Bee’s Knees Recipe

This Prohibition-era cocktail is a sweet cocktail made with gin and honey.
Bee's Knees recipe in a coupe glass next to a jar of honey and next to a cocktail jigger, half a lemon and a honey stirrer

Method

Shake

Glass

Coupe

Category

Gin

Perfect at any time of year but especially during the Spring and Summer, the Bee’s Knees recipe is perfect for those with a sweet tooth.

What is the Bee’s Knees Cocktail?

The Bee’s Knees is a gin-based cocktail from the prohibition-era.

It’s made with gin, lemon juice, and honey.

At the time, the phrase “the bee’s knees” was regularly used to describe something amazing or outstanding.

The cocktail also includes honey, created by bees during the Spring months.

This means the title of the drink is a clever play on words, as well as being delicious.

Sweet tasting, but with a refreshing jolt of citrus from the lemon, it’s a refreshing cocktail perfect for Spring and Summer.

Bee’s Knees History

The Bee’s Knees cocktail is the creation of Frank Meier, an Austrian bartender who worked at the Hotel Ritz Paris during the early 1920s.

During this era of cocktail history, drinks of over 0.5% alcohol were banned in the United States.

Many leading American bartenders moved to Europe to continue their trade, leading to establishments like Harry’s New York bar creating recipes which are still famous today.

According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the creator of the Bee’s Knees recipe trained at the Hoffman House hotel in New York before travelling to Europe.

He was the author of the great cocktail book “The Artistry of Mixing Drinks” which includes this description of the Bee’s Knees recipe:

“In shaker: the juice of one- quarter Lemon, a teaspoon of Honey, one-half glass of Gin; shake well and serve.”

A Bartender Spy

Meier was a master mixologist, but also had an altogether more secret occupation.

During World War II when Paris was occupied by German forces, Meier and other staff at the Ritz worked undercover to support the French resistance.

It’s said that he assisted Jewish hotel guests to get fake documents, enabling them to get to safety.

He also passed notes for members of the German army who were secretly planning to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

As a cover, Meier ran a well-known gambling operation out of the hotel.

However, these endeavours had an unexpected consequence.

The mysterious bartender had a habit of telling his gambling clients to pay their debts directly to his London bank.

Meier would then clear their tab at the hotel.

There was one problem – he never did.

When the hotel found out, Meier lost his position and disappeared from the history books.

How do you make a Bee’s Knees?

Ingredients

50ml gin
25ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tsp honey

Method

Add your gin of choice, the lemon juice and honey into a cocktail shaker.

Add cubed ice, then shake well.

Strain the mix into a chilled coupe glass.

Garnish

Lemon zest

Expert Tip

Experiment with different styles of gin.

One popular theory is that the ingredients of the Bee’s Knees were chosen to hide the taste of poor-quality gin.

These days a trip to your local supermarket will reveal a bounty of premium gin products, so test out a few to see which you like best.

We prefer a London style gin like Warners.

Easy Bee’s Knees recipe with honey

Like many Prohibition cocktails, the original Bee’s Knees recipe was made with honey.

As good quality gin was less readily available than today, bartenders used lemon and syrups to mask the taste.

Why use honey syrup in a Bee’s Knees?

Well, honey is sticky and thick and doesn’t mix amazingly well in cocktails.

Many bartenders now use honey syrup instead, which gives the flavour, but is easier to blend into your cocktail mix.

For a simpler version of the Bee’s Knees cocktail recipe using honey syrup, try this mix:

50ml gin
25ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
15ml honey syrup

Bee’s knees drink non-alcoholic version

For an alcohol-free version of the Bee’s Knees cocktail, try this recipe.

50ml alcohol- free gin
35ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tsp honey

What tastes like a Bee’s Knees?

The Bee’s Knees recipe is essentially a Gin Sour, but with the egg white switched for honey.

The classic Gin Sour recipe is less sweet, but the inclusion of egg white creates a luxurious, creamy gin cocktail.

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