Better Know a Classic: Bee’s Knees

Bee’s Knees

2 oz Gin <Boodles>
3/4 oz Honey Syrup*
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Combine ingredients and shake with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with lemon twist.  You can also change the amount of honey syrup and lemon to fit your palate.  Taken from Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail.

There are some classics that have quite the reputation, even to those not deeply entrenched in the cocktail world.  Your Manhattans, your Martinis, your Daquiris, and so on.  Then there are classics you discover when you get your first proper cocktail book, or when you go to a bar that has a whole portion of their menu devoted to Prohibition Era drinks (or even before) .  The Bee’s Knees falls into this camp.

Like most drinks old enough to be considered classics, the Bee’s Kness got its start during Prohibition.  So it’s a safe bet the lemon and honey were used to mask some of the, shall we say, “off” flavors one might find in the typical bathtub gin of the time.  Luckily, even as prohibition ended and reputable spirits re-entered the bars, this drink stuck around.  Dare I say we’re all better for it.

I first encountered this simple drink in the arforementioned The Craft of the Cocktail (which happened to be my first real cocktail book) on one of our Friday Night Cocktail nights we had back in the day.  Mrs Muddle made dinner as I flipped through the pages on the hunt for a drink.  Our home bar was rather modest at the time, so I had to pass on a good number of recipes.  Then came the Bee’s Knees in all its one bottle glory.  Even better, the use of honey syrup really made me feel like I was taking my mixology skills to the next level.  As I poured them into the martini glasses we received as a wedding present (and have since been banished from our bar), the gin and honey syrup combined to create a gorgeous straw gold color.  I remember thinking, “yup, this just looks like a Cocktail”.


On the sip, a battle between sweet and tart that rages in the glass.  Lemon and honey syrup each try to push themselves to the front.  Gin acts more like a referee, keeping either one from completely taking over.  Its botanical notes compliment both the oils in the lemon garnish and the flowery sweetness in the honey.  The body is ever so slightly thicker thanks to the honey syrup as well.  A wonderfully balanced cocktail, yet its is easy to tweak if you lean on one side or another of the flavor spectrum.

Next time your bar is running low and you want to impress your friends, or you’re at your parents’ house and don’t have much to work with, remember the Bee’s Knees.  Two pantry staples and one bottle will get you farther than you think.

* For a basic honey syrup recipe, combine equal parts honey and water in a sauce pan, simmer until honey is dissolved, and cool to room temperature.  Alternatively, you could just use hot water from the tap and add it to honey in a small bowl, again stirring until everything is combined.  I prefer the second method as it’s much less fussy.  You can also make richer syrups by using a 2:1 or even 3:1 honey to water ratio.

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