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The Bee’s Knees cocktail is a classic drink made with gin, lemon, and honey syrup, which brings a unique rich sweetness. It’s a crowd pleaser!

Bees Knees Cocktail

Here’s a classy classic cocktail that’s refreshing and sweet tart: the Bee’s Knees! It’s got a cute 1920’s name and a smooth flavor to match. The sweetener here is honey syrup, and making simple syrup with honey instead of refined sugar adds a rich depth. Combine it with lemon and gin, and you’ve got a refreshing cocktail that goes down easy. This is one of our top gin cocktails to make!

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
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, about 1 to 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature before using. Keeps in the refrigerator for 1 month.

There are several cocktails that use honey syrup as a sweetener! Try 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.
  • Strain: Strain the drink into a cocktail glass.
  • Garnish: Add ice and a lemon twist.
Bees Knees Cocktail

What type of gin should I buy?

The general rule around gin cocktails: the better the gin, the better the drink. How to find a high quality gin for this Bee’s Knees cocktail? Don’t buy the cheapest gin you can find. Try to invest in a mid-price range gin: the drink will only taste as good as the gin you invest in! Here are a few notes:

  • Malfy, Aviation, Beefeater London Dry have a developed, botanical flavor that blends well in cocktails.
  • Locally distilled gin is a great option! In Indianapolis, we like 8th Day Distillery, Hotel Tango, and Big Heart Gin.
  • Steer clear of strong flavored sipping gins in cocktails. For us this includes brands like Tanqueray gin (very floral) and Opihr gin (spice-forward). These types of gin can overpower the subtlety in many mixed drinks.
How to make a lemon twist

How to make a lemon twist

The lemon twist makes a sophisticated Bee’s Knees cocktail! It’s not required, but it adds a nice touch. Here’s our method for making to make a lemon twist garnish using no special tools. Head to How to Make a Lemon Twist (with a Knife!).

Don’t want to try the twist? Use a simple lemon peel, or slice a lemon wheel, then cut a notch in it and add it to the rim of the glass.

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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Bees Knees Cocktail

Bee’s Knees Cocktail

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x


The Bee’s Knees cocktail is a classic drink made with gin, lemon, and honey syrup, which brings a unique rich sweetness. It’s a crowd pleaser!




  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.


*To convert to tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons. 

  • 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.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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    1. Use a good bourbon or American whiskey (Dickle 12yr) with the OJ and makes for a quality cocktail

      1. Hello! I love the honey lemon combo and interesting drinks, but I don’t drink alcohol. How would you suggest turning the bees knees into a mocktail?