Three Ways: Bee's Knees - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Three Ways: Bee’s Knees

Lemon paired with honey often implies a remedy. And in the springy, Prohibition-era Bee’s Knees, the powerful duo was likely first applied to temper the harshness of cheap gin. The cocktail’s name, implying the coolest of the cool, is gobbledygook befitting the 1920s (see other phrases of the time: gnat’s elbows, snake’s hips, clam’s garter, etc.), but its trifecta of lemon, honey, and gin is timeless, as proven by the breadth of variations found in bars today. Here are three delicious takes on the classic.

FIG’s Bee’s Knees

Drink creator Ashley Dods and the bar team at FIG in Charleston originally concocted a spiced version of the German honey-flavored liqueur Bärenjäger for a wintry Hot Toddy. “We’d been creating riffs on classic cocktails as part of our cocktail list for a while, and when spring came around we wanted to bring in a more seasonally appropriate classic to lighten and brighten up that list,” says Dods. “The warm-spiced honey liqueur was a great way to put a twist on one of our favorite classic cocktails featuring honey—Bee’s Knees!” Combining Bärenjäger with a splash of Drambuie, a scotch-based spirit, the riff “really reinforces the honey and spice notes and adds a little oomph to the classic,” Dods says.

2 oz. London dry gin (FIG uses Sipsmith)
3/4 oz. spiced Bärenjäger
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. Drambuie

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine-mesh strainer
Glass: rocks
Garnish: thinly sliced lemon wheel

Combine all of the ingredients in a shaker. Add ice to the shaker and shake vigorously, then fine strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice and garnish with a thinly sliced lemon wheel tucked into the glass.

Spiced Bärenjäger
Place a 750 ml bottle of Bärenjäger in the freezer and chill for at least one hour. Assemble a water bath and set it to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Vacuum seal the chilled Bärenjäger, 2 cinnamon sticks, 10 cloves, 4 juniper berries, and half a star anise in a large vacuum bag. Add the sealed bag to the water bath: wait for the bath to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit again, then cook for 2 hours. Afterward, remove the vacuum bag and place it in an ice bath to cool for 20 minutes. Strain the liqueur through a coffee filter and into a sealable container. Store the spiced liqueur refrigerated for up to 2 months.

Ashley Dods, FIG Restaurant, Charleston

Bubbly Bee’s Knees

Muddled raspberry and bubbles, by way of a lemon shandy float, add a puckering pop to the classic Bee’s Knees in this riff created by bartender Hannah Baker for the Baltimore restaurant The Tilted Row.

1 oz. gin (The Tilted Row uses Barr Hill)
1/2 oz. honey syrup (1:1)
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3 ripe raspberries

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine-mesh strainer
Glass: rocks
Garnish: raspberry

Muddle the raspberries in a shaker, then add the rest of the ingredients. Add ice to the shaker and shake to chill, then fine strain into a chilled rocks glass. Top the drink with approximately 1/2 oz. to 1 oz. of chilled lemon shandy (The Tilted Row uses Narragansett Del’s Shandy) and garnish with a raspberry.

Hannah Baker for The Tilted Row, Baltimore

The Cat’s Pajamas

Baltimore’s historic Old Goucher neighborhood is home to gin-loving cocktail bar Dutch Courage, where a fruited, Becherovka-laced take on the Bee’s Knees from co-owner Brendan Dorr has graced summer menus. The cocktail originated from a what-do-I-have-around-the-house approach as Dorr was preparing to batch bottled cocktails for a backyard wedding and improvised a honey syrup using ginger and ripe nectarines. The result was so delicious, it inspired Dorr to remake the Bee’s Knees. “We add Becherovka to it because the cinnamon note marries nicely with all the components of the syrup, and the herbaceous qualities pair with the gin,” says Dorr.

1 1/4 oz. gin (Dutch Courage uses Barr Hill)
3/4 oz. nectarine-ginger honey
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz. Becherovka

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine mesh strainer
Glass: coupe
Garnish: lemon wheel

Add all of the ingredients to a shaker. Add ice to the shaker and shake to chill. Fine strain into a coupe and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Nectarine-Ginger Honey Syrup
In a small pot, add 1 pitted and chopped nectarine, 1/4 cup of peeled and chopped ginger, 1 cup of honey, and 1 cup of water. Place the pot over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue to gently simmer until the nectarine pieces are thoroughly softened. Remove the pot from heat and allow the mixture to cool before straining it through a chinois into a sealable container, carefully pressing on the nectarine pieces to fully extract their flavor. (The syrup can keep refrigerated for up to 1 month.)

Brendan Dorr, Dutch Courage, Baltimore

Enjoy This Article?

Sign up for our newsletter and get biweekly recipes and articles delivered to your inbox.

Send this to a friend