Bee’s Knees Cocktail

The bee’s knees cocktail is made with honey syrup instead of simple syrup along with gin and citrus, whether lemon or lime. The cocktail has its origins in Prohibition, back when simple cocktails reigned sweet and supreme.

Martini glass filled with yellow Bee's Knees cocktail--honey, gin, and lemon--with a lemon twist, a shaker on the side

The bee’s knees cocktail, unlike so many fussy cocktails these days, dates back to the Prohibition era in the 1930s. “The phrase ‘bee’s knees’ was slang at the time for ‘the best,'” explains the author. “During this period, the addition of ingredients such as citrus and honey covered the less-than-ideal smell and taste of bathtub gin.” Just imagine how superlative the cocktail is when made with fine booze.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Special Equipment: Cocktail shaker

Bee's Knees Cocktail Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 25 M
  • Serves 1


  • For the honey simple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup water
  • For the bee's knees
  • Ice cubes, for shaker
  • 2 ounces (57 ml) good-quality gin
  • 3/4 ounce (21 ml) freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce (21 ml) honey simple syrup
  • Lemon twist, for garnish


  • Make the honey simple syrup
  • 1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the honey and water until they’re well combined. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. (You can cover and refrigerate the honey simple syrup for up to a couple weeks.)
  • Make the bee’s knees
  • 2. In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine the gin, lemon or lime juice, and honey simple syrup. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

The perfect cocktail and the gin-lover’s alternative to a lemon drop! The honey is a nice background flavor, like the gin, and the extra complexity results in a perfect cocktail. Although this had a lovely sweetness, you could go just a bit scant and still be happy. Making the honey simple syrup only takes a few minutes and cools quickly. Don’t skip the lemon twist—it's part of the drink, like the tiny ice floes formed by the shaking. I used 1/2 cup each honey and water, brought to a simmer, and then taken off the heat to cool. The gin was Tanqueray (ordinary London Dry Gin green bottle and not Tanqueray 10). This recipe is perfect for one drink. I made a double batch for two people. Immensely drinkable—even quaffable.

The gin drinker in our family was pleasantly surprised that he liked this so much. It was quick to put together. The longest part was waiting for the honey simple syrup to cool, which took about 10 minutes. So during that time I squeezed the 1 1/2 limes needed to get one punch of juice. We used Tanqueray 10.

This is a great classic cocktail to have in your repertoire. It's really simple and impressive. You can quickly make the honey syrup by adding some warm water to honey as opposed to simmering it. Shaken and served up in a martini glass, this recipe makes one cocktail. I find that this can be a little on the sweet side for my taste, so I might tone down the honey syrup next time to 1/2 ounce or so. A nice variation would be to add some sort of fresh herb to the shaker, depending on the season—thyme, basil, rosemary, or lavender are all nice additions. A really simple three-ingredient cocktail that comes together in minutes.

This bee's knees is very tasty! The drink was easy to make. This recipe has made me want to venture out and try gin in other cocktails. Many of the drinks I've had in the past with gin didn't seem very tasty to me. I believe the lemon juice and honey brought out the wonderful flavors of the drink and left me wanting more. It was refreshing and intoxicating at the same time! I look forward to sharing it with friends when they come by. Be sure to make plenty of simple syrup.

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