Often, classic cocktails come with stories that are just as good as the drinks. The Bee’s Knees, unfortunately, does not. In fact, we know next to nothing about it. Because recipes for cocktails by this name first appeared shortly after prohibition, many cocktail historians believe the Bee’s Knees was first made in America during the years booze was outlawed. Honey may have been chosen over white sugar to mask the foul odor and flavor of prohibition gin. But, bad gin or not, people must have loved this cocktail because calling something “the bee’s knees” was about the highest compliment one could give during this era.
Its earliest mention appears in World Drinks and How to Mix Them by Bill Bixby in 1934. The recipe called for Gin, honey, lemon juice, and orange juice. Three years later, Frank Meier published a similar recipe without the orange juice in The Artistry of Mixing Drinks. This recipe most closely resembles the Bee’s Knees that we serve on our menu at Guild Tavern.
Our recipe is as follows:
2 oz. Gin
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
*Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe.