The intensely fragrant honeysuckle plant is common in Texas, but no one had ever tried to distill the sweet taste of the nectar into a liqueur until now.
Martine is the new honeysuckle liqueur from Texacello, a small distillery known for making Paula’s Texas Orange and related products. The co-owner of the business, Gary Kelleher, also produces Dripping Springs Vodka and two Dripping Springs gins with his brothers in their San Luis Spirits distillery, and he’s become known for tinkering with new ideas like Martine, his mind abuzz with what to do next.
He had been thinking about creating a honeysuckle liqueur for awhile, thanks to happy memories of being a boy and plucking the honeysuckle flower from its stem to drink up the nectar within it — memories that evoke feelings of first love and summertime, he says — so he began playing around with early versions of Martine.
That was five years ago. The recipe took half a decade to get right because Kelleher wanted it to seem exactly as though he’d bottled up honeysuckle from his garden.
“Creating new liqueurs and liquors is something I love to do, but this one was hard to get right,” he says. “On the one hand, I wanted it to have the flavor of honeysuckle that’s in the blossom, but the other thing was that I wanted you to be able to taste what you get when you smell honeysuckle. So I wanted the flavor to include the aroma. Getting those two things balanced together took the longest.”
He won’t reveal the full recipe since there’s nothing like it on the market today, but he will say that it’s an infusion of sugarcane-derived spirits with an emulsion “that is a combo of honeysuckle blossoms, fresh fruits like orange and nectarine, and a blend of botanicals including vanilla.”
The result is undeniably sweet, and there’s only one way to describe it: Martine tastes like honeysuckle, precisely as Kelleher intended, to the point that you can drink it all by itself if you want. It’s meant to also add extra nuance to cocktails, he says.
“I wanted to create something that was delicious to sip by itself and evoked those memories of summertime,” he says. “But at the same time, it needed to be something that would fit into the mixology world. Something that you could use to enhance the flavor of cocktails, to create new flavor profiles with. That was really the idea behind it.”
Wanting it to mix well in a variety of different drinks meant that Kelleher, in the recipe creation process, had additional testing to do — making sure that it enhanced each of the spirits, from gin to tequila to whiskey, without being overpowering.
Right now, as Martine hits shelves, he’s discovering that all that hard work is paying off because bartenders and liquor store owners alike are showing interest in it, and “no one has turned us down,” he says. “It’s shocking; it’s wonderful. It’s a product no one has heard of, but everyone is willing to give it a shot.”
Martine will be pretty easy to find for home bartenders looking for a fresh liqueur to play with: Kelleher says it’s going into Twin Liquors stores, as well as Total Wine & More.
The Martine Cocktail
1 oz. Martine
4 oz. Sauvignon Blanc
Garnish lemon twist
Have the Sauvignon Blanc chilled ahead of time. Fill a wine or coupe glass with the Martine and wine and stir them together. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Como La Flor
1 oz. Reposado tequila
1 oz. Martine
1/2 oz. lime juice
1 tsp. simple syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Pour into a coupe glass, sans ice, and garnish with a slice of lime.
— Martine Honeysuckle Liqueur