Today’s Monday Classic cocktail is The Bee’s Knees, a very simple and straightforward drink that dates back to the Prohibition era. It is thought to have been developed at a time when most of the gin being made was completely uncontrolled and its taste and aroma left quite a bit to be desired. The honey and lemon helped to mask the off flavors and make the gin more palatable. The Bee’s Knees follows a simple sour formula of 2 ounces base spirit, 3/4 ounce sweet ingredient, and 3/4 ounce sour ingredient. It lends itself to many interpretations just by changing up the gin, adding a secondary spirit, boosting the simple syrup with an additional flavor, or adding in some bitters. I personally love the honey and lemon combination. It makes me think of healing and comforting and it’s the same flavor profile used in one of my very favorite cocktails called the Penicillin. The Bee’s Knees can also convert a vodka drinker over to gin, particularly if it’s made with something like Plymouth, so if you have a friend who insists they will never like gin, this could be the cocktail that changes his or her mind. It’s refreshing and mild, with the tartness of the lemon being tempered by the smoothness of the honey. Fresh lemon juice is essential, and trying different honeys can be a fun way to alter the taste or introduce a local element to the drink. Feel free to experiment. My favorite part of this cocktail is its name. The phrase the bee’s knees means simply “the best,” so to be called it is quite the compliment. It originates from the idea that when honeybees visit flowers the pollen gathers around their “knees,” making that the best part of the bee. Who knew? Happy Monday, everyone!
The Bee’s Knees
2 oz your favorite gin*
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz honey simple syrup
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or your favorite summer flower. Enjoy!
*Plymouth to stay really mild, Bluecoat for something citrusy, The Botanist to go more herbal, or Tanqueray to stick with a traditional London dry gin.