Not all honey is created equal.
The stuff in many grocery stores is little more than sugar water, sometimes imported, sometimes amended, and in general offering little more in the flavor department than sweetness.
But local honey, gathered from hives close to where you live, not only provides more complexity of flavor (those independent bees don’t take direction to stay in a certain field of flowers), it also provides health benefits that can combat allergies, something important this time of year.
Chefs and mixologists know flavor, and so they gravitate toward local, wildflower honey. It’s often a little darker in color and tastes more complex because it’s not homogenized for shelf-stable flavor. As the bees flit through the season, the flavor shifts, and so it’s generally much more interesting to use.
But, again, some honey marked as “local” is anything but, instead it’s the aforementioned stuff purchased and rebottled. So for expert help on finding truly local honey, I turned to GrowFood Carolina, the wholesale food hub in NoMo that vets each one of their farms so chefs don’t have to. They distribute honey from Horsecreek Farms in Bowman, and all the places on this list purchase from GrowFood, so I thought it would be a good starting place for a local honey quest.
Assorted Cocktails / The Spectator Hotel Bar
67 State St.
This hotel bar is a cozy place for a proper drink in a beautiful setting, and recently, the bartenders started creating infused honey syrups with Horsecreek Farms honey. Currently, there are two gin cocktails on the menu that include special infusions: Ginny From the Block includes chamomile-lemongrass honey, and The Bee’s Sneeze has lavender honey. For bourbon drinkers, the bar also offers the classic Brown Derby cocktail, made with honey and grapefruit juice.
Artisanal Cheese Plate / Oak Steakhouse
17 Broad St.
Chef Jeremiah Bacon uses either Horsecreek Farms or Kennerty Farms honey depending on availability, and although the local sweetener will show up in other menu items, you can always find it on Oak’s classic cheese plate starter. Paired with lavash crackers and cheese selections from goat.sheep.cow, the plate is perfect palate prep for a delicious main course.
Miso Roasted Carrots / Sorghum & Salt
186 Coming St.
I’ll admit something. I hated carrots until a few years ago, but now they are one of my favorite side dishes. Why the change? Well, I looked beyond the dip and veggie tray and realized carrots’ earthy sweetness can play very well with complex flavors. Case in point is the sweet, slightly spicy, and umami filled bites at Sorghum & Salt. Here, the honey acts as counterbalance to all the other flavors in this dish. You can also purchase the honey right from the restaurant, too, along with a lot of other local products.
Smoked Jerk Wings / The Victor Social Club
39F John St., Hutson Alley
I enjoy this elegant spot tucked in away from the crowds on Hutson Alley because as the weather heats up, the always-cool marble-top bar becomes even more attractive. Still, heat up happy hour a bit with a sweet and spicy order of these applewood smoke wings, made a little more messy by the addition of local honey and served with Arbol Chile Sauce, pickled carrots, and mint sour cream.
Sweetener / Tidal Grounds Coffee
1039 SC-41 #200, Mount Pleasant
Coffee and tea drinkers like a little sweet in their sip on occasion, and this local, independent coffee house in Mount Pleasant has local honey at the coffee station. The bright, inviting space full of wood details and bustling business is a comfortable place to meet friends, and little details such as this show care and attention in every aspect of the business.
Retail / goat.sheep.cow.north
804 Meeting St. #102
Sure, there are plenty of places in the Lowcountry to purchase local, honey included, and that is a wonderful thing. But take a cue from the aforementioned Oak Steakhouse and note that there are few better pairings for honey than a custom cheese plate from goat.sheep.cow.north. In fact, a errand to purchase honey could become an impromptu party if you add a bottle of wine and some cheese to your order.