The perfect drink for a warm summer afternoon, the bee’s knees cocktail is an easy-to-make prohibition-era cocktail you can create in your own home.
In the 1920s in Paris, bartender Frank Meier was busy inventing a new cocktail for the famous Hotel Ritz.
Frank was adventurous and used honey syrup instead of making traditional sugar syrup. He mixed it with gin and lemon juice, and so the bee’s knees cocktail came into existence.
Do bees have knees?
No, they don’t. The term “bee’s knees” was 1920’s slang describing something or somebody as being excellent, perhaps because they’re as rare as bee’s knees? It suits Frank’s creation since the bee’s knees’ combination of sweetness and bright color made it a fantastic drink to enjoy.
Although it’s been around for almost a century, this bright and fresh drink has not been forgotten. It’s made quite a comeback in recent years, and many trendy bars are serving it these days.
The main ingredient for the bee’s knees is honey. Frank used this liquid gold instead of sugar because it created a richer adaptation of the gin sour. There were some rumors that Frank used that golden nectar to cover the taste of subpar gin during the speakeasy era.
Did you know that during this era (when the government banned beverages containing more than 1.28% alcohol), intrepid bootleggers made gallons of “bathtub gin,” which was famous for its foul taste?
The honey bee cocktail is all the buzz today!
Today, with the variety of gins available, making this cocktail comes with countless possibilities. Every kind of gin has its unique blend of botanicals affected differently by the addition of the lemon and honey syrup.
A gin like London Dry Gin has a strong juniper flavor, while other modern gins focus on the citrus or floral aspects. Whichever gin you use, the lemon and honey amplify the flavors of the gin. Subtle sweet and sour notes aside, the gin is most definitely the star of this cocktail.
What makes this cocktail so popular?
Making the bee’s knees cocktail is a breeze! It contains only three ingredients and doesn’t require any fancy equipment, so it is one of the easier cocktails to create. The honey syrup gently sweetens the drink but doesn’t overpower it; the zesty lemon perfectly balances it.
Since this cocktail is all about being refreshing, it is the perfect complement to a breezy warm summer afternoon or evening. You can easily serve a crowd the bee’s knees because all you will need is a basket of lemons, a fresh batch of honey, and a bottle of your favorite gin.
Have fun with making the super easy, super delicious bee’s knees cocktail; here’s the recipe:
Bees Knees Recipe
2 oz. your favorite gin
3/4 oz. honey syrup (2/3 parts honey with 1 part of water)
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- Get your ingredients together.
- Pour the gin and the honey syrup and lemon juice over ice in a cocktail shaker.
- Shake the cocktail mixture thoroughly.
- Strain the contents into a cocktail glass that is chilled. Serve your bee’s knees drink, and enjoy!
Some tips for your making your bee’s knees cocktail
#1. Balance the flavors
This drink has the perfect balance between sweet and sour, but you can adjust the flavors to your liking. The gin used will also determine if you need to tweak any of the ingredients. For example, Tanqueray Gin has a juniper profile, so use a little less lemon to make a better drink.
#2. Use fresh lemon where possible
It is always best to use fresh lemon juice when available. If you are using the bottled varieties, know that most of those lemon juices are sweetened, so you will have to adjust the levels of lemon and honey by using less honey with bottled lemon juice.
#3. Don’t be shy with the lemon!
A lemon twist is an ideal garnish to “pretty” the drink up. Or you could give it a boost of sour flavor by squeezing the lemon peel’s oils over the cocktail. Once you achieve the perfect flavor profile, you’ll be able to replicate your formula time and time again.
#4. Quality ice is crucial
If you like sipping slowly on your cocktails and want to keep it cool, use quality ice. An ice ball maker is a great tool to make beautiful, dense, and clear ice balls. Giant ice balls like this melt slowly so you won’t be left with a diluted cocktail!
Variations of the recipe
While the original recipe stands the test of time, there are some modern takes on it. Instead of using lemon juice, some cocktail enthusiasts use sour mix (a syrup with a citrus flavor). If you go this route, use 2 oz. of gin, 1 ½ oz. of sour mix, and 1 oz. of honey. This variation works best used with fruit-flavored gins.
If gin isn’t your thing, you can replace the gin with vodka. If you aren’t a fan of straight honey, you can purchase floral honey flavors, such as lavender. Or you can use an elderflower liqueur to replace some of the honey. It is a perfect way to turn the drink into a floral-flavored favorite.
Is bee’s knees a strong drink?
If you’re looking for a light drink, this is not it. As with most classic cocktails, the alcohol content is high and comes in around 21% ABV, which roughly amounts to 42 proof. The bee’s knees’ liquor content may sound high, but it’s relatively standard for cocktails.
What is honey syrup?
When making a cold cocktail, straight honey will not mix well. By making honey syrup, the issue of honey in your bee’s knees is fixed. To make honey syrup, combine 2/3 parts honey with 1 part of water, and stir thoroughly—store like any other syrup - in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
The bee’s knees is the bee’s knees of drinks!
You can enjoy this drink throughout the year, but the best time to enjoy it is during the warmer months. Spring and summer just seem to bring out the flavors of this drink.
Always a crowd-pleaser, this drink’s 100-year run is still going strong today. Because it’s so easy to make, there’s no excuse not to enjoy the drink that’s all the buzz!