the bee’s knees

andrew's signature wedding cocktail - the bees knees

Apparently signature cocktails at weddings are in. Or so I’m told. Long before I had a wedding to plan, I thought that having a his-and-her cocktails at a wedding would be a really fun idea. No, I’m not calling myself a trail blazer by any means, and I suppose it does go against me saying I never planned my own wedding. I suppose that the part of me that loves feeding people planned a portion of it. But that’s about as far as I got with the wedding dreaming.

If someone ever asked me what my dream wedding would be, I always said, that I’d want for it to be outside. I’d want a cookout with pulled pork sandwiches, corn on the cob, lobsters, and potato salad. I’d want strawberry shortcake. I’d want a bluegrass band. And I’d want some bourbon.

honey syrup, meet fresh lemon juice

Well, you can’t really get away with pulled pork sandwiches and lobster at a Jewish wedding, but we are going to Maine for our mini-moon, so lobster population of New England, I’d better watch out if I were you. Andrew and I are coming, and we’re coming hungry.

Of course, what I didn’t think about is the drink of choice for my future husband. I just assumed that we’d be drinking bourbon together. And it just so happens that Andrew’s spirit of choice is gin.

who says it's wrong to imbibe before noon?

So when we were talking about having signature drinks at the wedding, we wanted something a bit more fun than a predictable gin and tonic. We wanted a drink that felt exuberant and a little mischievous. Then I remembered a popular Prohibition-era drink called the Bee’s Knees (or is it Bees’ Knees? How many bees are we talking about here?) Made, at the time, with bathtub gin, the cocktail was aided by lemon juice and honey to mask the strong smell of liquor – sneaky. It felt mischievous enough for us.

I’ll fess up now and tell you that we aren’t using bathtub gin to make cocktails for our wedding guests. As clean as we keep our tub, we couldn’t make gin there even if we wanted to. Not that we want to. But if we did, we’d be hard-pressed to be able to use our own tub as it’s currently missing a stopper. Our super was going to replace it, but I think he’s long forgotten about it. Not that 6 inches of bathtub height allows for that much gin to be made in it. It hardly constitutes a pleasant bath; and feels more like I’ve sat in a puddle, than slipped into something relaxing and luxurious. Also, I didn’t get the memo on this, but word is, Prohibition’s long gone and we can freely purchase and consume all kinds of libations. Hooray!

the bees knees

Which is exactly what we’ll be doing come June 16th, albeit sans pulled pork sandwiches and steaming real lobsters. Still, I can’t wait.

The Bee’s Knees

2 ounces (1/4 cup) gin
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) honey syrup

Combine gin, lemon juice, and the honey syrup in a cocktail shaker. Stir to dissolve the syrup. Fill the shaker with ice and stir for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve. If you like, you may add an ice cube or two – drinks get warm awfully fast in the summer, and there’s something gross about a warm(ed) cocktail, in my opinion.

Makes 1 cocktail.


  • Tamar

    Bees Knees is hands down my favorite non-whiskey drink. We like to make ours with lavender simple syrup. Basically, boil a bunch of lavender in water for about five minutes. Strain out the lavender, and then add honey to the hot water until you get your preferred level of sweetness (you can get lavender at various farmer’s markets, and in big bags at specialty spice stores). We add fresh squeezed lemon juice (which usually turns the water a nice cheery pink) and keep it in a jar in the fridge, so that when we’re ready for a drink, all we have to do is add seltzer and gin. There is nothing as wonderful as a bees knees at the end of a hot summer day.

  • Radish

    Tamar – I love the lavender idea! And if I could guarantee that our caterer could do this, we’d be all over it. :) I actually have edible lavender in my cupboards and love making simple syrup with it! So you can be sure we’ll be making this at home, and soon!

  • Margarita

    What a cool idea to have a his/hers cocktail at a wedding! I love how simple this drink is without extra sweeteners other than honey!

  • Adrienne

    Oooh, I love a Bees’ Knees! Have you ever tried the Bee Sting? Same basic drink, but you muddle (well, crush) some black peppercorns in the shaker first and mix the drink on top.

  • Radish

    Adrienne – a friend just mentioned the drink on Facebook. Now I’m all curious now, but I want to try it with pink peppercorns instead. I think it would go well with the herbal notes in the gin.

  • Cookin' Canuck

    Now I want to do our wedding all over again just so we can have his and her cocktails! I feel a “renewal of the vows” coming on and I daresay we would want Bee’s (Bees’ knees) to be a part of the festivities.

  • Mikaela Cowles

    I had this the other night at a funky restaurant here in Seattle. It was so good! Great choice. And, whether you’re “paving the way” of hoping on for the ride, who cares? It’s a fantastic idea.

  • Brandee

    I so want to try this cocktail, but last I checked I don’t like gin. It’s been a long time, but I can still remember cringing at the pine tree taste. Bad gin? Who knows. Maybe I’ll revisit it.

  • Radish

    Brandee – my favorite gin is Hendricks, but for this cocktail, i would go with something less floral, we used Aviation here, which is a small batch distillery from Portland, OR. I would focus on smaller, quality gins, that aren’t terribly dry or terribly floral. Bulldog gin is a very good, and widely available, brand.

  • Charlotte

    Well, gin and tonic with borage used to be my go to summer drink. A couple of summers ago I switched to Pimm’s cocktail but my cupboard is currently Pimmless so this looks like an excellent change of pace. Hope June 16th is wonderful for you both!

  • noëlle {simmer down!}

    My friend, who owns a craft cocktail bar here in Detroit, made 2 custom cocktails for our wedding too- it was so much easier than trying to have a full bar with a million mixers, especially since we were buying everything ourselves. We did a Rum Swizzle for a lighter, fruitier drink, and a riff on a Manhattan as the darker, boozier option. As far as I know, no one complained about not being able to get a vodka Red Bull or a Jack & diet.

    I’m trying the Bee’s Knees later today as soon as it’s a cocktail-appropriate hour- I have some honey my mom gave me from Savannah Bee Company a while back and I’ve been looking for an excuse to bust it open!

  • meg

    We’re also in the midst of planning our wedding, and we are in fact having pulled pork of sorts (a whole roast pig), collard greens, cornbread, grilled corn, and pound cakes instead of wedding cake. I guess I should start thinking about the cocktails, huh? Bees’ Knees (there’s never just one bee) sounds lovely. Perfect for this stifling weekend. We should come up with a cocktail called the Cat’s Pajamas.

  • Radish

    Meg – I think it should be Bees’ Knees too. But for whatever reason, the cocktail books I double checked against, all spelled it as if there’s just one bee in question. Go figure. Cat’s Pajamas – now THAT’S a name for a cocktail. I wonder what would go in it?

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    We did a Cape Cod themed cocktail for our wedding with lots of cranberries. Love the idea of a signature cocktail, but, really, I’m adoring the one you have here. Fabulous!

    Only a few more weeks until the big day! June is our anniversary month, so I have to say that it’s the best time to get married! Best wishes to you and your man!

  • Chocolate lover

    Congrats on your up coming wedding . I just prepared the Bees’ Knees cocktail. LOVED IT . Your website is awesome.

  • Aibrean

    Oh, my, you almost perfectly described my dream wedding! I hope yours was everything you’d dreamed of and more!

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