A Bartender’s Guide to the Perfect Bee’s Knees Cocktail

In the world of mixology, few cocktails possess the timeless allure and delightful complexity of the Bee’s Knees. This classic gin-based concoction, steeped in history, represents a harmonious blend of flavors— the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and herbal notes.

It all begins with the gin—the soul of the Bee’s Knees. High-quality gin, such as the Tom’s Town Barrel Aged Gin that we use in our Smoked Bee’s Knees at Q39, infuses the cocktail with richness and nuance through elaborate flavors and layers of botanicals.

In this mixologist’s guide, we embark on a mouth-watering expedition, exploring the essential elements of the Bee’s Knees cocktail. We’ll guide you to the hidden gems—distilleries that craft spirits with passion, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to excellence—all to craft the perfect Bee’s Knees experience.

What Makes a Perfect Bee’s Knees Cocktail?

At its essence, the Bee’s Knees is a celebration of balance. Its traditional recipe boasts gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup, each element carefully chosen for its role in the symphony of tastes. Q39’s Chef Philip Thompson’s Smoked Bee’s Knee’s recipe achieves an ideal equilibrium of ingredients that tantalizes your taste buds but also leaves a lasting impression on your cocktail repertoire:


  • 2 oz Tom’s Town Barrel Aged Gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz smoked thyme honey syrup
  • Sprig of thyme (garnish)
  • Grilled lemon (garnish)


  1. Rim a chilled cocktail glass with sugar.
  2. Add the gin, lemon juice and smoked thyme honey syrup into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
  3. Strain into the cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with a grilled lemon twist and thyme.

Freshness is paramount; using newly squeezed lemons elevates the cocktail to new heights. However, what sets apart an exceptional Bee’s Knees is the infusion of smoked honey with thyme—a technique that adds depth and personality. Compared to traditional honey, smoked honey with thyme introduces a captivating complexity. The smokiness adds a subtle earthy note, harmonizing beautifully with the herbal nature of thyme.
Chef Philip employs a unique process to create smoked honey, revolutionizing the cocktail concoction and introducing a dash of innovation to the guest’s experience.

Chef Philip’s Smoked Thyme Honey Recipe


  • Gather high-quality honey and fresh sprigs of thyme, placing them in a shallow dish.
  • Prepare a gentle, smoky fire using hickory logs.
  • Place the honey and thyme dish on a smoking rack, away from direct intense flames.
  • Let the infusion smoke for approximately 20 minutes, ensuring the smoke is not overly intense.
  • Remove the smoked honey and thyme from the smoker, allowing it to cool.
  • Once cooled, strain the honey and discard the thyme.
  • Transfer to an air-tight container and store in a cool, dark place to preserve freshness.

This unique infusion not only enhances the Bee’s Knees but also lends a delightful aroma, enticing the senses even before the first sip. The smoked honey transforms the cocktail into a sophisticated elixir, offering a nuanced sense to the discerning palate.

Best Local Gin Distillery for Cocktails

To craft an outstanding Bee’s Knees, the choice of gin is paramount. We recommend exploring local Kansas City distilleries like Tom’s Town, distillers committed to the artistry of craft spirits. Their meticulous attention to quality and craftsmanship results in a gin that perfectly complements the Bee’s Knees. For example, their barreled gin features warming notes of vanilla and oak, resulting in a robust gin infused with a touch of whiskey-inspired elegance.

There’s something inherently special about knowing the origins of the spirits in your glass, understanding the passion and dedication that goes into every bottle, every sip. Opting for local businesses ensures your cocktail is made not just with excellent ingredients and regional flavors, but also with the spirit of community and a dash of local pride.

And by supporting Kansas City distilleries, you not only enhance your drinking experience but also contribute to the local economy and celebrate the artistry in our own backyard.

Variations of the Bee’s Knees Cocktail

Innovation in mixology often stems from embracing the familiar and infusing it with a touch of novelty. The Bee’s Knees cocktail provides an excellent canvas for experimentation. Here, we explore delightful variations of the Bee’s Knees, each introducing a unique twist to this beloved classic.

Gin Variation:

Although a classic ingredient, the type of gin used can elevate tradition through its own distinct blend. With its diverse array of botanicals, Gin offers a rich array of aromas that can enhance the Bee’s Knees experience. From the juniper-driven classic London Dry to the exotic and floral New Western gins, each variation imparts a unique quality.

For those seeking a classic yet elevated Bee’s Knees, consider gins like Hendrick’s for its infusion of rose and cucumber or Lifted Spirit’s Bright Gin with its citrus-forward notes, adding an easy-sipping character ideal for cocktails.

Vodka Variation:

For those who prefer a subtler spirit, the vodka-based Bee’s Knees offers a refreshing alternative. Vodka, known for its neutral flavor profile, allows the other ingredients to shine brightly. The absence of gin’s botanical complexity brings forth a purer honey and citrus tone.

When crafting a vodka-based Bee’s Knees, explore premium vodkas like Belvedere or Ketel One, both renowned for their smoothness. Also, experiment with local alternatives like Duffy’s Run Vodka, produced by Restless Spirits. This vodka, distilled from Missouri corn, offers a buttery mouthfeel with a subtle hint of sweetness. These vodkas, when paired with the tartness of lemon and the richness of smoked honey, create a clean, crisp variation that’s perfect for those who enjoy a lighter touch.

Tequila Variation:

Embark on a bold and fiery journey with the tequila variation of the Bee’s Knees, uncovering an intriguing contrast to the cocktail’s sweetness.

Reposado tequila, such as Una Vida’s Reposado Tequila, undergoes a unique aging process in oak barrels, imparting warm, caramel undertones that meld beautifully with the honey syrup. Made with 100% Blue Weber Agave, Una Vida’s tequila brings a force of flavors, enhancing the cocktail’s intricate layers. Tequila’s inherent spiciness and earthy notes offer a delightful counterbalance to the citrus and sweetness, creating a Bee’s Knees variation that’s perfect for those with a taste for adventure.

In the realm of cocktails, the Bee’s Knees stands as a testament to the art of mixing. By understanding the composite interplay of gin, lemon, and honey, and embracing creative variations, you unlock a world of endless possibilities. As you embark on your Bee’s Knees adventure, remember the importance of quality ingredients, innovative techniques, and the spirit of exploration. Experiment with different gins and spirits, consider unique flavor infusions, and savor the journey of discovery.

Above all, let this guide inspire you to support local distilleries, valuing the craftsmanship and passion that go into every bottle. By celebrating the tasty tapestry of qualities offered by regional gins, you not only craft exceptional cocktails but also become an advocate for the flourishing world of craft spirits.

Try Our Bee’s Knees Cocktail Today!

When you visit Q39, take a peek at our drink menu, which offers this classic cocktail with a smoky twist, or try any of our other custom-crafted drinks made with Kansas City liquors.

So, raise your glass to the Bee’s Knees—a timeless classic made extraordinary through creativity, quality, and a touch of local magic. Cheers to your next unforgettable cocktail experience!

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