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pear + chamomile bee’s knees with cinnamon-honey syrup | with a vegan option

I’ve been meaning to share this floral, spring-inspired twist on the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail for several weeks now. Back in January, I made a batch of pear- and cinnamon-infused gin, and I forgot all about it, leaving it to hang out in my fridge before even straining it. I’ve been guilty of forgetting projects before. When I stumbled across my unlabeled jar the other day, I cracked the lid only to discover a hazy, unappetizing shade of brown and a way-too-concentrated flavor for the delicate, floral cocktail I had in mind.

So, I tossed that batch, moved on, and made another go of it. This time it was perfectly balanced in flavor and just the right shade of pale gold. I also labeled it and gave myself a pat on the back for doing so. My boyfriend {er, fiancé – I’m still not used to saying it!} gets so bothered with me because I never remember to label my concoctions. I always figure I’ll remember what’s inside the jars, but unless it’s a giveaway shade of strawberry pink, I don’t. Instead, we spend time opening unlabeled jars, smelling them, dotting and nosing small portions on our fingers, or going all-in and boldly giving the unknown liquid a sip.

Why do I rebel so much at taking the time to label something properly? I mean, all it takes is a piece of masking tape and a Sharpie. This time around, I won’t have to guess what’s in this particular jar, but I don’t think that this infusion will even make it that long. I’ve been mixing it with tonic or simply adding an ounce or so to a glass of bubbly.

So good.

pear + chamomile bee's knees with honey syrup | holly & flora

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the bee’s knees cocktail

The Bee’s Knees, served over ice with a splash of soda, garnished with a sprig of fresh thyme… #springinaglass

Well, hello, April!  How did you all of a sudden arrive on the scene?  I completely blame spring for my absence on the blog.  The volume, pace, color, intensity, bandwidth, frequency, and, well, the “crazy” factor have all increased over the past few weeks, and I just couldn’t set the time aside to document along the way.  Has the rush of spring been like that for you?

I have been bustling away in the garden to make sure that the gardening season is set for us.  Steve and I started our seeds indoors for the tomatoes, peppers, and herbs.  We built a two-section compost bin.  We sowed the cool season crops in succession.  And then I wrote about it here, here, and here.  As if that weren’t enough, I painstakingly planned out the entire growing season and mapped out a planting calendar.  I feel confident we did as much as we could, and I am definitely feeling a little obsessive right about now!  And maybe a bit thirsty…

I have also been temporarily trading in my cozy and savory bourbon cocktails for some bright, aromatic, refreshing gin-based libations.  Gin is my absolute favorite spirit to mix or just enjoy on its own, and one of the best ones out there is the Botanist.  It hails from the island of Islay, Scotland, and is bursting with floral notes.  I was crestfallen, when it was temporarily unavailable on the shelves at my local spirits shop, so when it returned, it was only logical to swipe up a few – one for cocktails and the other two for a barrel-aging project I’ve been working on.

My favorite springtime gin? The Botanist. Floral, balanced, and complex. It’s stellar for a simple gin and soda.

Have you ever tried a Bee’s Knees cocktail?  Its bright, honeyed notes are perfect for sipping on a spring afternoon in the garden.  This Prohibition-era cocktail has made quite the comeback, since its humble beginnings as a means to cover up undesirable characteristics of the “bathtub gins” of the 1920s.  I always envision Carol Burnett’s classic portrayal of Miss Hannigan in “Annie,” when I hear the words, “bathtub gin”.  Remember the scene, where she belts out the song, “Little Girls,” while lazily stirring gin into her tub?  I am sure I am not alone here, but just to refresh your memory, watch this.

Choose great quality honey to make the most flavorful honey syrup. I had some leftover honey from a recent trip to California. It was a $10 splurge and was the only honey I had on hand, so it was a little over-the-top this time!

Along with their Honey Chamomile, DRAM’s Hair-of-the-Dog and Wild Mountain Sage bitters are staples in my kitchen.

The Bee’s Knees Cocktail

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounces honey syrup
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • dash of DRAM Honey Chamomile bitters {optional}
  • spring of thyme for garnish {optional}

First, prepare the honey syrup.  It is easier to make than you’d think.  Place equal parts honey and water in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until dissolved.  For two or three drinks, I used 1/2 cup of honey and 1/2 cup of water, and the amount was perfect.  Set the honey syrup aside on your countertop to cool.

When you are ready to make the cocktail, build ice in a shaker tin and add the gin, honey syrup, lemon juice, and bitters.  Shake well and pour into a glass.  I still need to get some great coupes, so I used a short martini glass. For a fun variation on the classic preparation, serve this same cocktail over ice and top with soda water.  You still get to enjoy the intensity of the honey and lemon, along with bubbles and less of a bite.

A few tips?  Never settle for anything other than freshly squeezed lemon juice.  It makes all the difference in the world in a great cocktail.  Quality spirits make quality drinks.  You don’t have to go overboard with your spending, but do try to catch quality spirits on sale and stock up.  I have especially enjoyed using DRAM Apothecary’s bitters to bring balance or a burst of flavor in my cocktails.  Their Honey Chamomile bitters are excellent dashed in hot tea, as well.  Then again, you can always craft your own.

The Buzz on the Bee’s Knees Elsewhere

  • Lavender Bee’s Knees from Epicurious – Lavender pairs perfectly with the flavors of honey and lemon.  I’ll be making one of these soon.
  • PUNCH Drink‘s spin on the Bee’s Knees – A different ratio than mine, but still delicious.  They always nail their cocktails.
  • The Bee’s Knees by Post Prohibition – Their well-organized and informative site will stir your creativity even further, but their Bee’s Knees cocktail is a great place to start!

I am closing with some photos from late March and early April.  Steve helped me celebrate a lovely birthday in late March.  I’ll include some Instagrams in the collage and add some captures from the early April backyard garden.  I’d L-O-V-E to hear about any spring-inspired or gin cocktails you are making.  Have a spectacular Thursday!

Part of the deal with living in Colorado: dealing with the snows one day and 70-degree, sunny weather the next. I salvaged these daffodils by covering them with a bucket. What we do for our treasured flowers! ;-)

Part of the deal with living in Colorado: dealing with the snows one day and 70-degree, sunny weather the next. I salvaged these daffodils by covering them with a bucket. What we do for our treasured flowers! 😉

This portion of the garden will transform over the next few months.  I am so excited to add more wine barrels to use with pepper, tomatoes, and beans.

This portion of the garden will transform over the next few months. I am so excited to add more wine barrels to use with pepper, tomatoes, and beans.

My workstation! Ha! A nice pour of Miner Chardonnay, and I am good to design any garden!

Sunning the seeds. Making the donuts.

Our two-bin compost system. We built it ourselves, using mostly materials we already had in our barn. I seriously get happy just bringing out scraps to toss in!

Finishing the compost bin plans! Some serious air here…

Black Krims, Romas, Brandywines, Sun Golds, Sweet Cherries, and German Johnsons.

Taking a well-deserved break after building the compost bin, Steve enjoys a Bee’s Knees cocktail.