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Sips

When it’s hot, buckle and make a Bee’s Knees

A Bee's Knees cocktail
A Bee's Knees cocktail (Liza Weisstuch for the Boston Globe)

On days so hot that I become certain that brick buildings are melting before my eyes, my brain dissolves into a puddle. I walk the streets in a daze, overcome with deep, peculiar thoughts: Is the opposite of chocolate ice cream chocolate milk or vanilla ice cream? Is the opposite of a hamburger a veggie burger or a cheeseburger? Is the opposite of a hot toddy a cold toddy or a Bee’s Knees? And then that makes me think a drink might help my wretched state.

The opposite of a honey-sweetened hot toddy is, in fact, the equally honey-heightened Bee’s Knees. Its zippy chill is the converse of the toddy’s tranquil warmth; its crisp, zingy gin base is the antitheses of the soothing, embracing whiskey.

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These days, the term “Prohibition-era” is tossed around so loosely in reference to old-timey cocktails that it’s become something of a blanket statement for any drink developed in the first half of the 20th century. The Bee’s Knees, however, is a true Prohibition-era drink, a simple one, as necessity dictated. It employs lemon and honey for one purpose: to conceal the dreadful taste of bathtub gin. It takes its name, in fact, from the Jazz Age slang for “excellent” or “sweet.” (Get it? Bees, honey, sweet.)

No masking agent is necessary in today’s golden age of spirits production, but the drink endures. A three-ingredient cocktail as simple — and delicious — as this one, after all, can never go out of style. Especially in the summertime. Its chill, which ushers in a muted botanical kick, is the opposite of the sizzling heat and in this case, opposites certainly attract.

BEE’S KNEES

Makes 1 drink

2 ounces gin

¾ ounce honey syrup (to make syrup: in a small saucepan over low heat, heat equal parts honey and water. Stir until integrated.)

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½ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 lemon peel, to garnish

1 ice rock (optional)

1. Pour all ingredients into a shaker over ice. Shake vigorously about 10 seconds.

2. Strain into chilled coupe. (Ice rock optional.) Garnish with a lemon peel.

Adapted from The Standard Bartender’s Guide, by Patrick Gavin Duffy


Liza Weisstuch can be reached at liza.weisstuch@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @livingtheproof.