The Buzz About the Bees Knees Cocktail

bees knees cocktail

The Bees Knees cocktail is a classic concoction that hails from the Prohibition era. Made with gin, fresh lemon juice, and honey, it’s a refreshing blend that’s served shaken and chilled, often with a lemon twist. The name “Bees Knees” is derived from Prohibition-era slang, meaning “the best”.

The Origins of the Bees Knees Cocktail: An Iconic Mix in Cocktail History

The Bees Knees cocktail, like many iconic cocktail mixes, has a history shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Its origins are a blend of historical fact and cocktail lore, making it a fascinating subject for cocktail enthusiasts and historians alike.

The Frank Meier Connection

One of the most popular theories about the origins of the Bees Knees cocktail points to Frank Meier, an Austrian-born bartender who made a name for himself at the Ritz in Paris. Meier, who was part Jewish, started his tenure as the first head bartender at the Ritz in 1921, right at the height of the Prohibition era.

Meier was known for his innovative and creative cocktail mixes, and many believe that the Bees Knees was one of his original creations. His version of the cocktail would have been a blend of gin, fresh lemon juice, and honey, shaken and served chilled – a simple yet elegant mix that was a hit with the Ritz’s clientele.

The Margaret Brown Theory

Another theory credits the creation of this iconic cocktail to Margaret Brown, an American socialite. A 1929 news article mentions Brown in connection with the cocktail, suggesting that she may have been the one to popularize it in American high society.

Brown, known for her lavish parties and sophisticated taste, could have easily introduced the Bees Knees to her circle, making it a staple at social gatherings and events. This theory, while less substantiated than the Frank Meier connection, adds an interesting twist to the cocktail’s history.

The Bees Knees Cocktail: An Enduring Classic

Regardless of its true origins, this classic cocktail has endured as a beloved classic in the world of cocktails. Its simple yet refreshing blend of ingredients has made it a favorite among cocktail enthusiasts, and its intriguing history only adds to its allure.

Here’s a quick look at some iconic cocktail mixes and their origins:

CocktailOriginKey Ingredients
Bees KneesUnclear (Possibly Frank Meier or Margaret Brown)Gin, Lemon Juice, Honey
MartiniAllegedly Julio Richelieu in CaliforniaGin, Vermouth
ManhattanManhattan Club in New York CityWhiskey, Sweet Vermouth, Bitters
NegroniCount Camillo Negroni in ItalyGin, Vermouth Rosso, Campari
Old FashionedJames E. Pepper in Louisville, KentuckyWhiskey, Sugar, Bitters, Water

In conclusion, the Bees Knees cocktail, like many iconic cocktail mixes, has a rich and fascinating history. Whether it was the creation of a renowned Parisian bartender or the favorite drink of an American socialite, it continues to be a beloved classic in the cocktail world.

Crafting the Perfect Bees Knees Cocktail: The Recipe

The Bees Knees is a timeless classic cocktail that delights the senses with its harmonious blend of gin, honey syrup, and lemon juice. The key to mastering this iconic cocktail lies in achieving the perfect balance of flavors, creating a drink that is both refreshing and full of character. Let’s dive into the art of crafting the ultimate Bees Knees cocktail:

The Ingredients

  1. Gin (2oz): The backbone of the Bees Knees is the gin. Opt for a high-quality gin with botanical notes that complement the citrus and honey flavors.
  2. Honey Syrup (1oz): The honey syrup is a crucial component that adds natural sweetness and depth to the cocktail. To prepare the honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and warm water, stirring until fully dissolved.
  3. Lemon Juice (1oz): Freshly squeezed lemon juice brings a bright and tangy zest to the cocktail, balancing out the sweetness of the honey syrup.

The Mixing Process

  1. Chill Your Cocktail Glass: Before you start mixing, chill your cocktail glass in the freezer for a few minutes. A chilled glass ensures your cocktail stays refreshing from the first sip to the last.
  2. Combine the Ingredients: In a mixing tin or shaker, add the gin, honey syrup, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Fill the shaker with ice, ensuring it’s cold enough to create a well-balanced and smooth cocktail.
  3. Shake with Gusto: Shake the ingredients vigorously for about 10-15 seconds. This action helps blend the flavors and ensures that the honey syrup is fully integrated into the cocktail.
  4. Strain and Serve: Using a strainer, pour the cocktail into your chilled cocktail glass, leaving behind the ice and any stray lemon seeds. The strained cocktail will have a velvety texture that’s perfect for sipping.

The Garnish

  1. Lemon Peel Twist: To elevate the Bees Knees visual appeal, garnish it with a lemon peel twist. Express the lemon peel’s oils over the glass, releasing its citrusy aroma. Place the twist on the rim or gently drop it into the cocktail.

Variations of the Bees Knees

Here’s a chart showcasing some exciting variations of the Bees Knees cocktail. These variations add unique twists to the classic recipe, giving you an opportunity to explore different flavor profiles:

VariationIngredientsKey Flavors
Basil Bee’s KneesGin, Honey Syrup, Lemon Juice, Fresh BasilHerbal, Citrus, Sweet
Lavender Bee’s KneesGin, Honey Syrup, Lemon Juice, Lavender InfusionFloral, Citrus, Sweet
Berry Bee’s KneesGin, Honey Syrup, Lemon Juice, Mixed Berries (e.g., Strawberries, Blueberries)Fruity, Citrus, Sweet
Smoky Bee’s KneesGin, Honey Syrup, Lemon Juice, Splash of Smoky WhiskeyComplex, Citrus, Sweet with a hint of Smoke

Experiment and Enjoy

The beauty of the Bees Knees lies in its versatility. Feel free to experiment with different gins, honey varieties, and additional botanicals or fruits to create your unique version of this iconic drink. It’s a canvas for mixology creativity and a testament to the enduring appeal of classic cocktails.

