Sure, a classic Manhattan or a hot toddy may be most appealing when there’s a chill in the air, but no Southerner ever puts away the bourbon, even when the weather turns warm. Whiskey mixes quite comfortably into springtime cocktails. Take the Queen Bee from Atlanta’s One Eared Stag, the Inman Park restaurant that gets its name from one of the pieces in its impressive collection of taxidermy mounts.
Just as Stag’s chef Robert Phalen has won acclaim for highlighting in-season ingredients, beverage director Mikey Kilbourne does the same behind the bar, creating a new cocktail list every month with a wide variety of house-made syrups and tinctures. (The Atlanta native has a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America and brings a chef-like philosophy to the bar.) “I wanted to create something that has the backbone of bourbon but is also light and fun for all the warm weather we’ve been having this ‘winter,’” Kilbourne says. His spring tipple combines bourbon with an easy-to-make thyme-honey syrup that adds lovely herbal flavor, as well as amontillado sherry, the Spanish fortified wine whose nutty, fruity notes are hugely popular in cocktails right now. The name seems obvious given the honey in the cocktail, but that’s really a secondary reason: “One of my bartenders mentioned that the drink made her feel regal when she was drinking it,” Kilbourne says.
The Queen Bee is on Kilbourne’s March menu, whose garden theme also includes a carrot-juice cocktail and another using cucumber-infused vermouth. Make one at home, and the thyme-honey syrup will last well into April (AKA summer, if current weather trends continue); it’ll last a month in the fridge.