This recipe builds on a foundational drink known as the Bee’s Knees from the sours family of cocktails. The original Bee’s Knees is a classic sour, with a 2oz. pour of base spirit and 3/4oz. pours respectively of a sweet and sour. Known as a gin drink for non-gin drinkers, this prohibition-era classic features bright, crisp flavors that masked the harshness of the era’s bathtub gins. Its name comes from prohibition-era slang meaning “the best,” and was made with gin, lemon juice, and honey, then served shaken and chilled with a lemon twist.
Our smooth sipping, light and herbal Lavender Bee’s Knees recipe offers lavender highlights alongside citrus, while featuring the floral notes of honey without compromising the balance and spirit of the original recipe. Perfect for a relaxing summer night by the fire, it perfectly expresses the mood of a late summer evening, yet our version remains accessible across the seasons by utilizing ingredients available year-round.
This recipe remains ripe for exploration and customization with wide-ranging options from the gin used, to the type of citrus juice, syrup construction, and the garnish. We encourage you to make this cocktail your own, so let’s start by exploring this recipe’s construction to provide a basis that enables further fine-tuning. Developing this drink, through taste testing, we slightly varied proportions from classic sour construction. As always, we encourage our readers to share their progress.
Our recipe uses Blue Barren Distillery Glendarragh Gin, which features a traditional gin flavor profile that lies underneath bright citrus and lavender notes. Blue Barren Distillery, located in Camden, Maine produces spirits in extremely limited quantities using the very best of local produce. Its Glendarragh Gin provides a lighter experience by using less juniper than traditional dry gins and sources its English Lavender from nearby Glendarragh Lavender Farm in Appleton, Maine. Taking its inspiration from traditional European farm distilleries, Blue Barren’s Glendarragh Gin is the perfect base spirit for the Lavender Bee’s Knees.
Another crisp gin perfect for this cocktail is Amethyst Lavender Gin, a small batch producer that starts with eight traditional botanicals and adds a hint of lavender grown at their farm in Spring Creek, Washington to create a subtly aromatic and distinctive gin. We also recommend using Lee Spirits Lavender Gin, an earthy gin with the addition of dried lavender buds that makes a light and floral sipping gin. If you find yourself in Colorado Springs, Colorado, check out their amazing tasting room, Brooklyn’s on Boulder Street, a speakeasy-style tasting room that features pre-prohibition cocktails and modern creations. Another gin worth mentioning is Barr Hill Gin, which features juniper-forward botanicals brought to a perfect balance by the floral depth of raw honey. Barr Hill Gin is perfect in the original Bee’s Knees, but when using it in a Lavender Bee’s Knees expect to adjust the various flavors accordingly.
Gin and Juice
While most Bee’s Knees recipes call for lemon juice, some gins simply play better with lime juice. Tanqueray gin, for example, works nicely with lime while Beefeater’s flavor profile matches nicely with lemon. It is also not unheard of to use orange juice to make a gin sour so by all means, explore. While the aforementioned lavender gins make a great Lavender Bee’s Knees, Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice Gin also provides a great backdrop for this recipe. Some bartenders also use an ounce each of two gins to dial in for a specific flavor profile. Finally, infusing various mainstream gins with lavender through the use of an iSi whipper is yet another way to customize this cocktail.
Anyone familiar with honey understands its viscosity causes problems, these problems get exaggerated behind a busy bar or at home prove unenjoyable when you want to make a quick drink for your guests. Straight honey sticks to your mixing tin and often makes a mess when you just want to relax with your guests. To overcome this, we make a honey syrup in advance. This recipe uses a syrup consisting of one part, by weight, of the following: honey, caster sugar (granulated sugar is fine), and water brought together over heat, then cooled and moved to a container for fast mixing in your cocktail. It is important to keep in mind that different honey products possess varying flavor profiles, we don’t specify a particular brand in our recipe and encourage you to explore for yourself. Other recipes call for different syrup constructions, most commonly, half honey and half water. We prefer the added sweetness the extra sugar provides to balance against the strong tart flavor from the lemon juice in this recipe, but remember, the drink is yours to customize.
Many recipes online call for lavender syrups, essentially adding lavender into the syrup above during the brief cooking process. Since, in the majority of the world, lavender is a seasonal product we prefer to get the lavender flavor into the drink by using a lavender gin and through the use of lavender bitters. We also find the depth of the lavender flavor is much greater when infused into the alcohol rather than in the syrup and it is easier to control the aromas in alcohol over a syrup. Finally, a simple honey syrup offers more diversity of use than a lavender honey syrup, leading to less waste.
Garnish options for the Lavender Bee’s Knees also afford the opportunity for maximum creativity. Our recipe uses a simple lemon twist, however, others ramp the aroma up even further by adding sprigs of lavender, lavender buds, and even basil. We believe this is too much lavender, especially when using a lavender gin and lavender bitters, and it brings the cocktail out of balance and becomes a case of taking a good thing too far. On a final note, another interesting product to consider for a garnish is Dell Cove Spice Co.’s Lavender Rim Sugar. This product contains a nice combination of sweet and floral notes that keep the cocktail in balance but also adds a very cool hint of soft purple color that provides a really nice accent in this cocktail.
Lavender Bee's Knees Recipe
- Two silicone or glass bottles - one for the honey syrup, the other for the lemon juice
- Silicone spatula
- Fine mesh strainer
- Lemon squeezer
- Martini Glass
- Japanese style jigger
- Shaker/mixing tin
- Hawthorne strainer
- 2 lemons for juicing
- 2 oz Barren's Glendarragh Gin
- ½ oz Cointreau
- ½ oz rich honey syrup
- ¾ oz lemon juice
- 1 dash of saline
- 2 dashes of lavender bitters
The garnish, lemon juice & rich honey syrup
- Grab a peeler and peel off the rind from one lemon for garnish.
- Use the squeezer to press the juice out of lemons. Juice them above the silicone bottle with a funnel to avoid spills.
- The next step is to prepare the rich honey syrup using the equipment: the saucepan, silicone spatula, funnel, fine mesh strainer, and a silicone bottle. We describe the preparation procedure in the article above.
- Ice the Martini (cocktail) glass.
- Add gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, rich honey syrup, saline, and lavender bitters.
- Add a little more than one cup of ice into the shaker, and shake the cocktail for 10 seconds.
- Empty the ice from the chilled cocktail glass.
- Using the Hawthorne strainer, strain the cocktail into the glass. Garnish with a lemon peel and enjoy!