Spring is in full bloom.
Bees are pollinating the flowers and making honey, but their population is becoming endangered due to neonicotinoid pesticides. People are beginning to be more aware of this issue and are taking steps to battle it. Celebrities Morgan Freeman and Flea have their own bee farms and even LA bartender Donna Alvarez has become a bee keeper to counteract the problem.
A wonderful result of the bees replenishing is a surplus of honey. What better way to use honey than in cocktails? It makes an excellent sweet element and balanced with fresh lemon it’s bliss. Many mixologists know that the most famous cocktail with honey is The Bee’s Knees. Juniper berry and other botanicals in gin lend themselves to honey’s herbal nuances. The connection from honey to bees is surely how the prohibition-era drink received its moniker, but the term in the 1920’s was also hipster language for “the best!” Intriguingly, bees do have “knees” known as the “pollen basket”. This part of their hind legs is utilized exactly for that.
Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur uses premium honey in every bottle. Hunters have been mixing honey into this delicious liqueur since the 1700’s to lure bears from their caves. You may be thinking “Why would they go to all the trouble of making a liqueur when they could simply use the honey?” The original name was Bärenfang (bear trap) and was a favorite drink of the hunters most likely to give them enough courage to hunt the bears in the first place, ha.
Here is a modern version of the classic enlivened by adding a touch of heat from a Fresno chili and body from agua faba, better known as chickpea water. Garbanzo bean water fluffs more readily than egg whites and is vegan.
Bee’s Knees 2019
By Josh Curtis
- 5 oz London Dry Gin
- .5 oz Fresno Chili Infused Gin*
- .75 oz Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
- .75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
- .75 oz Agua Faba (Garbanzo Bean Water)
Cut chilies into quarters to fit into a bottle of your favorite gin. Approximately 1/3rd of the bottle will need to be displaced so the peppers fit. Using disposable vinyl gloves, remove the chilies with a fine strainer after two days.
Preparation: Pour all the liquids into the small half of a shaker tin. Dry shake without ice to emulsify the ingredients. Add ice and shake for five seconds to avoid over-dilution. Hawthorne and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass. Zest the top with a lemon peel.
Meet Josh Curtis
Chilled 100 Member, Los Angeles
Josh is one of L.A.’s premiere bartenders whose launchpad was Rod Dyer’s Pane e Vino (Zagat Guide’s “Best Patio in L.A”). In 2002, it was Vida in Los Feliz making infusions for the famous “Roadkill” cocktail for Chef Fred Eric. In 2005, he defined “Bar Fresh” in Los Angeles at the Hungry Cat directed by Chef David Lentz and Chef Suzanne Goin.
Josh has bartended at many exclusive music & movie premieres and in the private homes of celebrities including Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO, Cheryl Hines, & Jacqueline Bisset. His signature “Curtis Bitters” are on the menu at La Descarga and Vincenzo Marianella’s Copa d’Oro. Since 2013 he has curated a weekly Wednesday menu for a guest mixology series in the Living Room at “Shutters on the Beach” in Santa Monica.
He is currently the Bar Director for Carbon Beach Club inside the Malibu Beach Inn and is the author of Malibu Beach Cocktails to be published by the History Press in March 2020.
Follow Josh on Instagram @MixingCocktails.