Bee's Knees Recipe

Bee's Knees Recipe

[Photo: Maggie Hoffman]

You may be thinking of Christmas shopping and holiday planning today, but remember that today is Repeal Day: the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition. Events are taking place across the country, but there's no need to go looking for a celebration when you can create your own.

If you're searching for the appropriate cocktail, then allow me to suggest the Bee's Knees. This is a speakeasy classic, and not necessarily in a good way: thanks to the Volstead Act, professionally manufactured booze was in short supply, leading many drinkers to turn to slapdash spirits such as the notorious bathtub gin. To mask the flavor of these noxious spirits, plenty of strong flavors and rich sweeteners were added to the cocktail shaker, resulting in some bloodcurdling bad concoctions.

The Bee's Knees was among those drinks with a bad reputation, but it's easily redeemed using a decent gin and an easier hand with the shaker. As drinks writer David Embury noted in his landmark The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks in 1949:

Early in the book I spoke in disparaging terms of the Bee's Knees. This, however, was because as it originally came out during prohibition days it consisted of equal parts lemon juice, honey, and gin. If made as a variation of the standard Gin Sour, merely substituting honey for the sugar syrup, it is acceptable.

Acceptable? Hell, it's delicious. Take a moment to mix one this weekend, if for no other reason than because you legally can.

Note: To make honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and hot water, and stir until dissolved. Keep remainder refrigerated.

  • Yield:makes 1 cocktail


  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce honey syrup (see note)


  1. 1.

    Combine gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker, stir briefly to dissolve honey syrup, then fill with ice. Shake well for 10 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.