A cure for the common cold and whatever else might ail you, The Bee’s Knees is a honey-sweetened Prohibition-era cocktail that’s simple, clean and refreshing. Some say the citrus and honey masked the strong alcohol odor of “bathtub” gin spirits made during Prohibition.
Picture the scene – a speakeasy patron takes a sip of this delicious drink and says “now this is the bee’s knees!” and the cocktail’s name is born. Pure speculation, but that’s how I see it happening. Plus, bee’s like honey, as in the honey simple syrup. Just another theory.
(If you are not a gin fan, try substituting bourbon, tequila or white rum to the traditional recipe.)
Even though we no longer need to mask the flavor of bad gin, we can take advantage of the creativity behind the cocktails of the Prohibition era. This time we’ll use great gin, make a homemade honey simple syrup and squeeze fresh lemon juice to recreate the best version of the bee’s knees. (You can also optionally add a little *cayenne pepper to the mix if you’re feeling spicy. This is best when using London Dry Gin.)
A London dry gin will create a completely different profile than one of the new American-style gins, and whatever botanicals are more apparent in the gin you choose will be accented by the honey syrup and lemon.
I also occasionally add a spicy note to this cocktail by adding some cayenne pepper* or ground chipotle chili pepper. It doesn’t make the drink spicy hot, it just gives it a little extra zing and slight heat at the back of your throat.
Another option is adding lavender**. The lavender adds a unique twist and pairs perfectly with the honey in a way that enhances the flavor of the drink without changing its nature.
Make the honey simple syrup far enough in advance that it’s nice and chilled before you make your drink. It lasts forever in the fridge, so I made it a few days ahead of time and had enough to shake up a few rounds of bee’s knees cocktails.
Bee’s Knees Cocktail
2 ounces honey simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces gin
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
*1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or cayenne – optional
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Honey Simple Syrup
Add 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup water to a small saucepan over medium heat. (You can experiment and decide how much of a honey flavor you want in your syrup. The more honey you use, the thicker the syrup and stronger in flavor it will be.) Stir until blended. Strain into a jar and seal tightly with a lid. Will keep for 1 month in the refrigerator.
**Lavender Simple Syrup. Add 2 tsp dried lavender to honey and water. If you’re using fresh lavender flowers, increase the amount to 3 tsp per ¼ C honey. Don’t over due it or your syrup will taste soapy.