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The slang phrase “bee’s knees” emerged in the 1920s, coinciding with the Prohibition era in the United States, and quickly gained popularity as a term denoting something or someone excellent. This linguistic flourish reflects the spirit of the times, where flappers danced to jazz music, and society began to embrace a new sense of liberation and creativity. The Bee’s Knees cocktail effortlessly encapsulates this ethos, serving as a liquid embodiment of the era’s rebellious and stylish nature.
Credit for the creation of the Bee’s Knees is often given to Frank Meier, an Austrian-born bartender who plied his craft at the illustrious Hôtel Ritz Paris during the 1920s. The story goes that, during Prohibition, the unpleasant taste of homemade bathtub gin was often masked with sweeteners and citrus. Meier, recognizing the need for a drink that could elevate the subpar spirits of the time, crafted the Bee’s Knees as a testament to his mixological prowess.
As said, the Bee’s Knees captures the zeitgeist of the Prohibition era, where innovation was born out of necessity. The constraints of the time, such as the substandard quality of available spirits, led to the creation of cocktails that masked the rough edges of their components. This cocktail, with its seamless integration of ingredients, emerged as a testament to the ingenuity of mixologists in overcoming the challenges of the era.
The beauty of the Bee’s Knees lies in its simplicity. Three key ingredients—gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup – create a drink that is more than the sum of its parts. The gin, with its botanical complexity, provides a spirited backbone, while the tartness of fresh lemon juice adds a zesty kick. However, it is the honey that works its magic, transforming the cocktail into a smooth, golden drink that glides across the palate with unparalleled finesse.
The choice of honey as a sweetener is a stroke of genius in The Bee’s Knees. Beyond its natural sweetness, honey introduces a layer of depth and complexity, offering a nuanced sweetness that complements the botanicals of the gin and the acidity of the lemon. Honey, with its rich history as a revered and versatile ingredient, imparts a touch of luxury to this classic cocktail.
The enduring appeal of the Bee’s Knees can also be attributed to its adaptability. Bartenders and enthusiasts alike have embraced the cocktail, putting their spin on the classic recipe. Variations may include the use of different gin styles, the incorporation of flavored honey, or the addition of botanical infusions. This versatility allows the Bee’s Knees to evolve with the times, ensuring its place in the pantheon of timeless cocktails.
60 ml gin
22.5 ml fresh lemon juice
15 ml honey syrup
Garnish: lemon twist
Add the gin, fresh lemon juice, and honey syrup into a cocktail shaker.
Add ice and shake for 10-12 seconds, until chilled.
Strain into a coupe glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.