The Indy 500 has Pit Lane Lemonade. The Kentucky Derby has the Mint Julep. And the US Open has the Honey Deuce—Grey Goose vodka, fresh lemonade, and raspberry liqueur, all topped with a melon ball skewer.
Over 1 million Honey Deuce cocktails have been served at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the past 4 years alone (in case you were wondering, that’s over 37,000 bottles of Grey Goose vodka and 3 million melon balls). Each year, its popularity grows exponentially: there’s been an 88 percent increase in orders since 2016.
It’s remarkable how a libation can become so loved, so fast. Pimm’s Cups and Mint Juleps, after all, have centuries-old origins. Most people think it all started with the cocktail itself when actually, it was the honeydew melons. In 2006, US Open sponsor Grey Goose asked successful restauranteur at Gramercy Tavern, Nick Mautone, to craft a vodka drink for the annual Grand Slam. It was a creative honor and a very challenging task. Not only did it need to be delicious and refreshing (considering the heat of New York in early September), but it also had to complement the ballpark-Esque cuisine from concessions. On top of all that, hundreds of thousands attend the event annually, which means that the bartenders can’t spend much time making each drink. So… a drink that’s delicious and refreshing, that pairs well with ballpark cuisine, is easy to make, AND has a certain WOW factor? That was challenging!
Mautone obsessed over the libation all that summer, turning his Hamptons home into a test kitchen. One failed version included rosemary syrup, and another featured muddled lemons. But one afternoon, during a farmer’s market trip, he spied a carton of mini spherical honeydew melon balls. He thought they looked like “iridescent tennis balls.”
When it premiered, the Honey Deuce shattered previous cocktail service records. But it wasn’t until the following year that Mautone realized its true impact. He and his wife had a small dinner party with friends, and the US Open was on the TV in the background. One guest started going on about the delicious “honeydew drink” she had when she attended the event last year. She had no idea her dinner host had invented it.
Why is the drink so successful? Mautone himself credits the melon balls. He said that because they look like little tennis balls, they create a visually fun beverage to drink at a tennis match.”
But it’s not just the melon; Mautone took great care to ensure a refreshing flavor combination of “tart and fruity.” It’s balanced and goes exceptionally well with whatever food you’re having on a hot day.
The US Open will soon be getting underway today, and so will the endless flow of Honey Deuce cocktails – at $22 each (including a commemorative glass). Even if you can’t attend the Slam in person, you can still sip on the tasty beverage while you watch from home.
We have the official recipe for the Honey Deuce below. And if you make it, we’d love to see it! Head over to Instagram and tag us @tennischickmagazine with #tennischickmagazine and #honeydeuce, and we’ll give you a share and/or shout-out! 📸🍹😍