Bee's Knees Cocktail

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 20, 2023

The Bee's Knees is a Gin cocktail sweetened with honey syrup. A cocktail that's close to a classic Gin Sour but still rightfully has its own entry in the list of IBA cocktails.
Bee's Knees cocktail

To me, the Bee's Knees cocktail is one of the best classic Gin drinks. This blend of fresh lemon juice, honey syrup, and Gin is simple, delicious, and dangerously easy to drink. It's sweet, bright, full of flavor, and so smooth -you could almost forget it contains alcohol.

As with most true classic cocktails, the history of the Bee's Knees is very foggy. There are many stories and legends about how and where it got invented.

History of the Bee's Knees cocktail

Let's start with what all accounts seem to agree on: The Bee's Knees goes back to the era of prohibition. Most likely, somewhere during the late 1920s.

And that's it. That's already everything where the stories and legends do add up. Apart from this, they do have nothing in common.

For a very long time, people said that the Bee's Knees' roots are in America. Allegedly, it was an attempt to cover up harsh and unpleasant notes of low-quality Gin. 

That story makes a lot of sense as the mix of honey and lemon juice is a great combination to do so. But over time, this belief changed. And now people think that the Bee's Knees most likely is not coming from the US but France.

Bees Knees

The currently most told story on the history of the Bee's Knees is coming from the Ritz Hotel in Paris, France. 

In the late 1920s, an Austrian bartender called Frank Meier supposedly created the first-ever Bee's Knees cocktail. While his drink was still close to the original Gin Sour recipe, replacing simple syrup with honey syrup brought a next-level richness to it.

An alternative story

While many agree on the Ritz Carlton story above, there's now one more possible view. Authors and cocktail historians Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller did their own research. And the result of it is interesting. 

The first-ever mention of the cocktail they found is also from Paris. But credit here goes to Margaret Brown, better known as unsinkable Molly Brown. 

And no doubt, Margaret Brown had one incredible life. The famous Philanthropist and Socialite even survived the crash of the Titanic - hence the byname unsinkable. 

Margaret Brown and Frank Meier likely knew each other. At the time, both were part of the core of Paris' high society. According to Brown and Miller's research, Molly Brown often served the creation at her parties in Denver and Paris.

So it's possible that she invented the cocktail herself and taught Frank Meier. Or, it was the other way round, and she loved Frank's creation so much that she served it as a regular cocktail at her parties.

How to make the best Bee's Knees

You need only three ingredients for the perfect Bee's Knees: Gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup. 

  • Gin: For the Gin, you can never go wrong with something classic like a London Dry. But in this case, I recommend a more floral option like the Silent Pool Gin. It complements the honey beautifully and makes for a superb Bee's Knees.  If you can get your hand on something as rare as the Monkey 47 Distillers cut from 2021, that's one of my absolute favorites for a Bee's Knees. 
  • Lemon: The lemon juice should, as always, be freshly squeezed. Do yourself a favor and don't go with store-bought lemon juice, as the almost artificial acid will spoil your drink.
  • Honey syrup: you can easily make the honey syrup at home. Use a milder honey variety for it, like lime blossom or rapeseed. If that's not available in your local grocery store: as a rule of thumb, the lighter the color of your honey, the milder the taste. 


The perfect ratio

As close as the Bee's Knees is to a Gin Sour, the ratios differ. The classic sour ratio of 6:3:2 does not work well in a Bee's knees cocktail. The result will be too sticky and sweet. It's better to start with a ratio of 6:2:1.5. That means six parts Gin, two parts fresh lemon juice, and 1 1/2 parts of honey syrup.

But this is just a start. If you like strong cocktails, you can increase the amount of Gin. If you prefer less boozy cocktails and like the tartness in drinks, increase the lemon juice. 

Of course, if you like sweet drinks, you can also stick to the classic Sour ratio.

Twists on the classic

Although the recipe for the Bee's Knees cocktail is so simple and consists of only three ingredients, it is a very versatile one. Why? Two out of three elements can heavily differ in taste, depending on your choice.

  • Experiment with the Gin: As there are so many different types of Gin available, it makes sense to experiment a bit. How about a modern Gin, like the Japanese Roku. Or you can try out Elephant's orange & cocoa Gin or even a navy strength Gin to create a more boozy version of the light Bee's Knees.
  • Use a different type of honey: You can try orange blossom honey for syrup and try mixing it with Elephants orange & cocoa Gin. And if orange isn't your favorite fruit, try a Blueberry oder a lavender honey syrup instead. I explain the characteristics of many types of honey in the recipe for honey syrup.

Other Cocktails with honey

Now that you have some delicious honey and homemade honey syrup at home, how about mixing up some other cocktails, as well?

The Penicillin cocktail is a beautiful mix of ginger, Scotch, and honey. Or you can try the Spicy Fifty, which brings together elderflower, honey, Vodka, and some hot chillis.

Spicy Fifty

Another idea is the, the only Grappa-based drink on the official list of the IBA. It's a delicious composition of honey, egg white, chamomile, and the grape-based Italian spirit. Or how about the Canchánchara? -A fun drink right out of the heart of Trinidad, Cuba.

Bee's Knees cocktail

Bee's Knees

A delicate Gin cocktail sweetened with honey syrup.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Gin, honey
Calories: 203kcal
Cost: $2.70


  • 2 oz Gin
  • 0.75 oz Fresh Lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz Honey syrup
  • 1 Lemon twist for garnish


  • Put all ingredients into your cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake until well-chilled.
    2 oz Gin, 0.75 oz Fresh Lemon juice, 0.5 oz Honey syrup
  • Strain the cocktail into a chilled coupe glass.
  • Garnish with a twisted lemon peel garnish. Enjoy!
    1 Lemon twist for garnish


Serving: 3.25oz | Calories: 203kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.25g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.05g | Sodium: 1.75mg | Potassium: 26.25mg | Sugar: 13.18g | Vitamin C: 9.75mg | Calcium: 1.5mg | Iron: 0.02mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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