A woman-owned business in upstate New York is putting artisanal , honey-infused fine food and craft whiskey on the map
It all started with the bees. Claire Marin’s partner had a country place in upstate New York where the two would go on weekends to escape New York City. In the spirit of a part-time country squire, Marin thought it would be fitting to give her partner a beehive as a gift.
But fate works in mysterious ways. Her partner “looked at it once, said she loved it, and never touched it again,” says Marin. But Marin got the bug. “I fell in love with the bees,” she says. “I set up the one hive, then got a second one,” she continues.
It wasn’t long before she launched Catskill Provisions, an artisanal fine food and craft spirits company in the Catskill Mountains that infuses the honey into Apple Cider Vinegar, Chocolate Honey Truffles, Ketchup and Rye Whiskey. (Raw wildflower honey is also available on its own.) The company became successful by partnering with iconic mixologists and chefs at high-end bars and eateries like ABC Kitchen, The Standard Grill and The Mercer Hotel in New York City.
A former high-powered Manhattan publishing executive, Marin began to share jars of her honey with her sales staff, and it was a huge hit. She devoured books on beekeeping and became obsessed with teaching herself about bees. And then, a strange thing happened. The more time Marin spent around bees, the more she started to learn from them. “They all work together for the good of the hive,” she says. “They are extremely disciplined and industrious, and so wise. They don’t react well to stress. They respond well to kind treatment, and the best honey comes from happy bees.” She left publishing and never looked back.
Catskill Provisions is now opening its own distillery upstate, and will be launching two types of organic honey-infused gin: NY Monarch Gin, named after monarch butterflies, that are not only pollinators, but also endangered; and NY Pollinator Gin. According to Marin, pesticide use is causing us to lose our bees at a rate of 30 percent per year, sometimes more. She is committed to protecting them, with a sustainable approach to the land, planting clover and buckwheat to feed the land, and planting rye, with no chemicals or pesticide.
“Pesticides throw off the balance of nature,” she says. “As resilient as the earth is, there’s an increasing fragility we’re seeing and it’s hard to be optimistic sometimes, but I am.”
To help the bees, she advises planting pollinator-friendly flowers, like sage, asters, clover, and not mowing your dandelions for three to four days when they come up in the spring, to give bees a chance to pollinate.
Marin now tends over 300 hives in the Catskills, in partnership with other local, rural beekeepers, to harvest small batch, hand-packed honey, several times a year. Everything is made in upstate New York, and packaged in the Finger Lakes region, in a facility that only employs people with disabilities.
Though she now spends much of her time in the country tending the hives, she still keeps a home base in the city. “I’m kept on my toes in the city, but going upstate to nature feeds my creativity,” she says. And that, in turn, feeds the bees. catskillprovisions.com