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. 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 act 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.
Below, check out our video showing how to make a rye smash cocktail shot by The Manual’s own Riley Young with Eddie Riddell at Trifecta Tavern in Portland, Oregon. Trifecta Tavern is open nightly and serves up an exquisitely curated cocktail program (thanks to Riddell) and a variety of seasonal dishes from executive chef Chris DiMinno.
How to Make a Bee’s Knees Cocktail
- 2 oz gin
- .75 oz lemon juice
- .75 oz honey syrup
- Lemon peel, for garnish
Method: Add ingredients and ice to shaker. Shake well and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
This recipe features Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin, the winner of the Gin category in The Manual Spirit Awards 2019. If you’re looking to find other cocktail videos, we recommend checking out how to make a whiskey sour, a Blood and Sand, a mojito, or a whiskey smash.
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