Bee’s Knees Cocktail

While doing research for Drinking French, I was on the prowl to find a substitute for Amer Picon, the classic apéritif from France that’s not available in the U.S. While I found some alternatives that were available in America (which I listed in the book) my very favorite was Sepia Amer, made by Audemus Spirits in France. (h/t to Josh of Paris Wine Company for the intro.)

As someone who ran out of organic crunchy peanut butter recently, and can’t watch Schitt’s Creek, I share your pain at not being about to get something you want where you live. But if you come to France, or live in a country that does carry their spirits, such as France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and others, I recommend you pick up a bottle or two.

You may not be able to get their fine spirits everywhere, including their lively Pink Pepper gin that I used, but you can certainly recreate this refreshing Bee’s Knees cocktail at home. It’s a prohibition-era cocktail, so if they could make it back then which what they could get, then I hope you can too.

David A. Embury says in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks that it’s probable that honey was added in the creation of the drink at the time to improve the taste of bathtub gin. Fortunately gin these days is a lot better and in France, gin has become an art form with lots of people making, and discovering, gin. Audemus has done an admirable job with their Pink Pepper gin, which I’m happy to add to my liquor shelf next to my treasured bottle of Sepia Amer.

I don’t love sweet cocktails but if you’re concerned about the honey in this one, don’t worry; this buzzy cocktail definitely falls on the sour side.

Bee's Knees Cocktail
Print Recipe
1 cocktail
From Audemus Spirits I made a 1:1 honey syrup, mixing a tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of very hot water, stirring them together, and letting it cool. The Audemus team uses 2:1 (2 parts honey) and they like to use their Covert liqueur, which is made with fig leaves, honey, and Cognac. It depends on which liqueur you go with, of course, but if you want a sweeter cocktail, you can use their 2:1 proportions. (Also you can play around with different types of honey, from rugged buckwheat or wildflower, to mild clover.) If you don't have Covert liqueur, as I don't, they recommend using another favorite liqueur, such as amaretto, orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Triple sec), liqueur de noyau (made from apricot kernels, which you can buy in France or make from my recipe in Drinking French), or another favorite liqueur.
2 ounces gin, preferably Pink Pepper gin
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup (see headnote)
1/2 ounce Covert, amaretto, or another liqueur (see headnote)
lemon twist, garnish
1. Add the gin, lemon juice, honey syrup, and liqueur to a cocktail shaker. Fill two-thirds with ice and shake vigorously until well-chilled, about 15 seconds.
2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with lemon twist.
Bee\'s Knees Cocktail

6 comments

  • Jasmine
    May 22, 2020 11:12pm

    David, how can there be no comments on this lovely drink? Just curious about a certain unusual gin I just purchased- Monkey 47. Have you tried it?

    Also, I find that drinks with lemon are a bit too sour. Do you have any suggestions or simply cut back?

    Thank you for enriching our days during this strange time. We love living vicariously through you! Reply

    • May 23, 2020 9:34am
      David Lebovitz

      People were commenting but they were going into a “Pending” folder for some reason, in my blog platform. I fixed that so now they’ll be published and visible on the blog. : )

      At Audemus they use a 3:1 honey syrup, with three parts honey to one part hot water, so you could try that (or 2:1.) I tend to like more tart cocktail so I cut the back but you could dial it up! Reply

  • Anna the Bonne Viveuse
    May 23, 2020 5:31pm

    Made it. Loved it. Making it again. So simple, and delicious. Can’t wait to come back to France to get a bottle of Covert. Reply

  • Sezy G
    May 23, 2020 10:11pm

    Love the Bee’s Knees – served it to a guest and she loves it now too. It will be in heavy summer rotation I think. All things gin…. Reply

  • Andrew
    June 14, 2020 11:26pm

    Loved it….used St. Germain which has a touch of acid along with sweetness, plus the floral quality nicely added to the honey notes. Reply

  • ab
    June 19, 2020 6:27am

    I’ve had a bee’s knees with Mike’s Hot Honey! Reply

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