Branden Hahn, General Manager at Chef Bill Taibe’s popular downtown Westport eatery, Jesup Hall, offers this modern take on the classic Prohibition era cocktail called “The Bee’s Knees” (find the original here). Hahn’s spicy, sophisticated version of the drink uses vodka instead of gin and offers a kick with ginger syrup sweetened with demerara sugar, a unique, partially-refined large grained brown sugar grade originally milled in South America.
For the Honey Syrup:
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup water
For the Spicy Ginger Syrup:
- 4 ounces ginger, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup demerara sugar
For the Cocktail
- 2 oz. (¼ cup) Vodka
- .5 oz (2 teaspoons) Honey Syrup
- .5 (2 teaspoons) Spicy Ginger Syrup
- .5 (2 teaspoons)fresh lemon juice
- Club Soda as needed
- 1 lemon for twist to garnish (Optional)
- Make the Honey Simple Syrup: Combine the honey and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer until reduced by half—about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and store in a sealable glass bottle.
- Make the Spicy Ginger Syrup: Combine ginger and water in a blender or food processor and process to a smooth liquid. Strain the liquid into another bowl or a glass jar. Mix the ginger mixture and demerara sugar together in a small saucepan and place over medium low heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer until all the sugar is dissolved and remove from heat. Store in a sealable glass bottle.
- Make the Cocktail: Combine all the cocktail ingredients except the club soda in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain over ice into a Collins glass or tall, narrow tumbler. Top with club soda.
- Make the Lemon Twist: Take a potato peeler, sharp paring knife or small channel knife and peel a narrow strip of rind around the lemon crosswise. Place the strip on a flat surface, pith side up, and roll away from you in tight coils—as if rolling a rug. Uncoil and use in your cocktail as a garnish
ProTip: Use the edge of a teaspoon to peel ginger. Hold the spoon with cup facing toward you and use the edge to scrape away the skin. The shape of the spoon allows you to get into ginger’s knobby nooks and crannies without losing too much of the flesh itself.