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Bee’s Knees

Posted by Jenn. Comment (0).

Looking back on my recent cocktail posts (excluding the specialized holiday ones), I was surprised to discover a lot of them were gin drinks. It seemed odd to me, especially since I’m a vodka girl. But when I thought about the fact that most of the recipes I post predate or are from the Prohibition, it made a little bit more sense. After all gin, especially the bathtub kind, was a lot easier to get (or make).

Gin is basically grain alcohol mixed with a variety of botanicals like juniper berries or liquorice. So the liquor tends to have a strong herbal flavor. Try to reproduce that flavor in your bathtub, you’ll probably end up with something that smells and tastes like turpentine, which in all likelihood is why so many of these cocktails are rather heavy handed when it comes to mixers. But enough of the genealogy of gin. All this preamble is to state that yes, I am in fact doing another gin cocktail.

Just like most of my gin beverages, today’s cocktail predates the Prohibition. While it’s true that the cocktail appears in William Boothby’s 1930 cocktail compendium, World Drinks and How to Mix Them, it is believed that he originally published this recipe in a much earlier version. One that dates all the way back to 1900. But just because he published the cocktail doesn’t necessarily mean he created it. No one’s sure where it came from other than it’s a riff on the gin sour, sweetened up to hide the gasoline-like flavor of the early bathtub gins.

The name comes from a popular saying of the time. If someone or something was the bee’s knees, it meant they were top notch. This cocktail is definitely that. And since one of its main ingredients is honey, I’d say the moniker suits this beverage perfectly.

Bee’s Knees


  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

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