The Story Behind The Bees Knees

A 1920s classic, the Bee’s Knees is a delicate and delightful sour that was built out of necessity.

After the passing of the Volstead Act, which ratified Prohibition in the U.S., good booze was in short supply. Bartenders and drinkers alike had to rely on home-distilled spirits, like the infamous bathtub gin. To cover up the flavors of the questionable concoctions they were using, bartenders added powerful flavors and sweeteners to their cocktails.

The Bee’s Knees is one of the few winning combinations that is still, to this day, considered well balanced and sessionable. It’s easy to see why: Earthy and sweet honey combined with fresh lemon is always a classic duo, and the addition of herbaceous and floral gin makes this drink sing.

While it fell out of popularity post-Prohibition due to its association with speakeasies and bad liquor, it has made a resurgence in recent years with craft bartenders because of its adaptability and simplicity.

“A classic Bee’s Knees is the perfect blueprint for a spring cocktail,” Resa Mueller, bartender for R&D in Philadelphia, told VinePair. “The honey syrup is a great backdrop for cycling in seasonal ingredients.”

Fans of the cocktail can even try swapping out the base spirit gin for other spirits, such as rum, whiskey, or cachaça to experiment with the sour structure. As a cocktail this delicious, it may come as no surprise that the Bee's Knees ranks among the 50 most popular cocktails in the world. To see the other 49, dive into the full list.


  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce honey syrup (recipe follows)
  • Garnish: lemon twist


  1. Add gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup to a shaker with ice and shake until cold.
  2. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with lemon twist.

Rate This Recipe:

(33 votes)

Yield: 1
Calories: 179
Updated: 2024-04-22

Listen To Our Cocktail College Bees Knees Podcast 

Honey Syrup Ingredients

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup water

Honey Syrup Directions

  1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Simmer until honey is dissolved, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.
The Bee’s Knees Recipe