The Bee’s Knees
Written by Fredo Ceraso   

The Bee's KneesThe Bee’s Knees is a classic Prohibition cocktail made with Gin, honey, and lemon juice whose origins are myth and legend. The drink’s moniker may have originated from “flapper chatter” of the 1920s and means the height of excellence. Bootleggers and their ilk may have been created the drink to hide the raw juniper taste and smell of bathtub gin. The honey and lemon certainly do a swell job masquerading the liquor but do not file under light concoctions. Friends, make no mistake, the Bee’s Knees is very potent.

A bit of history:
The cocktail is first chronicle in David Augustus Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drink (the first edition published in 1948). Of the drink, Mr. Embury does not give the cocktail rave reviews, however, in all fairness he splits the books into sours and aromatics. The Bee’s Knees is neither.  He does not pull any punches when giving readers his opinions about the cocktails. Below is what he wrote about the drink.

Early in the book I spoke in disparaging terms of the Bee’s Knees. This, however, was because as it originally came out during prohibition days it consisted of equal parts lemon juice, honey, and gin. If made as a variation of the standard Gin Sour, merely substituting honey for the sugar syrup, it is acceptable.

Perhaps Mr. Embury dislikes honey, or perhaps he fears the Bee’s Knees hidden strength. The cocktail goes down smooth. Maybe too smooth! It also, in my experience, can turn an ardent “non-Gin drinker” into a Bee’s Knees drinker. Sweet and sour, it is an instant crowd pleaser. This could be trouble when moderation is kicked to the curb.  Mr. Embury did warn you!

How to Make it:

2 oz of Gin (Tanqueray or Plymouth)
¾ oz of honey syrup
¾ oz of  fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients in chilled shaker, add cracked ice, shake rigorously for 10 seconds. Served up in a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon wedge.

The recipe for homemade Honey Syrup:

Honey syrup can be made easily by combining equal parts honey and heated water. Boil the water and stir in the honey until it is emulsified. Then store in cooled place.  So the rule is one honey bear of honey = one honey bear of water.

Fredo Ceraso is the resident cocktailian at lounge lifestyle website A veteran of the Lounge scene, Fredo hails from Brooklyn, U.S.A and can be found on the Barfly’s Beat in the city’s top cocktail lounges.


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