Hanukkah Cocktail: The Bees Knees

The Bees Knees.

The Bees Knees.

Since Hanukkah is the “Bees Knees” of holidays (“dude, eight nights of presents, not just one”), we figured it’s time for a celebratory cocktail. And the Bees Knees not only tastes good, you can make a kosher version of the cocktail….really. In all seriousness, we do have some Jewish heritage in the family and we host an annual Hanukkah dinner with homemade latkes, jelly donuts and now, this cocktail. And the Bees Knees does fit the Hanukkah theme.

bees1bees3At first, we looked for Hanukkah cocktail themes and it was a challenge. It is a festival of lights (not that helpful, flaming tiki drinks?) and oil is a main theme (there are a few cocktails with oil, but we aren’t going there), but happily the promised land is “the land of milk and honey” so we found a theme to build from. And as it turns out, raw honey is kosher, and we have plenty of raw Putney Farm honey. Even better, you can get kosher gin from the No. 209, a San Francisco based distillery (we used Bluecoat gin in this post, but will have the No. 209 at Hanukkah dinner). And it looks like fresh lemons are kosher, and we have plenty of Meyer lemons. Hmmm…

bees4bees5Well, guess what? You just read the recipe for a Bees Knees cocktail. The Bees Knees combines dry gin, lemon juice and honey syrup (1 to 1 very hot water and honey) and isΒ served up or on the rocks. Created in the prohibition era, the Bees Knees is easy to make and very tasty. And if you prefer rum, a light rum version makes a Honeysuckle, a dark rum version makes a Honey Bee. Add some champagne to the Honeysuckle and you get an Airmail. If you use rye or bourbon you get a Daisy Black. So you do get four or five drinks out of the deal (it’s not eight, but five cocktails from one basic recipe isn’t too shabby).

bees6While almost all cocktail writers have positive feelings about the Bees Knees, many describe it as “inoffensive”. But we will take some issue with that. If you use basic store-bought clover or orange blossom honey, the flavors are pretty light. But if you use raw “forest” or wildflower honey in the Bees Knees you get much deeper herbal and bitter notes. Putney Farm honey is a forest honey made mostly from wildflowers and herb blossoms, it has some herbal and minty notes with a slightly bitter and piney finish. Good stuff, and perfect with a dry earthy gin. Along with the sweet acidity of the Meyer lemons, the herbal notes of gin and forest honey make for a very substantial cocktail with layers of flavor. So we suggest you get some raw honey from a farmers market and then try the Bees Knees, it won’t be simply “inoffensive”, it will be a special cocktail and a fitting celebration of Hanukkah.

The Bees Knees:


  • 2 oz. dry gin (No.209 kosher, if you like)
  • 1/2 oz. honey syrup* (a bit more if using Eureka lemons, rather than sweeter Meyers)
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wheel, for garnish


  1. Combine the gin, honey syrup and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, coupΓ© or flute. Garnish with the lemon wheel. Serve.

* To make honey syrup combine equal parts honey and very hot water in a sealable container. Shake until combines. Stores in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

102 thoughts on “Hanukkah Cocktail: The Bees Knees

  1. I love Bees Knees. For some reason I never make it at home, but often order it when we are out. One of my favorite restaurants makes a variation with thyme-infused honey syrup and fresh thyme sprigs and it is lovely. I wish I could taste it with Putney Farm honey!!

    • Thanks. If you infuse the money with thyme and a bit of lavender and a tiny bit of mint it would be close to our honey (at lest this year’s batch). But raw, local honey does make for a much better drink…

  2. Thanks for acknowledging the ‘other’ religion! When I lived in Manhattan, this was never a problem, but here in NorCal, there is always a bit of confusion. One year I went to Safeway on Passover for a box of matzoh…many dazed and confused looks, announcements made over the P.A., questions asked, until finally they handed me some Carr’s Wafers.

    My husband and I (neither blessed with the smallest noses on the planet) have been wished a Merry Christmas about a dozen times today…so thanks for this Chhhappy Chanukah treat!

    Will try one pre-latkes tonight! Hendricks, o’course. πŸ˜‰

  3. I tried a Bees Knees last night and it was delish! I used my orange blossom honey (forgot to make it into syrup…just swished it around until it melted), regular ole’ lemon & Hendricks. My latkes were terrible (I can not be trusted with the latke making) but my Bees Knees was a hit!

  4. That looks great! I’ve been a fan of honey cocktails for a long time; and this is an amazing one! For additional variety: you could look in to using the honey from specific flowers. I’m using a blueberry flower honey for my teas right now, and the added flavor is amazing!

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  6. I have never had raw honey or dry gin, so I am intrigued! Your description makes it sound delicious and I love the fact that you are able to get five drinks out of one basic recipe.

  7. I’m always looking for signature cocktails and this sounds great. Personally, my style is the one with whiskey. I also agree, fresh ingredients always make for a better taste!

  8. This is awesome, thanks for sharing. I’m gonna have to try this cocktail, and yeah, the milk-and-honey theme would pair this cocktail well with the awesome dairy and cheese offerings that Israel is famous for.

  9. I love this recipe! I’ve never heard of a Bee’s Knees before, but anything using local raw honey and fresh lemon counts as health food this time of year, right? I’ve tried experimenting with cocktails made from ingredients foraged from the back yard. I post the more successful ones. I definitely plan to add some of our lavender to infuse the honey before making the syrup.
    BTW, with a menu featuring gin, latkes and donuts, my husband just might drop by your house this week πŸ™‚
    Regards from the other Bay Bridge,

    • Thanks! You are onto something- there are versions of the Bees Knees with lavender infused honey. They are supposed to be great (we may also try it). Lavender, lemon and honey are a perfectt flavor combination. If you get the right gin it would rock…

      • After much experimentation in the name of science, I’ve discovered that my favorite is Hendrick’s, but I know that it has a garden-fresh taste that is not for everyone. I think the cucumber and rose would be lovely with the lavender, though. Alas…The price keeps that a ‘special occasion’ bottle. I was surprised to find New Amsterdam, which is really affordable, but also quite smooth. I may have to toast you later this evening, since I just happen to have raw honey, lemons, and lavender on hand. The planets must be aligned today.

      • Hope you enjoyed it! We like the Hendricks in a lot of drinks, the cucumber and rose petal (and less juniper) is a welcome change…Nolet’s is similar, but very pricey.

        New Amsterdam also good- Brokers also very tasty and $20…

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  11. Having just begun my love affair with mixology there’s a lot I’ve yet to learn… and having not considered using honey to flavour drinks (other than tea when I have a cold!) this has got me quite excited! I shall be trying this in the next few days for sure! Thanks!

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  14. Great post! This drink looks and sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing and congrats on being on Freshly Pressed!

    Everyone feel free to check out my blog! All follows, likes, comments, and views are all appreciated! πŸ™‚

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