Bee's Knees Cocktail Recipe

By Timo Torner / Last updated on September 2, 2023

The Bee's Knees is a gin cocktail sweetened with honey syrup. A drink 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 with honey

To me, the Bee's Knees cocktail is one of the best classic gin drinks. The blend of fresh lemon juice, honey syrup, and gin is simple, delicious, and dangerously easy to drink. It's sweet, sour, bright, smooth, and full of flavor.

Quick Facts Bee's Knees Cocktail

  • Method: shaken
  • Flavor profile: sour, boozy, with subtle sweet notes
  • How to serve it: straight up
  • Glassware: coupe glass
  • Alcohol content: ~ 20% ABV, 19 grams of alcohol per serving

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

Bee's Knees cocktail with honey

Bee's Knees Recipe

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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

Nutrition

Serving: 3.25ozCalories: 203kcalCarbohydrates: 13.25gProtein: 0.1gFat: 0.05gSodium: 1.75mgPotassium: 26.25mgSugar: 13.18gVitamin C: 9.75mgCalcium: 1.5mgIron: 0.02mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Ingredients with Recommendations

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

  • Gin: you can never go wrong with something classic like a London Dry. Yet, in this case, I prefer 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 be freshly squeezed, as always in craft cocktails. 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 honey mix 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 for the Bee's Knees

It's best 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.

As close as the Bee's Knees recipe is to a Gin Sour, the ratios differ. The classic sour ratio of 6:3:2 does not work well in this cocktail. The result will be too sticky and sweet. 

But this is just a start. If you like strong cocktails, you can increase the amount of gin. Should you prefer less boozy cocktails and like the tartness in drinks, increase the lemon juice. If you like sweet drinks, then, indeed, stick to the classic Sour ratio.

More Tips & Best Practices

Basically, there are three more things to keep in mind: First, the is traditionally served straight up. That means with no ice. Thus, all ingredients, and the glass as well, must be chilled properly.

Put the coupe glass for 15 to 30 minutes in the freezer before preparing your drink, or cool it down with ice cubes while mixing. Remove the ice and the water from the glass before pouring your Bee's Knees.

Secondly, shake for a minimum of 15 seconds to ensure all ingredients are nicely chilled and to achieve the perfect dilution.

Last but not least, don't try to take a shortcut and use honey instead of honey syrup. Pure honey does not dissolve well in cold liquids, and you will end up with an unbalanced drink.

Twists on the Bee's Knees Recipe

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

  • Experiment with the Gin: Since there are so many different types of gin, it makes sense to experiment a bit. How about a modern flavor profile, like the Japanese Roku? Or you can try Elephant's Orange & Cocoa Gin or even a navy strength gin if you like a more boozy version of the light Bee's Knees.
Mild Honey for honey mix
  • Use a different type of honey: Consider making orange blossom honey syrup and mix it with Elephants Orange & Cocoa Gin. And if orange isn't your favorite fruit, try blueberry or lavender honey syrup instead. You can find more inspiration in our recipe for honey syrup

History of the Bee's Knees Cocktail

Let's start with what all sources 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 add up.

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 made in bathtubs during prohibition.

That story makes a lot of sense because the mix of honey and lemon juice is a great combination to do so. Nevertheless, over time, this belief changed. Now, most cocktail historians think that the Bee's Knees, most likely, did not originate in the US but in France.

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, Frank Meier -an Austrian bartender- 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.

Bees Knees

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. Here, the credit 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 around, and she loved Frank's creation so much that she served it as a regular cocktail at her parties.

Related Cocktails

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.
  • Another idea is the Ve.n.to, 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 from the heart of Trinidad, Cuba.

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

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