Remember those spring days as a kid where you would find all the weeds in your yard and make wishes on them, much to your parent’s vexation? Well, we may have grown up and started to deal with those weeds ourselves, but I’ve come to appreciate our dandelion friends. They are one of the first signs of spring, provide early food for honeybees, and their happy yellow color makes me smile. What you call a weed, I call beautiful.
The best part about dandelions is they are edible. You read that right! The bane of your neighbor’s perfect lawn is chock full of health benefits. So why not make it into a cocktail? Here’s how I made my Dandy Bee’s Knees.
Make the Dandelion Honey
1 cup dandelion petals
1 cup water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 lemon slices
1/2 cup sugar (may need more or less depending on final dandelion water amount)
Collecting and cleaning the dandelions is the most time-consuming part. You want to harvest enough dandelions to give you 1 cup of petals. Ensure that you are collecting from an area free of pesticides and other chemicals, which means no roadsides or parks. Take no more than 20% of the dandelion population in one place to help the honeybees. You can snap off the flower head or take the whole plant and use the roots and greens for other recipes. As you harvest, submerge the flowers into a bucket of ice water to remove any bugs and dirt.
After you harvest, bring the dandelions in, give them a good rinse, and remove just the petals. I found that too many green bits made it too bitter for my taste. However, others will use the whole flower head.
Once you have a full cup, add it to a saucepan with 1 cup water, 1/4 tsp vanilla, and two lemon slices. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the temperature, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add a little water (up to 1/2cup) if the liquid evaporates too quickly. Turn off heat, keep covered, and steep for 4-6 hours. The longer you steep, the stronger the flavor.
When the steep time is over, strain through a cheesecloth or mesh strainer, gently squeezing to remove as much liquid as possible. You should end up with about 1/2 cup of dandelion water. Add the water and 1/2 cup of sugar (or an equal amount of sugar to whatever amount of water you ended up with) and bring it to a boil. Lower the temperature and then simmer until thickened— you can test the viscosity by dipping a spoon in and letting it cool slightly. It should resemble fresh, warm honey.
Pour into a sterilized glass jar and place it in the fridge. It should last about six months.
Allergy note: if you are allergic to ragweeds, this may not be for you! Always consult with your doctor and start taking a small amount to see how you react if you have allergies.
The Dandy Bee’s Knees
Now that you have the dandelion honey, you’re ready to make the Dandy Bee’s Knees!
.75oz fresh lemon juice
.75oz dandelion honey
Extra dandelion flowers, as a garnish
Add the lemon juice, dandelion honey, and gin to a shaker. Dry shake (no ice) to incorporate the honey. Add ice to the shaker and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, or until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with fresh dandelion flowers.