true dedication to flavour. And believe me, across the seasons, those flavours are endless."
Bees & booze
This is most definitely true. In terms of taste, honeys are totally dependent on what the bees are pollinating and bringing back to the hives, depending on the location and the season they can vary from herbal to floral very easily. Something that Alex was very aware of when it came to finalising the honey for his Jameson cocktail.
"The honey I chose was an early spring, lighter style of honey that had all the great characteristics of the Jameson IPA Caskmates. Bit of a match made in heaven in my opinion with the balance of citrus notes in the whiskey. It was an easy decision to create a delicious Jameson Sour."
By the sounds of it, this has been an enlightening experience for Alex and he's not resting on his laurels with it either, further bee and booze related activity is in the pipeline. "I’m definitely still planning to work alongside Highgate Honey. They’re a great example of a business who haven’t given into the massive demands of the consumer. They are purely out to find the best possible honey and to make sure they do it in a sustainable way. I plan to create a partnership between Highgate Honey and Jameson to showcase not only how diverse honey can be, but for it to be an example of how locally sourced produce can be exceptional if you’re willing to look. We’re also checking out the education element and how we can help people understand what they need to do to help the conservation of the bee population."
These are the kinds of initiatives we should all get involved with. Sourcing the finest local products, working alongside their people, educating others to try the same and all of it done while sipping on some delectable Irish whiskey cocktails. Sign me up lads.
Author: Oisin Davis
Oisin works on a global level as an Irish drinks evangelist and producer. He is the founder of nationwide drinks festivals that celebrate Irish spirits in the best bars and restaurant in the 32 counties and to top it off he is co-owner of Poacher's Premium Beverages, Ireland's only all-natural mixer company. F&W is delighted that Oisin has joined our contributing team with his column "Great Irish Drinks."