The Honey Deuce is the official drink of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
What does it take to concoct the perfect cocktail?
If the Honey Deuce, the official drink at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, is any indication, the matter has as much to do with the story the drink is telling as it does with the ingredients and recipe used to prepare it.
A riff on a spiked pink lemonade, the Honey Deuce was first introduced to fans in 2006. Since then, according to Aleco Azqueta, the vice president of marketing at Grey Goose, concession stands at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York, have sold over 1.8 million cups of the stuff. Two years ago, the cocktail was purchased at the venue every 3.8 seconds. What’s more, bars and restaurants around New York today serve their own iteration of it as part of their summer menus.
Clearly, there is something about the sweet creation made with Grey Goose vodka, lemonade and raspberry liqueur that tickles everyone’s fancy — starting with its look.
As mentioned by Daniel Zausner, the chief operating officer at the tennis center, part of the drink’s appeal rests in the special cup it’s served in, which is emblazoned with the names of all the U.S. Open men’s and women’s champions since 1968. Given its yearly update, the plastic vessel has become a collectors’ item that even sells on eBay. (At $22, the price of the cocktail is pretty hefty, making the possibility of putting the cup up for sale that much more enticing.)
“The cup is incredibly durable and you definitely don’t want to throw it out,” Zausner said. “People would cherish the opportunity to go home with this glass even if there was just water in it. The premium cocktail is icing on the cake.”
Zausner also revealed that folks from all over the country regularly reach out to the tennis organization to request the item be shipped to them.
“We get phone calls and letters from people all year long telling us they have a cup from every season but can’t make it out this summer and if we could send them one to add to their collection,” he said.
Of course, what’s in the plastic contributes to the creation’s popular appeal as well. The bright pink drink looks delicious on its own but add to it three perfectly round pieces of green honeydew and you’re left with a visually striking drink that’s particularly refreshing.
Needless to say, the scooped melons are meant to evoke tennis balls while also offering the perfect basis for the cocktail’s name which, in turn, tugs back at the sport. (Deuce, in tennis, refers to a tie score of 40.)
That was all part of the plan. The intention behind the drink was, in fact, to quench fans’ thirst as they enjoy hours of tennis during the last few weeks of summer but also celebrate the sport itself.
In fact, by today’s standards, the Honey Deuce boasts relatively low ABV numbers, perhaps in the hopes of avoiding rowdy crowds given the relative silence in which tennis is played. It’s also sweet, clearly catering to a wider range of palates than, perhaps, a harsher-tasting cocktail would.
“The key goal for the cocktail was that it was going to be this buzzy thing enjoyed as you walk around the grounds,” Zausner explained. “It’s the end of the summer and the U.S. Open is just one large grand-scale party in the greatest city in the world and the Honey Deuce celebrates everything that we’re about. It’s light and refreshing, representing summer in the city.”
Azqueta echoed his sentiments. “Beyond the emotional tie that so many people have with the cocktail, it’s refreshing and balanced, with an eye-catching color and garnish. What’s not to like?”
You’d be remiss not to instantly think about the mint julep, the bourbon-based cocktail famously served at the Kentucky Derby. It has, in fact, played a huge role in the creation of the Honey Deuce.
As history has it, Zausner actually came up with the concept for a signature U.S. Open cocktail while attending the Kentucky Derby in 2004. “It was my first time there and I was amazed at the volume of people walking around with their signature cocktail in a glass all day,” he remembered. “We tried serving specialty brownies and ice cream sundaes at the Open, for example, but nothing had the appeal of the julep so I realized we needed an alcohol partner that would help us create something.”
Put simply, the popularity of the Honey Deuce can be attributed to the fact that it was created with a specific audience in mind, catering to the exact needs of that customer — something that all classic cocktails do. (Take the screwdriver, for example. The cocktail was invented by American oil workers during World War II: While on the job, they’d pour some clear vodka into their orange juice, mixing the creation with a screwdriver given the absence of spoons on-site.)
Want to make your own Honey Deuce at home? Grey Goose has shared the recipe below.
Honey Deuce Cocktail
1 1/4 ounces Grey Goose vodka
3 ounces fresh lemonade
1/2 ounce raspberry liqueur
Garnish: Frozen honeydew melon ball skewer
Chill a Collins glass by placing in the refrigerator or freezer, or by filling it with ice water for 5 minutes. Remove the Collins glass from refrigerator/freezer, and fill with ice. Measure and add vodka to Collins glass. Top with measured amount of fresh lemonade. Measure and add raspberry liqueur. Garnish with skewer of frozen honeydew melon balls. Cheers!