Blackberry Bee’s Knees

Well, I think spring decided to show its face around here. I say “think” because I will not be duped again (people give you seriously weird looks when you wear white crocs in the snow though I just realized whilst typing that it might have had more to do with the choice of shoe than the weather–they are comfortable and I will not apologize). Anyway, spring is 99% here and the sun is out and I just woke up from a two-hour nap so I’m feeling pretty great which is kind of the best time to make a drink and, luckily, I have one for you today.

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I was going for retro, French-y cocktail party when I brainstormed this little number. It’s very schmancy but also not super complicated which is what I look for in a cocktail recipe because I am no mixologist and I don’t know any mixologists either. Ready for my not-very-appropriate, sixth-grade-style presentation of this drink? I would have made a poster but I’ve suppressed the high-achieving nature of my younger self.

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Here goes: During American Prohibition, 1920-1933, a group of grumbly women and men that I would not want to party with decided that alcohol was bad for a bunch of different reasons and thus it was banned from being transported and sold. But, as the saying goes, desperation breeds ingenuity and so some people started making gin in bathtubs. As you could imagine the gin tasted like garbage (metaphorically but maybe literally) so you pretty much had to mix it with other strong flavors to mask the taste hence the creation of gin cocktails such as… the Bee’s Knees. This hugely popular prohibition cocktail used lemon and honey which, evidently, is delicious and, conveniently, gave it a super cute name.

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Lesson over, sorry for putting you through that. I wanted to mix up the original recipe a bit but I wasn’t about to try and reinvent the wheel which, if we’re being honest, would be kind of ridiculous for a cocktail which originally had three-ingredients one of which was made in a bathroom. I just wanted to give it a couple more notes of flavor and lighten it up with some fizz. So here’s what I did…

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I made a very easy, and oh-my-god-incredible-smelling blackberry honey simple syrup on the stove. It took five minutes and I will definitely be making a large jar this summer to put in all the liquids. I added a capful of St Germain liqueur, mainly because I had a little thing of it on hand. St. Germain is made with elderflowers so it’s very floral and very easy to overdo. I think the capful that I added imparted a little complexity to the drink plus I’m a sucker for pretty packaging and even the little bottle is gorgeous. I threw in freshly squeezed lemon juice and gin and finished off the drink with Perrier to give it a fancy fizz. See? Pretty easy, right?

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It was better than I thought it would be and I thought it would be pretty delicious. I felt I really understood the original cocktail; the honey and lemon honestly do cover up the gin in a way that I felt I could easily have way too many of these so bee careful (I’m not proud of myself). Also, the good thing is you don’t have to use super fancy gin because chances are it tastes better than if it were made in a bathtub.  If you want to make something for your next party that tastes deceptively impressive all while schooling your friends with some history (I’m clearly the life of the party) try this one out.

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Final Note: I served the drinks with little radish toasts to soak up all the booze. They’re inspired by the french goûter of radishes and butter but on baguette because carbs. It’s not so much of a recipe as assembly (ideal) so here’s how to do it. Mix chives with softened butter (try to use good quality european-style butter). Spread a thin layer atop sliced baguette, arrange thinly sliced radishes, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and more chives. (Only salt them at the last minute or the salt will draw the water out of the radishes). Bon appetit baby.

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Blackberry Bee's Knees

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Blackberry Honey Syrup (makes a small jarful, plenty for a batch of cocktails)

  • 1/2 c. good honey (I used clover honey)
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 10-12 blackberries

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium heat until it foams up and the blackberries have broken down (takes about 5 minutes). Strain out blackberries and leave to cool in a glass or jar.

Blackberry Bee’s Knees Cocktail (makes one drink so adjust as needed)

  • 1 shot glass of gin
  • 1 shot glass freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
  • 1/2-1 tsp. St. Germain elderflower liquer
  • 2 tbs. blackberry honey syrup
  • Perrier

Shake gin, lemon juice, St. Germain and honey syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a small cocktail glass and fill to the top with Perrier or other sparkling water. Garnish with two frozen blackberries and a lemon twist.

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