Pitcher Cocktails: Bee’s Knees

The name says it all

The running joke around here is that I drink like a teenager discovering alcohol for the first time. Throughout college and most of my early twenties, the only booze stocked in my bar were Disaronno and Malibu, and my favorite drink to make at parties was a modification of a “birthday cake” shot invented by a friend that involved Frangelico, Stoli Vanilla, and pineapple juice. But now that I’m in my late twenties, and my body no longer processes sugar the way it did in my youth (which was by shouting “more, more more!”), I’ve been on the lookout for a sweet-but-not-too-sweet cocktail, preferably made with white liquor, to replace the dessert drinks of my youth and to serve as my go-to night cap.

I had the opportunity to try a Bee’s Knees while Meg and I were at Alt Summit in June. It turns out, this cocktail totally delivers on its name (rumor has it that the prohibition-era recipe used honey to mask the taste of bathtub gin, which also makes this cocktail badass). The Bee’s Knees is sweet but not saccharine, and the lemon makes it a really refreshing cocktail for summer or fall weddings and for guests whose tastes run on the lighter side of the booze spectrum. Plus, my Nana thanks you for including a gin cocktail on the menu.

We’ve already written about how to prepare cocktails in big batches in advance, so review that if you need to. All cocktail recipes are essentially ratios, and just like with our previous drinks, we’ll give you the recipe for one cocktail (which one should always have, in case of I-need-this-tonight emergencies) and then the basic ratio for scaling up.

Bee’s Knees Recipe

2 oz gin
.75 oz lemon juice
.75 oz honey simple syrup

Bee’s knees Ratio

2 parts gin, 3/4 part lemon juice, 3/4 part honey simple syrup

For 100 Cocktails you need

200 oz gin
75 oz lemon juice
75 oz honey simple syrup

To Make Honey simple syrup

Bring a 1:1 ratio of honey and water to a boil. Simmer for ten minutes, dissolving the honey, then remove from the heat. Refrigerate.

You may need to do some math at the store when you are buying your booze. Some spirits are sold in ounces, others in liters, others in quarts, pints, or gallons. We highly encourage using this smartphone app or this one, or this website for your conversions.

Note on Garnish: We used honeycomb for these photos, but let’s be real. That would be a sticky mess at a wedding. A lemon twist or lemon wheel would work just as well. Or skip the garnish altogether, because these aren’t going to last long enough to need one.

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  • Kelly Benvenuto

    This is the cocktail I didn’t know I wanted. I love gin, citrus and French 75s – so I can’t wait to try this.

  • Is this shaken? Stirred? There’s a recipe and ratio but no directions. Looks delicious either way!

    • Pro cocktail tip: anything with juice must be shaken (this, tiki cocktails). Cocktails that are liquor and liqueur only (old fashioneds, negronis, manhattans) are best stirred.

      • Meg Keene

        OH, that’s a great and handy tip.

  • I’m always told I drink like someone’s nana because I love anything with gin. This looks delish!

    • Fellow gin lover here. My partner makes fun of me for it to no end. I’ve gone so far as to start infusing some of my own small batches.

    • Lindsay

      I have a pretty serious lineup of gin on my kitchen counter. Any particular favorites?? I’m always up for dropping some dollars (small or large piles of dollars) on a new bottle….

      • Ali

        Yes and hello to fellow gin loving ladies! We’ve built a small library in our apt. Favorites right now are Comb 9, Dorothy Parker, Greenhook Ginsmiths, and St. George Terroir. All delicious and absolutely not bank-breaking (avg $35/bottle). Any other suggestions?

      • Sage by Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is not “technically” a gin, but it’s basically a gin, and it’s delicious. It’s based off a “garden spirit” recipe by Thomas Jefferson’s botanical adviser.

        Magellan Iris-flavored gin is beautiful (blue, from the iris blossoms), delicious, and really fun in cocktails (it’s beautifully blue!)

      • MB

        More gin! My fiance and I have been enjoying Death’s Door, Portobello Road, and Filliers Dry Gin 28 lately. Need to try some of these other suggestions ASAP.

      • Meg Keene

        Junipero is my fav.

      • rachelec

        Have to recommend Gale Force gin from Triple Eight distillery… Friends brought it as a gift after visiting Nantucket and we can’t get enough of it now!

      • DanEllie

        I’ve been really enjoying (or was before I got pregnant) Hendrick’s – best served with a cucumber garnish rather than lime

        • EveRaphael

          Agree! Hendrick’s is DA BEST. Takes gin drinking to a whole nother delicious level.

