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922 South Morton Street
Bloomington, IN, 47403
United States


Cardinal Spirits is a craft distillery in Bloomington, Indiana that specializes in producing extraordinary spirits from local ingredients.  

The Drop

The Drop is your source for all things craft. 

Honey Schnapps: How we made it

Erica Sagon

Honey Schnapps, our newest spirit, is here!

It's a celebration of honeybees — distilled and sweetened entirely with raw honey from our family's hives in northern Indiana. It's rare to see this liquid gold being distilled at all, but then we took things one step further to make it unlike any other spirit out there ... read on to find out the crazy little secret that makes this spirit so special.

But, first things first: Honey Schnapps available now at the distillery by the bottle (full-size and cute-size) and in cocktails. It's a seasonal spirit with a soft, clean taste and a lovely, lingering honey essence. It's smooth and intriguing enough to sip on its own, but you'll love using it in cocktails at home, too — it's definitely an ingredient that makes you go, "wow, wow, wow!" when you sip.

We'd like to thank the honeybees out there that worked so hard to make Honey Schnapps happen. Here's how we turned 1,500 pounds of raw Indiana honey into a delicious spirit...

Meet brothers and beekeepers Walt and Dan. They're family-in-law of our cofounder Adam Quirk, and together, they have an apiary — a collection of hives — in the Fort Wayne area. They even helped us put a hive of our own on the distillery's roof!

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We use Dan and Walt's honey in our cocktails, but after a huge harvest left us with waaaaay more than we'd ever need for drinks, we wondered: Could we use it to make a spirit?

The answer is yes, and Honey Schnapps is it.

We wanted this spirit to be in total celebration of honeybees, so we kept pushing for ideas. How else could we get bees involved? Remember that little secret we talked about before? 

Say hi to Matt Bochman. Is he our secret ingredient? No. Well, maybe, but we wouldn't embarrass him here by calling him our "secret ingredient." Maybe our secret agent? Point is: He found our secret ingredient for us — yeast from the bodies of the honeybees on our roof. 

Matt is a biochemist for Indiana University, and on the side, he's a yeast whisperer. What a gig! Matt discovers, gathers and grows proprietary yeast strains for craft brewers and distillers. His clients, like us, enlist him to find yeast that's more interesting, flavorful or unusual than what's commercially available.

He's MacGyver-y about it - when he was in Jamaica awhile back, he squeezed citrus juice on a napkin and let it sit in the sun, then threw it in his suitcase and brought it home to add to his yeast library (he wouldn't have been able to take a whole orange through customs). Or he'll walk around IU's campus and snag local yeast from a tree especially for a brewery that wants to make a hyper-local beer.

Matt helped with the yeast for our Tiki Rum and Landlocked Spiced Rum, and now, our Honey Schnapps.

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Yeast is everywhere, even on honeybees. As it turns out, their fuzzy little bodies are magnets for yeast. Matt gathered yeast he found on the bodies of bees from our rooftop hive, then experimented with different fermentations for us to try...

So we've got Dan and Walt's honey, and Matt's bee-body yeast. Here's how our distiller Justin Hughey (above) put it all together. He made mead (fermented honey) with the 1,500 pounds of raw Indiana honey from the family apiary, and the bee-body yeast. He distilled the mead, and finally, added more raw honey for sweetness.

We finished as we do with all of our spirits: Labeling, numbering, bottling, corking by hand.

Ta da: Honey Schnapps! Snag a bottle of our seasonal spirit for refreshing cocktails all summer long.