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Bee’s Knees Cocktail

The Bee’s Knees is the cat’s meow when it comes to classic cocktails. The three-ingredient gin lemon cocktail is both sophisticated to sip and super easy to make at home.

Bees Knees Cocktail on Ledge with Green Lights
Image: ©2foodtrippers

With a name evoking a buzzing cartoon character, the Bee’s Knees cocktail makes us smile. For starters, its rhyming moniker is fun to say. Second and more importantly, the refreshing cocktail maintains a balance of sugar and acid without being sickly sweet or overly tart.

As much as we enjoy ordering a Bees Knees drink at the bar, we prefer making and drinking the honey-infused gin sour at home. This is a cocktail that requires no special investment since we typically have all the ingredients on hand without making a special shopping trip.

Bee’s Knees Cocktail History

Bees Knees Cocktail on Street
We took this Bee’s Knees cocktail to the street and kept a lookout for any approaching trams. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Some classic cocktails have a fascinating origin story. The Bee’s Knees cocktail has multiple stories.

The most prevalent story accredits the Bee’s Knees to bootleggers who added honey and lemon to bathtub distilleries filled with gin. Apparently, the extra elements softened the liquor’s strong odor while sweetening its harsh alcoholic flavors. Other stories trace the Bee’s Knees cocktail to the Pre-Prohibition era.

Discover more of our favorite Pre-Prohibition cocktails.

Pouring Gin for a Bees Knees Cocktail
Cheers to the person who invented the Bee’s Knees cocktail. The popular gin cocktail has multiple origin stories. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Two stories involve bartenders – Frank Meier in Paris and Bill Boothby in San Francisco. There’s even a story involving the colorful Denver dowager better known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown inventing the cocktail in Paris during the last hurrah of the roaring 20s.

Since nobody knows for sure, we choose to believe the Molly Brown tale. Though it’s the most far-fetched of the four stories, it could and should be true. In other words, it’s the bee’s knees of this cocktail’s origin stories.

Do Bees Have Knees?

Honey Bees at Mieli Thun in Trentino
We met these busy bees in Northern Italy at Trentino producer Mieli Thun and then we ate (and bought) their honey. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

As we learned during a visit to a Trentino honey farm, bees are amazing creatures. Not only do they pollinate flowers to naturally create honey but they also have joints that connect their femurs and tibia.

In other words, bees do indeed have knees – six knees to be exact for those who are counting. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that flappers used the phrase ‘bee’s knees’ to describe something as extra special.

Fun Fact
Bees mate in the sky. This fact has nothing to do with the Bee’s Knees cocktail but it’s a fun fact to know.

What’s In A Bees Knees Cocktail?

Bees Knees Cocktail Mis en Place
These items (plus ice) are all you need to craft a Bee’s Knees Cocktail at home. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

A Bee’s Knees cocktail is special despite and because of its easy preparation that requires just three key ingredients: gin, lemon juice and honey syrup. The drink is shaken with ice to achieve maximum refreshment; however, we’re not counting ice as an ingredient.

Dry gin provides a botanical punch while fresh lemon juice brings a citrusy brightness. Combined in a shaker, gin and lemon juice create a gin sour cocktail. Adding honey simple syrup transforms the mixture to a sweet and sour concoction that literally and figuratively is the Bee’s Knees.

Discover more sour cocktails to craft at home.

Bees Knees Cocktail with Ingredients
We crafted this Bee’s Knee’s cocktail at home… and then we drank it. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We bought dry Bombay gin at a local liquor store to craft our Bee’s Knees cocktail. However, you may want to use artisan gin or a name brand gin like Hendrick’s or The Botanist instead.

Discover our favorite gin cocktails.

Honey – The Essential Bee’s Knees Ingredient

Algarvian Honey
Honey is an essential ingredient in any Bee’s Knees cocktail. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We developed a healthy respect for the golden nectar known as honey in countries like Italy and Greece while we were nomadic, often buying jars of artisan honey as edible souvenirs during our travels. For this recipe, we purchased a jar of wild lavender honey produced in Portugal’s Algarve region.

Created by bees and rich in antioxidants, honey is a natural sweetener that elevates the Bee’s Knees cocktail to classic status. Or, as we like to say, honey is the money ingredient in this gin cocktail.

