Gin was the spirit of choice in the United States for most tipplers in the 19th century. Look at any old cocktail books, and you won’t have to delve too deep before noticing that gin took center stage in many of the recipes.
It was from the love of this botanical liquor that cocktails like the Bee’s Knees was born. As with many drinks, there is a good story behind its fancy-sounding name.
It is easy to see why people became so captivated by this tasty libation. The gin sour had already been popularized, however, using honey in place of sugar really catapulted this cocktail into another realm.
The delightful expression that this drink snagged its name from was popularized in the 1920s and was akin to saying the Cat’s Pajamas or the Cat’s Meow. Its meaning was simple and playful and used as a reference to something being “the best”.
There has been some debate as to who invented this summer refresher. Some say that it was the brainchild of Frank Meier, a bartender at the Hotel Ritz Paris, who started pouring them in 1921.
However, an article from the Brooklyn Standard Union from April 1929 credits Titanic survivor Margaret Tobin Brown for creating the concoction.
Others are certain that it was invented in the U.S. during Prohibition.
A recipe for the drink appears in two separate cocktail guides. The first, called World Drinks and How to Mix Them was written by San Francisco bartender Bill Boothby, and published in 1930. The other, named The Artistry of Mixing Drinks was a collection of recipes by none other than Frank Meier, published years later in 1936.
As is often the case with recipes this old, it can be hard to give credit where credit is due.
How To Make It
- 2 oz gin
- 3/4 oz honey syrup
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 1 lemon twist garnish
- Add the gin, honey syrup, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice
- Shake it like you mean it
- Strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy
Once you get comfortable with this, explore your options by experimenting with different types of honey, or titivate your cocktail game by adding some lavender or thyme to the simple syrup.
Either herb will complement the botanicals of gin and will be sure to impress your friends!
Here are some other variations:
- The Jamaican Honey Bee replaces gin with Jamaican rum for a more tropical take
- The Bee Sting is a spicy version of the Bee’s Knees – it follows the same recipe but adds in 1/2 ounce of Ancho Reyes or another ancho chile liqueur.
What is a bee’s knees drink made of?
The Bee’s Knees is made with gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup. The honey syrup is essentially just diluted honey so that it’s easier to mix into a cocktail.
What gin is best for a Bee’s Knees?
There are a plethora of choices when it comes to gin these days, from the budget options to the more palatable and delicately balanced brands.
During the Prohibition Era, people had to produce gin on the sly, and in most cases, the spirit was anything but delightful.
Cocktails like this one came into play as mixologists turned to ingredients like honey to cover up the noxious flavors of the inferior, homemade products that they were working with.
Honey, with its rich body and enticing flavors, doesn’t just mask an inferior gin but brings out the nuances and flavors of a quality product, so any gin of your choice will do!
Why is the drink called Bee’s Knees?
“The Bee’s Knees” was a popular expression in the 1920s that meant something that was great or cool. The drink was named after the expression, and also as a nod to the honey that makes this signature drink.
When was the Bee’s Knees cocktail popular?
This cocktail was created and popularized in the 1920s, but it has seen a resurgence in popularity as classic cocktail culture becomes popular again!