Kat Holleran

When the phrase “the bee’s knees” was coined — more than a century before this cocktail’s invention — it referred to something small or insignificant. By the 1920s, however, the phase joined the company of several other zoological expressions meaning “the best” (see also: the cat’s pajamas, the eel’s ankle, the capybara’s spats).

This more recent translation of the phrase was likely the intended connotation for this drink, whose acidity and sweetness was once used to mask the potency of Prohibition-era bathtub gin. Thanks to the 21st Amendment, this drink is now elevated by the abundance of quality liquor.

If you’re using bottom-shelf gin, though, take comfort in the fact that you’re still likely a step above this cocktail’s original iteration.

For the syrup:

In a bowl or saucepan, combine 1 cup of honey with ⅓ cup hot water. Stir thoroughly. You can use the syrup immediately or keep it in the fridge for a few days.

For the cocktail:

In a shaker, combine 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice, ¾ ounces of honey syrup and 2 ounces of gin. Shake with gusto and pour, garnishing with a lemon peel.

For the ambiance:

Que up Cole Porter’s “Let’s Fall in Love” and pretend that Calvin Coolidge is president, bobbed hair is in fashion and someone illegally distilled your gin in their bathroom.


  • Gin
  • Lemon
  • Honey
  • Hot Water