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A kicky Prohibition gin cocktail.

The expression “the bee’s knees” came about in the 1920s and means the height of excellence or the cream of the crop. It was 1920s slang. No one is completely certain where the saying comes from, but one theory is that it’s derived from the use of the letters “B” and “E” in the idiom “the be-all and end-all,” which also denotes the very best of something.   

Another thought is that perhaps it refers to a popular dancer of the day, Bee Jackson. Bee was a world champion Charleston dancer who danced all over the world. She didn’t invent the dance, but no one danced it better than Bee. She was quite a character. She once punched the king of Albania in the nose. There was no explanation as to why that happened (though the king was reputed to be a notorious womanizer), but I’m sure Bee had a very good reason. She died at the age of 25 of a ruptured appendix. 

Back to the cocktail. The Bee’s Knees is a Prohibition drink. It was created to help mask the taste of the bathtub gin. The recipe was first seen in print in 1930. And after drinking one of these, you’ll be kicking up your heels just like Bee.  

Here’s a tip for making this drink: Make your own honey syrup by heating one part water together with one part honey.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz. gin 
  • ½ oz. honey syrup 
  • ½ oz. lemon syrup

Recipe:

Add all ingredients into a shaker. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

A warming after-dinner (or pre-dinner) drink.

Brandy, one of the world’s first distilled spirits, has been around since Roman times. With a name taken from the Dutch word “brandewijn,” meaning “burnt wine,” brandy was originally developed as a way to preserve and store wine for long ship journeys. To lighten the liquid and lessen the shipping tax, which was calculated by volume, the wine was distilled, concentrated and then put into wooden casks for transport.

Once the distilled wine reached its destination, water would be added back in to reconstitute the drink. But people found the spirit, which had been unintentionally aged in the wooden shipping casks during the journey, was better than the original.

For some reason, brandy is often overlooked in favor of vodka or whiskey when making cocktails — unless you live in Wisconsin, where a brandy Old Fashioned is the unofficial state drink. But brandy makes a great cocktail base, and will warm you right up on a cold winter night.

The Brandy Fix was a popular drink in the 1860s. A “fix” is a type of drink made on the rocks with a spirit, lemon juice and fruit juice or liqueur. Jerry Thomas was the first to write down this recipe in his Bon-Vivant’s Companion, published in 1862. This is one of my favorite drinks to have during the holidays and is very easy to make.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. brandy
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. cherry brandy or Cherry Heering
  • 2 bar spoons (about 2 tsp.) triple sec

Instructions:

  1. Build ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass over ice. 
  2. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Photo by Jesse Fox

Looking for food, jazz, drinks and fantastic views to spice up your evening?

Covington’s Chez Nora has it all, and musicians aren’t afraid to charm the guests with smooth jazz riffs every Tuesday through Sunday. 

Since 1994, co-owners Jimmy and Pati Gilliece have worked to transform the restaurant into a must-visit hangout within MainStrasse village. With extensive brunch, lunch, dinner and salad menus to complement the alluring tunes on the rooftop bar, many would argue the Gilliece duo has been more than successful, reeling in an array of first-time visitors and eager regulars.

Eager to check out the rooftop? Keep an eye out for Ricky Nye, the Gary Gorrell Quartet and The Dukes in November.

Reward yourself with half-priced red or white wine every Tuesday, or go classy with a cocktail. The Terrace Tea is a Chez Nora special.

Terrace Tea

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. peach schnapps
  • 2 spoonfuls ginger-infused simple syrup
  • Brewed ice tea
  • Ice

Instructions:

Add bourbon and peach schnapps into a drinking glass with ice. Add two spoonfuls of ginger-infused simple syrup. Shake. Top with brewed iced tea.

To create ginger-infused simple syrup, bring one cup of water and one cup of sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add a piece of fresh, peeled ginger and let it steep for 30 minutes in the pan. Strain the mixture into an airtight container. Can keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Photos by Sarah Angel.

This cocktail club on Fountain Square creates a homemade Happy Hour.

Mynt Martini, which opened about two and a half years ago, is definitely a downtown Cincinnati hot spot, and manages to keep going strong with its lively events schedule, seasonal drinks and prime location right on Fountain Square. With specials and an urban atmosphere to please happy hour bar-goers and night owls alike, patrons can lounge on the nightclub’s furnished patio or scatter across the trendy bar interior, which is accented with pops of bright, minty green.  

From their extensive drink list, which naturally features lots of creative martinis, to themed parties and live bands (dance-punk group Cobra Starship recently performed a DJ set there), Mynt Martini is all about having fun. Just ask the bartenders, like Kayla Lanham. “I love coming to work!” she exclaims, laughing. 

Despite the focus on fun, Mynt Martini does take something very seriously: their drinks. They use the best quality and freshest ingredients whenever possible; Lanham even mentions wanting to purchase ingredients from the Tuesday farmers market on Fountain Square.  

She mixes, shakes and pours martinis with ease as she talks, describing how much she enjoys her job. “I get to hang out here, make drinks and have fun,” she says. The martini she’s making? The “50 Shades of Pink.” Playing on the title of the popular novel, the cocktail is, as Lanham puts it, “sweet, but with a kick to it.” 

Take a cue from Mynt Martini and use fresh, local and organic ingredients when possible to make seasonal drinks at home. The “50 Shades of Pink Martini,” which Lanham describes as a fun twist on a mango martini, is perfect for celebrating the end of summer. 

50 SHADES OF PINK MARTINI

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Three Olives mango vodka 
  • 11/2 oz. triple sec 
  • 2 oz. cranberry juice 
  • 2 oz. orange juice 
  • Ice 
  • Fresh, seasonal fruit

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain and pour into martini glass. Garnish with fresh pineapple, mango or other seasonal fruit.