The Prohibition-Era Bee’s Knees Cocktail Is Making a Comeback | Wine Enthusiast
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The Prohibition-Era Bee’s Knees Cocktail Is Making a Comeback

You’re probably familiar with a classic gin martini or even a Gin Fizz, but one Prohibition-era drink that’s probably not on your go-to gin cocktail list? The Bee’s Knees cocktail. Recently, the sweet and sour drink has seen a resurgence as it and its many variations land on menus across major cities, according to The New York Times. Below, we break down the Bee’s Knees cocktail and how you can make your own.  

What Is a Bee’s Knees Cocktail?  

Simply put, it is “equal parts gin, lemon juice and honey,” according to The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails. There are many variations of the drink, but the majority focus on the flavor categories of sweet and sour, which are paired with a spirit—usually gin. Additionally, it is most often made with honey rather than sugar, which adds floral notes and a pleasant heft to the drink. The name most likely references the phrase “the bee’s knees,” meaning “the best,” which was popularized during the 1920s.  

How Do You Make a Bee’s Knees Cocktail? 

There are many variations to the original recipe, but a traditional Bee’s Knees is made by shaking gin, honey and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice until frost forms and everything is well-combined. The mixture is then strained into a martini glass for drinking. In our version, we dilute the honey in water and heat it to make a syrup, which is then added to the beverage. Ready to shake up one of your own? Try our Bee’s Knees cocktail recipe.

Bee’s Knees Cocktail Recipe  

Recipe by Jacy Topps


2 ounces dry gin
1 ounce honey syrup*
¾ ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Lemon peel, for garnish


In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine gin, honey syrup and lemon juice. Shake for about 30 seconds, or until a frost forms on the shaker. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

How to Make Honey Syrup

Combine ½ cup of honey and ½ cup water into a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until the honey is dissolved. Allow to cool and transfer to an airtight container. Syrup will keep, refrigerated, for up to one month.

**For a floral twist, you can add 3 dashes of lavender bitters or ½ ounce of elderflower liqueur.


How Much Sugar Is in a Bee’s Knees Cocktail?  

Recipes vary, but our version uses honey syrup made with equal parts honey and water. Each drink contains an ounce of honey syrup.  

If you prefer a dryer version, you can make the recipe with eight parts gin, two parts lemon juice and one part honey, according to The Oxford Companion to Spirits & Cocktails. Alternatively, some recipes swap out the honey entirely and replace it with orange juice. 

Who Invented the Bee’s Knees Cocktail?  

The drink came into the mainstream during Prohibition and many believe it was crafted to help mask the flavors of poorly produced gin (known as bathtub gin) during this time, according to The New York Times. But other sources speculate that the drink was actually crafted in Paris, France, by an Austrian bartender named Frank Meier. A very wealthy American woman partying in Paris (known as Margaret “The Unsinkable Molly” Brown) was thought to have brought the recipe to the United States based on an article published in the Standard Union in 1929.  

What Gin Is Best for Bee’s Knees?  

You can use any gin you like, but Wine Enthusiast Assistant Editor Jacy Topps recommends Monkey 47 Distiller’s Cut gin. “It’s excellent in Bee’s Knees,” she says.