The origin of the Bee’s Knees cocktail is lost to history, but we do know that it popped up sometime during Prohibition. The recipe doesn’t appear anywhere in my copy of The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book by Albert Stevens Crockett, but my Trader Vic’c Bartender’s Guide shows two recipes, one for a Bee’s Knees made with applejack, and one for a Bee’s Knee made with gin. Both recipes, however, call for honey and lemon.
If you accept that the Bee’s Knees was born during Prohibition (which is about the time that the phrase “the bee’s knees” popped up, then gin as a base sounds a reasonable assumption.
We started building this drink with light-bodied gins like Beefeater and Tanqeray No. 10, but experimented with white rum soon after, as white rum and dry gin have similar flavor profiles. Really, try it sometime. You can slip white rum in for gin in just about any cocktail recipe and it will usually turn out pretty well. Anyway…
While figuring out the proper proportions, it was decided that a simple syrup made from honey would be easier to mix with, and would have the added benefit of perfectly balancing the lemon. Two parts of gin later, an orange twist as garnish, and we were done. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this long-forgotten cocktail as much as we do, it’s become an after-work staple at El Vaquero already.
The Bee's Knees Print Me
- 2 oz gin
- 1 oz honey syrup*
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice until cold.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with an orange twist.
*Honey syrup is easily made by combining two parts honey (we use an organic blackberry honey from the specialty foods store) and one part boiling water. Stir until completely mixed, bottle and refrigerate.
Recipe printed courtesy of jeffreymorgenthaler.com