The Bee's Knees Cocktail

My love of cocktails comes from the same place as my love of cooking. I find the idea of taking ingredients and creating something special, something personalized, to be fun, exciting, and extremely rewarding.

It is far different than my love of wine. Wine is all about context. I want to know about the grapes, where they were planted, how they were handled, what the weather was like, what the soil was like, how the winemaker treated them to create the bottle or the glass in front of me.  Wine is all about the appreciation of someone else's craft.

Now cocktails fall into another realm. I can appreciate the craft or a master bartender or mixologist, much like going to a fine restaurant, but the greatest pleasure I know, is in taking a cocktail recipe and personalizing it. Taking the craft and making it my own.

I have this love, okay obsession, with gin. All the new craft gins out there, using every botanical under the sun, make me giddy with excitement. And when it comes to cocktails, my greatest joy is matching the classic cocktail to its perfect base spirit. Enter Carr Hill Gin.

I picked up this bottle around Christmas time. It came highly recommended at a liquor store I was visiting so I thought I'd give it a try.

The first drink I make when taste-testing a new gin is the classic Gin & Tonic. Drinking gin straight may be great for some, but I tried it once and I must say, it isn't for me. I find the hint of sweet and bitter from tonic water allows me to get a sense of the gin I'm tasting, but in context. I've had dozens (by now, probably hundreds) of gin and tonics. And while many gins aren't best used in this application, it is always my starting point.

Upon first sip, I knew the G&T was not the drink to highlight Barr Hill. The floral and juniper notes sang with a hint of honey in the backbone. Barr Hill gin screamed out to be used in the classic Bee's Knees cocktail.

The Bee's Knees is a simple cocktail, utilizing only three ingredients (gin, honey syrup, lemon juice) and super tasty. Jim Meehan in the PDT Cocktail Book recommends Plymouth Gin. Plymouth is clean, but in a Bee's Knees, Barr Hill is better. The hint of honey in the gin plays beautifully with the honey in the drink and you get a cocktail that is light and refreshing and far greater than the sum of its parts. I tend to go a little heavy on the lemon juice in my drink, I like the zing, and for this drink, I simply shake equal parts honey and water in a mason jar until the honey is dissolved. Meehan's recipe for honey syrup involves cooking over moderate heat 2 parts honey (by volume) to 1 part water. Using the Barr Hill gin, I found that made the drink too sweet.

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

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