The honey-sweetened Honey Bee cocktail is the rum variant of the Prohibition-era Bee’s Knees.

The Honey Bee is built on the standard rum sour model, but is markedly different from, say, the Daiquiri. Clearly, there is a lot of room for adjusting flavors in even the simplest of drinks.

The sweet-sour aspect of the Honey Bee is the honey-lemon combination we’ve tasted in the Bee’s Knees; this is a very different flavor from the Daiquiri’s cane sugar and lime—more floral and herbal, perhaps even more earthy, and with a bit sharper sour note from the lemon.

Compared to the gin-based Bee’s Knees, the rum-based Honey Bee is much more forgiving of aggressive honey flavors. Rum seems to have a great affinity for honey, which makes the Honey Bee very easy to balance. And it has a lush complexity that I find more interesting than the more compartmentalized flavors of the Bee’s Knees.

The Honey Bee, photo © 2013 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Honey Bee
The Honey Bee

  • 2 oz rum (Plantation 3 Star, El Dorado 12 Demerara)
  • ¾ oz 1:1 honey syrup
  • ½ oz fresh lemon juice

Shake all ingredients with ice until cold; strain into a chilled cocktail stem. Optionally, garnish with a lemon twist.

The Honey Bee is historically made with white rum, like Plantation, though at least one source (Embury, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks) claims that it’s made with dark Jamaican, and that the white rum version is rightfully called the “Honeysuckle.” I haven’t found other sources that make that distinction, but I’m happy to use it as evidence that there’s plenty of wiggle room in the matter of rum selection.

For example: the current favorite version of the Honey Bee at our house calls for Demerara rum, in preference to white rums. El Dorado 12 seems to have taken over our Daiquiris, and it turns out to make an excellent Honey Bee, too. It seems to blend well with our regional clover and prairie honeys.

The Daiquiri analogy led me to experiment with lime juice in the Honey Bee. It works great. In fact, if you add some champagne, you’ll have the Airmail.

The Airmail Cocktail

  • 2 oz rum (Plantation 3 Star)
  • ¾ oz 1:1 honey syrup
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • 5 oz champagne

Shake first three ingredients with ice until cold; pour unstrained into a tumbler or cocktail glass. Top up with champagne. 

But that’s getting a bit far afield from the Honey Bee and its classic lemon and honey pairing. The lemon and honey is an interesting combination, and an excellent alternative to the sugar and lime so commonly paired with rum. It’s well worth exploring.