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 It’s the bees knees, see?

The Bee's Knees is a cocktail comprised of lemon, honey, and gin. It does exist somewhere in the vast library of classic cocktails although I’d be lying if I claimed to know any additional context and, for the purposes of this column, it really doesn’t matter. No, what I want to focus on is process. How do I go about making a drink that I don’t know how to make? Stream-of-consciousness .. go!

Round 1

1 Part Lemon Juice
1 Part Honey Syrup (see my previous column)
4 Parts Gin

This is my foundational daiquiri recipe with the appropriate stuff subbed in — equal parts sweet and tart, twice as much booze as mixers. Gotta start somewhere, and I think the point of this drink is to balance all the flavors (like in a daiquiri or gin sour), with the caveat that the honey should bring a lot more dimension than plain old simple syrup. One should consider the point of the drink he is mixing and applying to his scenario — a central theme of this column, for anyone just tuning in.

I make this with 1/4 ounce parts and swirl it with a single ice cube for a few seconds to chill and dilute, then strain. Don’t want to be wasteful (or drunk, at this point).

NOTES: Hot (which is to say alcohol burn-y) and tart. Needs more sweet, less booze.

Round 2

1 Part Lemon Juice
2 Part Honey Syrup
3 Parts Gin

NOTES: Well, the honey really shows up. Too much really — this drink is noticeably thicker. This may resolve itself when I make more than a shot-glass-full. The gin and the honey are not harmonizing as well as I’d think. I’m using Tanqueray, and I wish I had something milder — I do not. Bitters, then. Bitters can be like salt, helping flavors blend. Time to scale up; I think we’re in the ballpark at least.

Round 3

1 Part Lemon Juice
2 Part Honey Syrup
3 Parts Gin
5 Drops Bitters

Why five drops? Fibonacci. Plus, a full dash seems like way too much; I’m using 1/2 ounce parts. I grab Fee Brothers Bitters because it’s chilly outside and, I don’t know, I want something that will reign in the Tanqueray a little. I give it a proper shaking — I don’t want to risk poor dilution over-intensifying the flavors.

NOTES: Well, okay. We are definitely still a little sweet at scale and, while I like this honey (I really do… a lot), this isn’t ringing as a light, drinkable cocktail but more of a heat-it-up and sip it on a cold winter’s eve kind of thing. I make a mental note to revisit this idea on a cold winter’s eve. Also, the Fee Bros. is too much. While everything in here is kind of harmonizing like botanical cousins, it’s not reining in the gin so much as it’s beating it up and taking its toys. Something milder. Orange bitts, or Peychaud’s. Ango will probably work, but I want to showcase the delicate floral thing this honey has going on.

Also, I am running out of gin. Gotta nail it this time.

Round 4

1 Part Lemon Juice
1.5 Parts Honey Syrup
3 Parts Gin
Peychaud’s Bitts (let’s say 1 dash for 3/4 oz parts, it's mild — don’t overthink it)

NOTES: This tastes fairly delicate, the gin isn’t sticking out, I can’t even tell the bitters are there, and I am getting the floral sensation of the honey and enough sweetness to balance the tart lemon without a thick drink. It’s still a little honey-forward but I really like this honey. I’m not sure why, but as drink volume increases less sweet is needed (probably a tastebud thing) so I note to try this with equal parts honey syrup and lemon juice next time if I want better balance. Today, I do not.

So that’s the ballgame. I can always tinker with it more later, but I have everything I need now to make a good drink. I write it down on an index card and stick it in the recipe box. Why a recipe box? Because the Midwestern-housewife imagery of a wooden recipe box filled with index cards of cocktail recipes cracks me up. I am from the Midwest, after all. Plus, an index card wedges nicely into the molding on the cabinet door above the counter where I make drinks.

The sun never sets on thoughtful design.

Drink Well.

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