The Bee’s Knees

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As an expression of approbation, Bee’s Knees dates from the early Twenties and the eponymous drink came soon after. Honey was among myriad additives utilised to disguise the rotgut gin of Prohibition. On page 23 of his magisterial volume The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, David A Embury describes the early version of Bee Knees (equal parts gin, honey and lemon juice) as ‘pernicious’. But on page 130, he concedes that the drink is ‘acceptable’ if the quantity of honey is greatly reduced. Dale DeGroff, the modern king of the cocktail, says ‘honey is wonderful in drinks’, but suggests that for ease of mixing it should be transformed into honey syrup. (Stir equal parts honey and warm water until honey is dissolved, then store in fridge.) So, did my tasting panel lean towards Embury’s grudging acquiescence or DeGroff’s enthusiastic blessing? After her first sip, she said: ‘God! That’s brilliant!’ Bee’s Knees is perfect for mixing at home and the taste is as remarkable as its glistening gold appearance. First a sweet buzz of honey, then a tingle of lemon followed by a good bang of gin. It’s the 13th cocktail in this column and the first that I instantly made again. Satisfying but irresistibly moreish, this is a very good drink indeed. Christopher Hirst

40ml gin

25ml honey syrup

20ml lemon juice

Shake all ingredients vigorously with whole ice cubes and strain into a cocktail glass.