The Honey-Gin Cocktail That Rose From The Ashes Of Prohibition

An astounding number of significant events rose from the '20s — an era defined by the Jazz Age, high consumerism, women's suffrage, and ultimately, the stock market crash of 1929, notes History. But for many, the Volstead Act of January 16, 1920, was a turning point affecting all segments of the population since it shuttered every bar, pub, saloon, and tavern in America. Intoxicating liquors were officially illegal, ushering in the Prohibition Era and a whole lot of covert cocktail shenanigans.

Some of the most endearing retro cocktails on bar menus today nod to the lively speakeasies and underground drinking dens of the Roaring Twenties. Advanced Mixology points to colorful creations such as the Sidecar, Singapore Sling, and Hanky Panky. There was also the Mary Pickford, named for the famous actress who visited the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in the '20s, accompanied by none other than Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks.

But a gin-based cocktail doozy from the Prohibition Era "takes the cake" for longevity and regeneration. According to Merriam-Webster, its name hails from 1921, standing out among phrases such as booze cruise, dimwit, rubber check, and fusspot. The cocktail's moniker strangely refers to the tiny knees of a winged insect.

The Bee's Knees cocktail buzzes on

The term "busy bees" takes on new meaning in the modern world of cocktails — it's "busy bartenders" dealing with the resurgence of a popular Prohibition Era cocktail. The appropriately named Bee's Knees cocktail features honey, gin, and lemon, and it's buzzing through drinking establishments much as it did when it was first created (via The New York Times).

There's even a Brooklyn venue known as The Bee's Knees, which features contemporary versions of classic cocktails. Mural-clad brick walls portray the beekeeping process, and the signature Bee's Knees cocktail presents in a pollen-sprinkled cocktail glass. An annual Bee's Knees Week led to almost 2,500 bars nationwide serving the drink in the 2022 event.

The term "bee's knees" means that the thing you're describing is "highly admired," similar to the other phrase, "the cat's meow," explains Merriam-Webster. Many, including, credit the Bee's Knees cocktail invention to a Hotel Ritz Paris bartender named Frank Meier. It's a lusher version of a Gin Sour that replaces standard cane sugar with smooth honey, often overpowering the gin flavor – which was potentially preferred in the '20s to hide either inferior or prohibited gin liquor.

If you decide to make this cocktail at home, you can find or make honey syrup in an easily mixable form, which is a dilution of honey with water. recommends using fresh squeezed lemons and experimenting with various types of gins to bring out flavors such as juniper, citrus, or florals.