So, the next time you’re in the mood for a refreshing and sophisticated libation, shake up a Bees Knees cocktail and savor the delightful symphony of flavors it offers. Cheers to the timeless allure of the bees knees cocktail!

Exploring Flavorful Variations of the Bees Knees Cocktail

The classic Bees Knees is a timeless favorite, but mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts have taken it to new heights by experimenting with a variety of creative twists. These delightful variations elevate the original recipe, offering a diverse range of flavors and sensory experiences. Let’s delve into some of the most enticing variations of the beloved Bees Knees cocktail:

1. Barr Hill Bee’s Knees


  • 2oz Barr Hill Gin (infused with honey)
  • 1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1oz Honey Syrup (1:1 honey diluted with warm water)
  • Garnish: Lemon Twist

Key Flavors: The use of Barr Hill Gin, with its luscious honey infusion, adds a delightful depth of sweetness to this variation. The result is a harmonious balance of gin botanicals, citrusy notes, and the natural richness of honey.

2. Herbal Bee’s Knees


  • 2oz Gin
  • 1oz Honey Syrup
  • 1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Handful of Fresh Basil or Thyme (Muddled)
  • Garnish: Basil or Thyme Sprig

Key Flavors: Incorporating fresh herbs like basil or thyme takes the Bees Knees cocktail to a whole new level of herbal complexity. The muddled herbs infuse their essence into the cocktail, adding a fragrant and invigorating twist to the classic mix.

3. Citrus Burst Bee’s Knees


  • 2oz Gin
  • 1oz Honey Syrup
  • 1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1oz Fresh Orange Juice
  • Garnish: Orange Twist

Key Flavors: The addition of fresh orange juice brings a burst of sunny citrus notes to the Bees Knees cocktail, enhancing the overall brightness and offering a delightful interplay of lemon and orange flavors.

4. Absinthe-Infused Bee’s Knees


  • 2oz Gin
  • 1oz Honey Syrup
  • 1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Absinthe
  • Dash of Orange Bitters
  • Garnish: Lemon Peel

Key Flavors: The dash of absinthe and orange bitters add an intriguing layer of complexity and a hint of herbal bitterness to the Bees Knees cocktail. The result is an alluring blend of botanicals and citrus, making this variation a true sensory delight.

Flavor Profiles of Bees Knees Variations

Here’s a chart that highlights the key flavor profiles of each cocktail variation:

VariationKey FlavorsDescription
Barr Hill Bee’s KneesHoney-Infused Gin, Citrusy Notes, Rich Honey SweetnessA sumptuous variation with the depth of honey-infused gin.
Herbal Bee’s KneesFresh Herbs (Basil or Thyme), Citrus, Herbal ComplexityA herbaceous twist that invigorates the senses.
Citrus Burst Bee’s KneesLemon, Orange, Bright Citrus NotesA sunny and refreshing citrus explosion.
Absinthe-Infused Bee’s KneesHerbal Absinthe, Orange Bitters, BotanicalsA complex and intriguing blend of flavors.

Unleash Your Creativity

The cocktail offers an excellent canvas for mixologists and home bartenders to experiment and unleash their creativity. Whether you prefer the classic version or opt for a more adventurous twist, the Bees Knees cocktail is sure to charm your taste buds and leave you buzzing with delight. Embrace the art of mixology and savor the joy of crafting unique variations of this iconic cocktail. Cheers to the bees knees cocktail and the endless possibilities it holds!


What is the Bees Knees cocktail?

The Bees Knees cocktail is a Prohibition-era cocktail made with gin, fresh lemon juice, and honey. It’s served shaken and chilled, often with a lemon twist.

Who invented the Bees Knees cocktail?

“Bees Knees” is Prohibition-era slang that means “the best”. The cocktail is named after this phrase, reflecting its status as a top-tier drink.

What are some variations of the Bees Knees cocktail?

Variations of the Bees Knees cocktail include using honey-infused gin, diluting the honey with warm water or simple syrup, and using different garnishes like basil or thyme. Some variations also include orange juice or a dash of absinthe and orange bitters.

What is Bee’s Knees Week?

Bee’s Knees Week is an annual event started by Barr Hill Gin in 2017. It encourages people to enjoy the Bees Knees cocktail and is the largest sustainability event in the spirits industry, focused on pollinator protection.

How do you make a Bees Knees cocktail?

To make a Bees Knees cocktail, combine 2oz of gin, 1oz of honey syrup, and 1oz of lemon juice in a mixing tin. Shake the ingredients, strain them into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon peel.


The Bees Knees cocktail is more than just a delightful blend of gin, lemon, and honey. It’s a piece of cocktail history, a testament to the creativity of Prohibition-era bartenders, and a symbol of sustainability efforts in the spirits industry. Whether you’re a cocktail connoisseur or a casual drinker, the Bees Knees cocktail offers a refreshing, citrusy experience that’s truly the “bees knees”.

This article was reviewed and published by Ryan Yates, an experienced Executive Chef, Restaurant Manager and Mixologist with over 15 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. Ryan has worked in and managed a variety of establishments, from casual dining to Michelin rated restaurants, and uses this diverse experience to provide a comprehensive and knowledgeable guide on all aspects of the food and beverage industry.

Ryan Yates

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