How To Make a Bee’s Knees Cocktail

updated Apr 29, 2021

This classic 3-ingredient gin cocktail is lightly sweetened with honey and bright with lemony tartness.


Prep7 minutes

Cook2 minutes to 3 minutes

Jump to Recipe
bees knees cocktail on a table with lemon garnish
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Sometimes classics shouldn’t be messed with, and that’s absolutely the case when it comes to the Bee’s Knees cocktail. It’s sweet with honey, bright with lemon, and dangerously easy to sip. Plus, since it only involves three ingredients, it couldn’t be easier to shake up. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

The History of the Bee’s Knees Cocktail

Although the origins of this classic cocktail are murky, two popular origin stories have emerged. The first is that the drink was created as a way to mask the unpleasant taste and aroma of poor-quality homemade gin (also known as bathtub gin) that was served at speakeasies during the Prohibition era. The second is that it was invented at the Cafe Parisian at the Ritz Hotel in Paris in 1921 by an Austrian bartender by the name of Frank Meier. The name is said to have come from the phrase “the bee’s knees,” meaning “the best,” which became popular in the 1920s.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How to Make the Best Bee’s Knees Cocktail

Making this classic cocktail is as easy as shaking gin, honey, and lemon juice with ice and straining it into a coupe glass. But to make sure your drink is, well, the bee’s knees, follow these tips.

  1. Make a honey simple syrup. When honey hits ice, it thickens, so you need to thin it with water to make sure it dissolves in your drink. This is as easy as warming equal parts honey and water together until the honey melts. Stash leftover syrup in the fridge and use it to sweeten your iced tea or lemonade.
  2. Choose a mild-flavored honey. For the most balanced Bee’s Knees, choose a honey that won’t overpower the gin and lemon juice. Mild varietals such as wildflower, orange blossom, clover, and acacia honey are all great choices. They also have a golden color that won’t muddy the cheery, lemon-tinged hue of the cocktail.
  3. Experiment with different gins. As a gin fan, my bar cart is stocked with various bottles, and they’re all fun to experiment with here. Tanqueray is a classic, well-priced choice with just the right mix of botanicals. Lately, I’ve been particularly fond of Gunpowder Irish Gin, which is a bit of a splurge but its notes of grapefruit and cardamom really stand out in this simple cocktail.

    Read more: 7 Tips to Help You Get to Honey’s Sweet Spot in the Kitchen
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell
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Here's how to make the best Bee's Knees cocktail.

How to Make a Bee's Knees Cocktail

This classic 3-ingredient gin cocktail is lightly sweetened with honey and bright with lemony tartness.

Prep time 7 minutes

Cook time 2 minutes to 3 minutes


Nutritional Info


For the honey syrup:

  • 1/4 cup


  • 1/4 cup


For the cocktail:

  • Ice

  • 2 ounces


  • 3/4 ounce

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 ounce

    honey syrup

  • Lemon twist, for garnish (optional)


  • Liquid measuring cup

  • Small saucepan

  • Cocktail shaker

  • Measured shot glass

  • Coupe glasses


  1. Make the honey syrup. Combine 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the honey is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

  2. Make the cocktail. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add 2 ounces gin, 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce honey syrup. Cover and shake vigorously until well chilled, about 15 seconds.

  3. Strain the cocktail into glass. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The honey syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 month.