One of the best known Honey Cocktails is the Prohibition-era drink, the Bees Knees. And like the bees themselves, it is light, bright little drink that promises to give a nice little buzz.
But be aware, your enjoyment of a Bees Knees Cocktail will often stand or fall according to your tolerance of one particular thing: your ability to listen (yet again) to a long, and often surprisingly boring, anecdote on why Prohibition bartenders had to get creative. And why they had to incorporate flavours that would take the edge off bathtub gin and transform into delicious drinks.
And that is often the problem with Prohibition-era cocktails; very rarely can they ever be enjoyed without the obligatory lecture. Because no matter who you drink with, there is always one know-it-all who thinks you have never heard the stories, and even if you have, they can tell it better.
Yes, Prohibition alcohol was often disgusting; yes, Honey Syrup and Lemon Juice was a really good way to mask the taste; and yes, this is one cocktail that has never really been able to reach that same heady realm of popularity since that time.
As you look into your glass of dainty yellow liquid, you’ve got to realise that this is not the cocktails fault. It doesn’t ask to come with a lecture, it simply asks for you to sip it and smile.
There is nothing in this drink with which you could find fault.
There’s Gin (a clear spirit that is supposedly going through a bit resurgence in popularity); there’s Lemon Juice (who doesn’t love a good dose of sour), and there’s Honey Syrup (that adds a good depth of flavour to cocktails that simple syrup often can’t).
Put together the three ingredients, and they add up to a sweet, delightful drink that could never offend anyone.
And sadly, this might be the second and possibly far more important reason why this drink is rarely consumed. Sure it’s lasted nearly 100 years in the cocktail annuls, but there’s nothing exciting or unexpected. It is, as the history buffs will explain (again) a drink that was very much created through necessity.
However, if you fight that instinct and try to lean in – and I mean deliberately and determinedly as if you were almost squishing the bees – then this little cocktail and its riffs can, and really will, reward you.
Sweet As Honey
An increasing number of bartenders have started to shelve boring simple syrup and incorporate the sticky sweetness of honey into their craft cocktails. The rich viscosity of the sweet nectar makes honey more powerful than sugar and imparts that certain flavour that works really well with booze.
Keep in mind that honey, especially bought from farmer’s markets or apiaries, will changes from season to season, so before you begin making cocktails, taste the honey on its own.
Even clover honey or those you find at supermarkets can release enticing floral notes. And it is those notes that allow honey to balance the acid and easily stand up against other ingredients while bringing out the flavour.
But always remember when working with honey in cocktails is pretty simple, but the one thing you need to do first is to make your honey into a syrup. Honey on its own is a little too thick to mix well with other ingredients unless one of those ingredients is hot.
Back To The Bees
Basically, the Bee’s Knees is a simple, three-ingredient stunner of a cocktail, and it couldn’t be easier to make. No laboured hours at the bar needed. With this simple recipe, everyone will be volunteering to be the bartender. In just two minutes—just combine, shake, and strain—you’ll be on your way to the party.
Now even if you can’t give a Bees Knees a fair shake, we ask you to at least have a little sympathy for its children. The riffs on a Bees Knee have done nothing to deserve your scorn. They are often quite good drinks, they have been created later and often hold some nicely surprising ingredients that will revive your jaded tastebuds.
So next time you are at your home bar, make a beeline for the Honey Syrup and free the bee.