Classic Bees Knees Cocktail – A Couple Cooks

The Bees Knees cocktail is a zingy drink made with lemon and gin! Honey syrup brings a unique rich sweetness to this classic.

Bees knees cocktail

Here’s a classy classic cocktail that’s refreshing and sweet tart: the Bees Knees! It’s got a cute 1920’s name and a smooth flavor to match. The unique element? Honey syrup. Making simple syrup with honey instead of refined sugar adds a rich depth to cocktails. Combine it with lemon and gin, and you’ve got a refreshing cocktail that goes down easy. Naturally sweet and perfectly balanced, it’s easy to make too! Here’s what you need to know.

What’s a Bees Knees cocktail?

The Bees Knees is a Prohibition era cocktail that first started to appear in cocktail books in the 1930’s. There’s no clear origin story, but “the bees knees” is a phrase used at the time that means “the best.” Likely some bartender came up with this clever play on words to feature the drink’s unique ingredient: honey syrup! Using honey syrup instead of simple syrup brings a rich sweetness to this drink. The ingredients in a Bees Knees cocktail are:

  • Gin
  • Lemon juice
  • Honey syrup
How to make a Bees Knees cocktail

Add orange juice if you’d like!

The Bees Knees is a cocktail on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it has an official definition. Interestingly, the IBA definition of a Bees Knees uses equal parts fresh lemon juice and fresh orange juice. Most sources you’ll find use only lemon juice, including historical mentions of the drink in cocktail books.

Adding orange juice adds another hint of nuance and roundness to the flavor of the drink. It’s a fun adder! But if you prefer to stay simple: straight lemon juice is classic.

How to make honey syrup

Honey syrup is simple syrup that’s made with honey instead of granulated sugar! It’s easy to whip up a batch: and you can use it in place of simple syrup in any cocktail recipe. Here’s what to do:

  1. Add equal parts honey and water to saucepan and heat over medium heat.
  2. Stir until the honey is dissolved (don’t bring to simmer!), about 1 to 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature before using. Keeps in the refrigerator for 1 month.

A few more cocktails that use honey syrup? The Gold Rush, Brown Derby, and Penicillin.

Honey syrup

How to make a Bees Knees cocktail (basic steps)

The Bees Knees is very easy to whip up! Once you’ve made the honey syrup, it’s just a matter of shaking it up in a cocktail shaker. Here are the basic steps (or jump right to the recipe):

  • Shake: Add the gin, fresh lemon juice and honey syrup to a cocktail shaker. Fill it with ice and then shake until very cold. Don’t have a cocktail shaker? Use a mason jar with a cover instead.
  • Strain: Strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Don’t have a cocktail strainer? Use a fine mesh strainer instead.
  • Garnish: Add ice and a lemon twist.
Bees knees cocktail

Use a good quality gin

The rule of thumb for any cocktail: the better the liquor, the better the drink! Our rule of thumb is to buy a gin that’s mid-priced: it’s typically an indicator of quality. The gin we like to use is called Malfy gin and we usually order it online. Also look for locally distilled spirits if you can!

When to serve a Bees Knees cocktail

The Bees Knees cocktail is a sweet tart, retro cocktail that’s great for sipping as a:

  • Summer drink
  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink


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The Bees Knees cocktail is a zingy drink made with lemon and gin! Honey syrup brings a unique rich sweetness to this classic.

  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) gin
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) fresh lemon juice*
  • ¾ ounce (1 ½ tablespoons) honey syrup
  • For the garnish: lemon twist

  1. Add the gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup to a cocktail shaker. Fill with a handful of ice and shake until very cold.
  2. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.


*You can also use ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) each lemon juice and orange juice.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Bees Knees Cocktail

More gin cocktails

Gin was a favorite in the 1920s and 1930’s: that’s why there are so many great gin cocktails! Here are some more greats to try:

  • Gin Fizz Super classic, sweet, and tangy, with a frothy egg white foam topping.
  • Gin and Tonic The keys to the very best gin and tonic, the most refreshing 2-ingredient cocktail.
  • Tom Collins Light, bubbly, sweet tart, and just plain fun.
  • Gin Gimlet A classic refreshing cocktail made of lime juice and gin.
  • Gin Gin Mule A mashup of a bubbly Moscow mule and a minty Mojito.
  • Bijou Its name evokes jewels: gin for diamond, vermouth for ruby and Chartreuse for emerald.
  • Last Word This pale green classic is beautifully balanced between sharp, sour, and sweet.
  • Aviation A 1900’s mixed drink with a lovely purple hue!
  • Singapore Sling A fun and complex classic cocktail with an impressively long ingredient list.
  • Martinez Cousin to the Martini and Manhattan, it’s sophisticated and classy.
  • Classic Martini The classic martini always uses gin! Or try Dirty Martini or Vesper Martini.

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