Each spring, yards across America fill with the intoxicating scent of the honeysuckle bush. In the south, we most commonly interact with the familiar white-fading-to-yellow flowers of the Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica.
Though the sweet shrub has stamped generations’ of childhood memories with afternoons spent picking flowers at their peak ripeness (the ones that have just started to turn yellow have the tastiest nectar), the honeysuckle bush is actually an invasive species. Its sprawling vines, especially at forest margins and into the forest understory, compete with slower growing natives for light. First introduced from Japan early in the 1800s, a century later it was endemic in much of the country.
But it’s honeysuckle, and the south is my home, so much like our wild guest the kudzu vine, we may as well accept the situation for what it is. Besides: Honeysuckle Infused Vodka.
Honeysuckle Infused Vodka
Honeysuckle Infused Vodka is dead easy to make if you’ve got a couple hours on a dry spring day, a one-quart Mason jar, and some vodka. Infusing with honeysuckle is a great way to turn a cheap bottle of vodka into something special, and a good bottle of vodka into something amazing. Here’s all you need to do:
- Pick honeysuckle flowers from the shrub. You want healthy flowers that haven’t decayed too much (somewhere in the white/yellow spectrum noted above, but before the petals are beginning to shrivel). Make sure to remove the green base of the flowers. You’ll develop a feel for how to pick them that usually leaves the base on the vine.Keep in mind that you’ll be sharing your task with various bees and other pollinators. Watch where your hands are so you don’t squeeze a bee, which is a good way to get stung.
- Fill the Mason jar with flowers. Then press them down gently and continue filling the Mason jar. You cannot have too many honeysuckle flowers in the jar, and the more you harvest, the richer the aroma and flavor will be.
- Once your jar is well packed, it’s a good idea to empty it into a bowl and clean out any stray green bits, overripe flowers, bugs, or debris that may have ended up in the mix. They’ll tend to impart bitterness, and there’s just no need for that.
- Repack the jar with your cleaned flowers, then pour vodka over it. Seal tightly, give it a good shake, then put it away.
- For three days, give the jar a shake when you think about it, but don’t open it. Honeysuckle blossoms around Easter down here, so you know the three days are important. Leave it alone. It’s doing magic in there.
- After three days, strain the liquid into a fresh container, leaving the flowers behind. It should have a nice yellow color to it and a great aroma.
Honeysuckle Infused Vodka goes very well over ice with a group of friends, on a sprawling front porch if you happen to have one lying around. It also makes a terrific mixer for standard vodka cocktails.
Not sure about all this wild foraging and Mason jar infusing? That’s cool. Mississippi’s Cathead Distillery has you covered in much of the country with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka.