U.S. Open fans clamor to meet their favorite tennis stars, but lines emerged on a recent afternoon in pursuit of a different must-have: the Honey Deuce.
Served in a hard plastic souvenir cup, the Honey Deuce is the signature drink of the U.S. Open.
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It's made with Grey Goose vodka, lemonade and a splash of Chambord raspberry liqueur, and is topped with three pale green honeydew melon balls on a stick -- representing the three tennis balls packaged in a can.
"It's refreshing," said Linda Povman, 60, of Forest Hills, sitting with the $14 drink at the Open's Food Village. "It adds to the excitement of being here."
"It is possibly the best tasting drink," said Povman's companion, Steve Grundstein, 68, of Aventura, Fla. "When I get home, the first thing that I'm going to do is buy Chambord."
Last year -- the fifth year the drink was offered -- about 65,000 Honey Deuces were sold, said Daniel Zausner, chief operating officer of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
"It's a staggering number," he said, adding that 25,000 Honey Deuces were sold the year it was introduced. "What's incredible is that you see people walking around all day long with stacks of cups."
Part of the appeal is the souvenir cup, which lists women and men singles champions each year since 1968. It's a cue the U.S. Open borrowed from the Kentucky Derby, where Zausner saw the "incredible success" of the Mint Julep.
Grey Goose mixologists presented about four different cocktails to tennis officials, who eventually settled on the Honey Deuce. They wanted a drink that wasn't too strong and was "easy for the bartenders to make, because they'd be making such a tremendous volume of them," Zausner said.
That volume extends to the drink's fruit accompaniment. More than 180,000 melon balls are projected to be used this year. The U.S. Open receives as many as two daily shipments of melon balls from Baldor Specialty Foods, a full-service produce company in the Bronx.
"We do everything by hand," said salesman Jared Walton. He said a select number of 70 employees who work two different shifts complete the job with a melon baller, "a smaller version of an ice-cream cone scoop."
The company is "very proud" to work with the U.S. Open, Walton said, "because it's one of the largest sporting events. It's 20 days long." That means several days of collecting cups. Cousins Neil O'Halloran, 39, of Bergen County, N.J., Ellenora Featherston, 25, of Rockaway Beach, and a third family member have gathered more than 40.
The Honey Deuce embodies tennis, O'Halloran said. "It's like a five-set match in my mouth."