wet bee diary

Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Bee's Knees

2 ounces gin

1/2 ounce lime juice

2 barspoons honey

Shake ingredients with cracked ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

the picture for this may disappear soon as it is a cocktail of the week here

Bee's Kiss

For late summer flus that have more to do with the passing dog days than one's actual health, we order this cocktail, the closest libation to a summer toddy that we've found. But unlike its warm winter counterparts, the Bee's Kiss is a cool, comforting restorative - perfect for fancied pathos.

This heirloom of the speakeasy - with its 1 ounce white rum, 1/4 ounce dark rum, 3/4 ounces cream, and 2 barspoons honey, shaken and strained into a cocktail glass before a dusting of nutmeg - rarely stings, though in the '40s Trader Vic insisted it did.

For us, the cream in the Bee's Kiss makes one - maybe two - just enough, which may be why we've avoided any regrets about this drink, likening it more to the "bee's kiss" of Robert Browning's poetry. Those risqué Victorians generally took the term to mean tickling a loved one with your eyelashes. We can only imagine that's why Utah considered the honeybee chaste enough to sanction as its state insect.

Years ago, Native Americans called the imported bees "flies of the white man." Occasionally, we'll come across old-time mixers who'll make reference to this cocktail as either the "Fly's Kiss" or the "Fly's Nectar." Although impressed by their presumed historical trivia, we may change orders or even bars on the basis of the imagery. Dr. Charles Hogue, in his Cultural Entomology, says the Bee's Kiss is linked to its namesake only by its distinctive flavor.

Charles H. Baker - who surely sipped more than a few Bee's Kisses and undoubtedly enjoyed its gin-based predecessor, the Bee's Knees - made honey a requirement at the bar: "This man-stolen product of the bee's industry, in its strained state, is useful now and then in special cocktails. A small, cup-size, covered porcelain or china container should be on every thoroughgoing bar."

During the summer, we still come across these nearly forgotten containers at fine establishments. A bartender may tout Trader Vic's silly precept that "after too many of these you'll get hold of the wrong end of the bee" before shaking one up for us, but we know we'll still be better and more accepting of the fall season ahead after a Bee's Kiss or two.

I can't remember if I've mentioned this before... but I was reminded today of 2 of my favourite bee-related songs: the mournfully psychedelic Chasing A Bee by Mercury Rev (off their first album, Yerself Is Steam) and Free The Bee by Melt Banana which is precision shouty Japanese noise-punk. I don't really know if this counts, but the acid bassline Try Again by Aaliyah and Timbaland sounds like a gang of big shitting bees made of mercury.

I have been listening to episodes of the wonderful Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy radio series that I have downloaded via Audiogalaxy, and was very happy to be reminded of the moment that Ford Prefect accuses Arthur Dent of having "about as much grasp of multi-temporal causality as a concussed bee". What a lovely twangy turn of phrase the late Douglas Adams had.

I saw 2 bees today. One was bothering bald men on platforms 5 and 6 of London Bridge station, as I waited for a train back to Brighton. The other was supping from a lavender bush in Brighton. They were both big fat bumblebees. I found out from the Readers Digest at my girlfriend's mum's house that bumblebees don't die when they sting. This is because their nests only have a couple of hundred bees in, whereas honeybees live 40,000+ to a hive, so are more expendible as individuals.