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The A–Z of Gin Cocktails: B is for…Bee’s Knees

The Bee’s Knees cocktail is something that has cropped up frequently on Gin Magazine over the years, especially because of the wonderful annual celebration Bee’s Knees Week, launched by Caledonia Spirits a few years ago.

It’s a cocktail that includes gin, lemon juice and honey, with the latter ingredient of course the explanation behind the name Bee’s Knees. But besides its link the adorable black and yellow winged insect, what exactly is the history behind the cocktail, and where did it all start?

The cocktail is thought to have been concieved during the prohibition era in the United States. Gin was such a popular beverage during this era because of how simple and inexpensive it was to produce at home, which in turn coined the phrase bathtub gin.

With so much gin to experiment with at home, especially flavours and cocktails, honey was a no-brainer to give the alcohol a much sweeter taste to combat the bitterness.

The exact “inventor” of the cocktail has been impossible to pin point for certain, but the most popular theory is that its creator was “The Unsinkable” Margaret Brown, earning her nickname after surviving the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Brown and her posthumous nickname became such a culturual icon in the years following, with a film titled The Unsinkable Molly Brown even released in 1964. Debbie Reynolds starred as Brown and even earned an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal in a fictionalized retelling.

Brown is believed to have been a keen drinker of the cocktail when visiting bars across both the United States and Europe, but it’s unclear whether she merely popularized the mixed spirit as opposed to actually coming up with the ingredients and method herself. Others would argue that its likely to have been created by a bartender, with its recipe spreading by word-of-mouth across the world until eventually the likes of Brown were made aware of it, but not much is documented on the subject.

What we do know, however, is the cocktail’s positive impact made today. Not only is it a delicious cocktail, but the aforementioned Bee’s Knees Week from Caledonian Spirits is having a hugely positive impact on the environment and the bee world. Throughout the celebrated week, for every photo of the cocktail shared on social media, the company planted 10 squared feet of bee habitat.

Whether it was indeed “The Unsinkable” Brown or a skilled bartender that invented the cocktail, its positive and lasting impact on both the bee and gin communities would undoubtedly come as a surprise to them.

For those that haven’t yet tried this cocktail, it’s a must. With the contrasting alcoholic bitterness with the sweetness of honey, it really is the bee’s knees.

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