Photo: Zach Schiffman

Amid all the dirty martinis, mango martinis, and tomato martinis, for the two weeks surrounding Labor Day, there is just one cocktail that matters in New York: the Honey Deuce, the mix of vodka, raspberry liqueur, lemonade, and skewered melon spheres. (They look like tennis balls, sort of.) Last year, 405,000 Honey Deuces were sold at the U.S. Open, and Grey Goose — the official vodka of the drink — is on track to break the record this year.

Even casual fans are aware of the Honey Deuce if they spend at least a little bit of time on the internet. (I happen to spend a lot of time on it.) The souvenir cups are everywhere. I am not, I will admit, a tennis enthusiast, but when I got an invitation to this year’s tournament, I couldn’t resist going because I really had to know: Who is drinking nearly half a million $22 drinks?

As soon as I got to the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, I saw that they are not just everywhere on Instagram. They are everywhere on the grounds, too.

Max, a 27-year-old first-time U.S. Open attendee, earnestly told me it was “one of the best drinks he had ever had” and that he planned to drink “16 more” throughout the night. In fact, most first-time spectators I spoke with seemed more excited by the cocktail than the game. Another group of Honey Deuce drinkers who had all just come of legal drinking age explained the appeal to me thusly: “You can sort of drink whatever you want in the city — this is harder to get.”

They are slightly less hard to get this year, as the USTA saw fit to double the number of Honey Deuce access points across the tennis center. It still took some fans 30 minutes of waiting time to procure one. Leanne, 22, drank her first Honey Deuce of the night (but fourth across the Open so far) at the Eataly stall: “It’s a little funny to get it here, but the line wasn’t long.” When I asked about the high price, I was reminded — several times — “You get to keep the cup!”

It’s hard to put a price on a souvenir, perhaps (that hasn’t stopped eBay sellers, of whom there are many), but if the Honey Deuce’s appeal is its relatively limited availability, there is another cocktail that is even more exclusive: the frozen Honey Deuce, which is only available at the Honey Deuce Express bar just outside the Arthur Ashe Stadium. At one point on Sunday night, eight separate lines had formed to wait for the drink.