      • Anne

        Journeyman or Two James from Michigan — both might be hard to get in other parts of the country, but look for them in the Midwest! Two James is a new distillery in Detroit, and their gin is very citrusy and clove-heavy. I love it. For a good all-around gin, Plymouth is the way to go.

      • Sarah E

        Definitely try The Botanist. Made by Bruichladdich Distillery, which usually makes fantastic Scotch, but makes gin while the Scotch ages. It is hands-down the best gin I’ve ever tried. My go-to here in the Midwest is Prairie Gin, which is by Ed Phillips and Sons in MN (and organic!).

  • KC

    Could you use mini hexagon ice cubes (they make ice cube trays that produce miniature hexagonal ice cubes) as a faux-garnish that hints at honeycomb shape? Or is this a No Ice Allowed drink?

  • Mmm. Delish. I’ll hold onto this recipe for when I’m done baking a baby.

  • Ariel

    Yum! I love gin!

  • Acres_Wild

    I am not a gin person, but I bet this would also be great with bourbon! Like a whiskey sour with honey. YUM.

  • Grace

    Another gin drink that would be great for this kind of thing: the gimlet. It doesn’t get easier than just 2 parts gin and one part sweetened lime juice. Also in the sweet, but not saccharine category, and my default drink when we go out. :D

  • APW, your cocktail preferences seem to run in the gamut from strong to extremely strong. I love this for my life generally, but when we are talking about weddings, and people drinking for several hours… I get a little nervous. Is there any way you could discuss some cocktails from the less lethal end of the spectrum?

    • Meg Keene

      HAHAHA. Margaritas? With more… lime juice? We have one coming up that also can be watered down.

    • RJ

      Yes! I’d like a cocktail that itsn’t unbearably boozy or sugary – something light, with a hint of bite, that I can drink all night and still drive home, or at laeast not be hungover in the morning.

      My preference runs to soda, bitters, and a twist of lime, or a hint of fruit :-)

    • Elizabeth

      The post for Pimm’s Lemonade is light on the booze as Pimms’s isn’t strong even by itself. Also Pimm’s…. yum…

    • good_havens

      We did lemonade + bourbon + rosemary sprigs as the bulk cocktail at our wedding this month and it was a HUGE hit! Super simple to make and you can serve it weaker and let people add more bourbon if you have a range of drinkers. As long as you buy (or make) a lemonade with lower levels of sugar, it’s easy to drink a lot of and still feel good the next day. Also, you can find rosemary for free in most neighborhoods!

  • ART

    Yes, yes, yes! They make these at Prizefighter in Emeryville and they are amazing! But I love gin, what can I say. I ordered a French 75 at a cousin’s wedding last weekend and had to put my grown-up hat on to avoid having three of them and being really sorry the next day. Delicious.

    • Meg Keene

      GOD I love French 75s. I serve them at Christmas.

      • ART

        yep. the variation with whiskey and OJ is also *DELIGHTFUL*

        • ART

          actually, almost any cocktail topped with champagne is a party. manhattan + champagne, YES! we served a cocktail of pineapple-orange-guava juice and malibu rum at our bbq wedding reception, and it was great and super easy which i needed, but once people started adding champagne…SO CLASSY.

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  • Whitney S.

    Guys. Don’t worry. Did a trial run tonight after a terrible day, and this one is a winner. Feel free to let me know if a position for official cocktail taster opens up ;)

  • Rose

    Oooh, my fiancee loves making these. Which is great, because I’m definitely a fan of drinking them. I don’t think we’re doing cocktails at the wedding, but if we were, this would absolutely be a contender.

  • Julianne Smith

    Let’s be honest, though, the honeycomb is flippin’ rad.

  • Another Meg

    I tried this last night, and it tasted like lemon juice. But I made a whole pitcher before trying it….so we had a pitcher of extremely boozy lemon juice. We mixed it 1:1 with Labatt Light (yay Michigan) and it tasted like a weirdly strong (but decent) shandy.
    I’m going to try it again tonight with a slightly heavier hand on the honey syrup. This really is the best kind of experimentation.

  • Karen

    Why do you keep posting photos of garnishes that wouldn’t work for weddings??? It’s not the Mona Lisa, it’s a drink photo…

  • Stacy {Woodsy Weddings}

    The drink sounds yummy with the combination of honey and lemon. I love the honeycomb garnish, though!

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