Like many cocktails, the Bees Knees originated during Prohibition – when juices and syrups were creatively employed to mask the taste of bathtub gin and other bootlegged liquors. The traditional Bee’s Knees is a simple drink of gin, lemon juice and honey – all ingredients I like. But to me the cocktail is a little lacking – the honey and lemon pretty much drown out the gin – which was probably a good thing when this drink was invented. But today? Well with the such a huge assortment of premium gins, there is no need to drown out the flavor – and so, after trying this cocktail with a few different gins I added the Bee’s Knees to my “eh” list. So what exactly is it doing here on The Bartenderess??
It started with one of my “black hole” sessions on the computer – you know, the ones where you are looking for something and 3 hours later find yourself avidly reading about something completely unrelated to what you originally started out looking for? Yeah, it was one of those. Anyhow, I’d come across this cocktail recipe for the Bee’s Knees with a honey gastrique. Given my love affair with all things gin I decided I had to try this version of a Bee’s Knees.
You’ve probably figured out it was a success – so what exactly makes this Bee’s Knees worthy of mention?
Great question! Although this Bee’s Knees with Thyme Syrup contains all the basics of the original Bee’s Knees, this version is an almost entirely different cocktail – it has a level of complexity and balance that the original lacked.
This Bee’s Knees with Thyme Syrup is really a variation of a shrub based cocktail – but instead of using vinegar to preserve a fruit syrup, it’s mixed with the honey – toning down honey’s strong flavor and rounding out the acidity of the lemon juice, providing the balance that the traditional recipe lacked. The original recipe called for using a homemade lemonade made with fresh lemon juice, water and simple syrup – which I found too sweet with the honey vinegar syrup so I just used equal parts fresh lemon juice and water.
The addition of thyme provides some fresh, herbal notes which echo those in the St. George’s Botanivore gin which, BTW I highly recommend using in this cocktail for a libation that truly is “the Bee’s Knees”.
- 2 oz. St. George Botanivore Gin
- 1 oz. lemonade (1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice mixed with ½ oz. water)
- 1 oz. honey thyme syrup
- Honey Thyme Syrup
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- Make the Honey Thyme Syrup: In a medium saucepan combine the honey, vinegar and fresh thyme. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and for about 10 minutes. Cool and strain.
- For the cocktail:
- Chill a small coupe glass.
- Add ice to a mixing glass. Add the St. George Botanivore gin, lemonade and honey thyme syrup. Shake for 30 - 45 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.