Recently I posted the recipe for The Apothecary, a cocktail using blood orange juice, but recently I was tinkering with blood oranges and came up with something a little different. I discovered some nasturtium blossoms in my backyard, which put me in the mind of a Bee’s Knees, a Prohibition-era cocktail that I first came across in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Making Drinks, one of my favorite cocktail books, first published in 1948. His recipe calls for honey, lemon juice, and gin, with the optional addition of orange juice. He also mentions this drink in the introduction to the book, which I adore for its delightfully snarky tone:
During prohibition the overwhelming majority of available liquor consisted of bathtub gin and Scotch…. So unutterably vile were these synthetic concoctions that the primary object in mixing a cocktail became the addition of a sufficient amount of sweetened, highly flavored, and otherwise emollient and anti-emetic ingredients (cream, honey, Karo, canned fruit juices, etc.) to make it reasonably possible to swallow the resultant concoction and at the same time to retain a sufficient content of renatured alcohol to insure ultimate inebriety. Just how much dilution of the “gin”-bottle contents might be necessary to accomplish this supposed salutary result depended largely on the intestinal fortitude and espohageal callosity of the particular individual involved…Small wonder, then, that this period gave birth to such pernicious recipes as the Alexander—equal parts of gin, crème de cacao, and sweet cream [and] the Bee’s Knees—equal parts of gin, lemon juice, and honey; and so on ad nauseam.
I happen to find the Bee’s Knees not at all “pernicious,” and I’d say that this simple variation of mine using blood oranges and orange bitters is downright delicious.
Blood Orange Bee’s Knees
2 ounces gin (I used Hendrick’s)
1 ounce blood orange juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup (1 part honey dissolved in 1 part warm water)
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
Edible flower for garnish
Combine all the ingredients except the flower in a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the flower.