Guys, I am so excited. This week I am hosting my first ever giveaway on Garnish! The fine folks at Muddle & Stir and Black Cloud Bitters are offering one lucky reader a Black Cloud Bitters Sampler Pack. This pack comes with a 1-oz. bottles of each of Black Cloud's five artisan bitters: Charred Cedar, Saffron Mango, Garden Party, Black & Blue, and Prairie Rose. Scroll down for your chance to enter and win!
If you've been reading the blog the last few months, you know that I'm pretty obsessed with the five fantastic varieties of bitters in this pack. I used the Black & Blue in my Ginger Sage Smash, the Saffron Mango in the Bombay Sour, the Garden Party in the Green Thumb, and the Charred Cedar in the Hotel Belvedere. Today I'm making use of the Prairie Rose as a nice addition to a classic cocktail - the Bee's Knees.
The Bee's Knees is a prohibition-era cocktail with a very simple recipe - gin, lemon, and honey. It's like lovely, boozy lemonade. The Death & Co cocktail book, which does a great job of sprucing up the classics, adds lavender bitters to their recipe, and I thought the Prairie Rose bitters would be even better. Made with rose petals, rose hips, and other berries and botanicals, these floral bitters are perfect in this cocktail. If you don't have a bottle, don't despair - head below for your chance to win all five of Black Cloud's wonderful bitters!
History: The Bee's Knees is prohibition-era cocktail, named after a slang term meaning "the best." Calling something the "bee's knees" actually goes back to the 1800's, when the phrase was used to refer to something small and insignificant. But in the 1920's, there was a bit of a fad going on in which something great would be described as an [animal]'s [body part]: "the snake's hip," "the ant's pants," or "the eel's ankle." Another one that survives today is "the cat's pajamas." Even though it once referred to something insignificant, "the bee's knees" was quickly absorbed into this fad.
The earliest the Bee's Knees appears in print is in the 1934 edition of William "Cocktail" Boothby's The World's Drinks and How to Mix 'Em; that version is 1/2 jigger of gin and 1 spoon apiece of lemon, orange, and honey. But most people credit Frank Meier, a bartender at the Ritz in Paris, with creating the cocktail. He included it in his 1936 book The Artistry of Mixing Drinks. Meier was hands-down one of the coolest bartenders I've ever heard of. He tended bar during the Nazi occupation of Paris and used his position to help the resistance by passing along messages and forging passports for Jewish citizens. He was even involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler. I don't know about you, but I'd watch the heck out of a movie about Frank Meier.
The use of honey instead of sugar or simple syrup in the Bee's Knees is unusual, and it's often speculated that this was a response to one of the less glamorous aspects of prohibition - the ubiquity of bad-tasting bathtub gin. The strong taste of the honey may have been included in this cocktail to help cover up the flavor. However, if Meier created the cocktail in Paris, getting good gin wouldn't have been a problem, and this explanation becomes a bit questionable. Maybe he just realized that the honey tasted really darn good.
The recipe for the Bee's Knees is below! But first, sign up for your chance to win a sampler pack of Black Cloud Bitters from Muddle & Stir! The giveaway will run until midnight EST on Sunday, February 26th, and I'll contact the winner on Monday. You can get additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway as often as once a day!
Black Cloud Bitters Giveaway
Bee's Knees2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey simple syrup*
1 dash Black Cloud Prairie Rose Bitters (optional)
Combine gin, lemon juice, honey syrup, and bitters (if desired) in a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a coupe. Garnish with dried roses, fresh lavender, or a brandied cherry.
*For honey simple syrup, combine equal parts honey and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, until honey is dissolved. Let cool before use.
Recipe adapted from Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails and The PDT Cocktail Book.
Historical information on the Bee's Knees came largely from Paste Magazine and JustCocktails.org.