The first mention of the drink occurs in David Embury’s 1948, “The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks,” but it undoubtedly has its origins in prohibition era speakeasies. The “bee’s knees” being a colloquialism that meant “the epitome”.
Here’s what the erudite Mr. Embury had to say about it: “During prohibition the overwhelming majority of available liquor consisted of bathtub gin and Scotch…. So unutterably vile were these synthetic concoctions that the primary object in mixing a cocktail became the addition of a sufficient amount of sweetened, highly flavored, and otherwise emollient and anti-emetic ingredients (cream, honey, Karo, canned fruit juices, etc.) to make it reasonably possible to swallow the resultant concoction and at the same time to retain a sufficient content of renatured alcohol to insure ultimate inebriety. Just how much dilution of the “gin”-bottle contents might be necessary to accomplish this supposed salutary result depended largely on the intestinal fortitude and espohageal callosity of the particular individual involved…Small wonder, then, that this period gave birth to such pernicious recipes as the Alexander—equal parts of gin, crème de cacao, and sweet cream [and] the Bee’s Knees—equal parts of gin, lemon juice, and honey; and so on ad nauseam.”
Well now… I happen to like an Alexander every so often. As for the Bee’s Knees, it doesn’t live up to its eponymous name. It’s rather sweet, and since this is technically a sour (citrus juice, base spirit and sweetener), it seems to defy the category. Unlike the Bee’s Kiss cocktail, honey doesn’t really work so well in this concoction. Perhaps if you cut back on the honey syrup (say 1/2 ounce, instead of 3/4) it will improve, but still, nothing to write home about.
0.5oz lemon juice
0.75oz honey syrup
Shake with ice and strain into chilled champagne coupe.