Skip to main content

How to make a Bee’s Knees cocktail, a drink that fits its name perfectly

You can create a buzz with the honey-kissed cocktail

Bee's Knees with garnish
Dan Baker / The Manual

Like many cocktails of the Prohibition Era, the gin-based Bee’s Knees cocktail was meant to hide something bad rather than showcase something good. Have you ever heard of bathtub gin? There was plenty of it going around in that age, and barkeeps needed a way to hide the questionable quality (and more importantly, the hideous odor) of the spirit.

Barkeeps wanted to keep their illicit enterprises going, after all. Thankfully, as spirits evolved — and were regulated to prevent just anybody from making hooch in their bathtubs — the cocktail got better and better. (As for who created the drink, however, the sole inventor seems to be lost to history.)

Now, the mix of citrus and honey sweetness acts as a good introduction for people who have only previously said, “I don’t like gin.” (If you are one of those people, we’d like to take this opportunity to convince you otherwise … we’re not in bathtub gin territory anymore.) The floral and citrus notes in the gin blend with the other ingredients for an easy-to-drink cocktail that now allows the craft gin to come through without being hidden away.

Now, the drink truly epitomizes its name, which was used during the time to mean the best of the best. And if you can say the name without acting like a Flapper, more power to you.

Bee’s Knees cocktail recipe

Making a Bee's Knees cocktail
Dan Baker / The Manual

The Bee’s Knees cocktail is fairly simple to make. Not surprisingly, considering the name, it features honey as one of the ingredients; after all, you can’t get honey without bees.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey syrup
  • Lemon peel, for garnish

Method:

  1. Add ice to a shaker glass.
  2. Add the ingredients to the shaker glass.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Strain into a coupe glass.
  5. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Jamaican Honey Bee cocktail recipe

Honey dripping
Mae Mu / Unsplash

If you like the sound of the Bee’s Knees cocktail, but gin isn’t your thing, don’t worry, like most classic cocktails, there are a number of variations to allow you to use your favorite spirit (or just whatever you have on hand). One example of this is the Jamaican Honey Bee cocktail, which swaps out the gin for Jamaican rum.

(Recipe from CocktailsDistilled.com)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces Jamaican rum
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice (freshly squeezed is preferred)
  • 1/2 ounce honey syrup

Method:

  1. Combine all the ingredients into a mixing glass.
  2. Fill the mixing glass three-quarters full with ice cubes.
  3. Cover the glass with a shaking tin and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
  4. Using both a cocktail strainer and a fine-mesh strainer at the same time and double strain the mixture into a cocktail glass and serve.
Sam Slaughter
Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
How to make your own Herbes de Provence, an essential spice blend
No need to hit the grocery store, this spice is easy to make right at home
Variety of spices, close-up

Herbes de Provence is widely considered one of the most essential spice blends in culinary history. But what is Herbes de Provence? Originating in Southern France, it’s aptly named for the combination of aromatic summertime herbs that grow wild and abundant in the hills of Provence.

Traditional Provençal herbs are said to include basil, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, savory, marjoram, oregano, and bay leaves. Whether used together or alone, these herbs of Provence are a core element in French and Mediterranean cuisine.

Read more
The Vesper martini: How to make James Bond’s drink
Bartender pouring drink through strainer

Can't decide between a vodka or gin martini? James Bond's Vesper martini gives you the best of both. 

A bold drink that oozes sophistication, the Vesper first appeared in Ian Fleming's Casino Royale in 1953. Not only does it break the traditional martini rules by combining gin and vodka, but it also follows the shaken, not stirred methodology for preparation. 

Read more
Is international bar acclaim worth it? Some of the world’s best bars weigh in
The pros and cons of bar fame
Mirate bar staff.

There was a time after Double Chicken Please opened its brick-and-mortar spot in the Lower East Side where you could get in pretty easily. Since, in the wake of numerous accolades, including being named the best bar in North America in 2023, the establishment is routinely swamped. A line stretches from the bouncer at the door along velvet rope several blocks long.

Was it worth it? Is the experience the same after the fame? That all depends on the bar and what the drinker is after. Acclaim like this can change the very nature of a place, turning it from neighborhood hot spot to internationally-coveted destination. Suddenly, it's not so much about taking in a deftly-made cocktail in a unique setting as, well, saying you've been there.

Read more