Fun Fact
Each bee produces a total of one teaspoon of honey in its entire life. Think about that the next time you add a spoonful of honey to your yogurt or, in this case, cocktail.

Daryl Drinks a Bees Knees Cocktail
A Bee’s Knees cocktail tastes extra sweet when you make it yourself. We made this one in our Lisbon apartment. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

Though not a typical cocktail ingredient, honey works splendidly in this Bee’s Knees recipe. But it’s not the only drink with honey as an ingredient. The Hot Toddy, Gold Rush and Penicillin are other notable cocktails that feature honey.

Pro Tip
Prepare your honey syrup in advance the same way you would prepare simple syrup – with a 1:1 ratio of honey and water stirred over a medium fire until the mixture simmers. It’s a super easy process that only takes five minutes in a small saucepan.


Bees Knees Cocktail with City View
We’re purists when it comes to crafting Bee’s Knees cocktails but you may want to mix it up with a unique variation. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

We adore making and drinking this Bee’s Knees cocktail recipe with gin. However, if you’re not a gin fan or if you ran out after making one too many G&Ts, you can use vodka, rum or bourbon instead.

You can also get creative by adding extra ingredients like dried lavender, splashes of orange juice, a sprig of fresh mint or even rosemary. Have fun and make the drink your own.

How To Craft A Bee’s Knees Cocktail

Future Bees Knees Cocktail
Pouring a Bee’s Knees through a strainer is the final step. Our glass shaker has a built-in strainer, making this last step a breeze. | Image: ©2foodtrippers

When it comes to crafting classic cocktails at home, the Bees Knees cocktail ranks high both for ease of preparation and drinkability. No fancy mixology skills are required beyond pouring, mixing and twisting lemon peel.

Discover 10 essential bar tools for home mixologists.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who invented the Bee’s Knees cocktail?

With multiple potential origin stories, the true history of this classic cocktail is a mystery.

What are the ingredients in a Bee’s Knees cocktail?

Gin, Lemon Juice, Honey Syrup and Ice Cubes (for shaking)

What’s the best gin to use in a Bee’s Knees cocktail?

Your favorite gin is the best gin for this cocktail recipe.

What is honey syrup?

Honey syrup is similar to simple syrup but it’s made with honey instead of sugar. Made with a 1:1 ration of honey and water, honey syrup is easy to make at home in a small saucepan.

Is the Bee’s Knees cocktail shaken or stirred?

The Bee’s Knees cocktail is shaken, not stirred.

What type of glass is best for the Bee’s Knees cocktail?

We like to serve this cocktail in a small martini glass but you could use a coupe glass instead.

Do bees have knees?

Bees do indeed have knees.

Did you craft this cocktail? If so, please rate the recipe below.

Bees Knees Cocktail with Ingredients on Window Sill
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4.41 from 5 votes

Bee’s Knees Recipe

You'll love this Bee's Knees cocktail recipe so much that you'll drink the sweet yet tart gin sipper all summer long.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Course: Drink
Cuisine: Cocktail
Servings: 1
Calories: 184kcal


  • 2 ounces gin
  • ¾ ounce honey syrup
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • lemon peel (garnish)
  • ice cubes (for shaking)


  • Combine gin, honey syrup and lemon juice in a shaker.
  • Add several ice cubes and shake vigorously until liquids are chilled and mixed.
  • Strain into a martini glass.
  • Add lemon twist as garnish.

Pro Tips

  • Honey syrup is similar to simple syrup. The difference is that it’s made with honey instead of sugar.
  • You can store honey syrup in the refrigerator for a week.
  • Slice the lemon twist from the lemon peel before you squeeze out the lemon juice.
  • We like to use a martini glass but a coupe glass will work just as well.

Estimated Nutrition

Calories: 184kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 0.1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 31mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 1IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 3mg | Iron: 0.1mg
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About the Authors

Daryl and Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website. Since launching the site in 2012, they’ve traveled to over 40 countries in their quest to bring readers a unique taste of the world.


Article Updates
We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

We purchased the ingredients and tools used to craft this cocktail.

Original Publication Date: May 26, 2020

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