Not long ago, the Phoenix outpost of the Ritz-Carlton became a thing of the past. One summer later, The Camby was born. It has opened its doors to the public, and directly through those doors lies a modern cocktail bar with a catchy name: The Bee’s Knees.
In one word, the Bee’s Knees is refreshing. Like Chandler’s new (and only) craft cocktail bar, The Ostrich, the recently opened bar's immediate interest is in executing a menu of classic cocktails — though it's dotted with minor riffs done considerably well. The bar falls under the leadership of head mixologist Libby Longlott, who made a name for herself in the industry as one of Phoenix’s top bartenders and tastemakers while working at The Parlor under Michael Allmandinger.
You can get a taste of Longlott's talent with a sip of the bar’s namesake drink. The building blocks of the cocktail — gin, lemon, and honey — haven't changed much since Prohibition, when they were intended to sweeten and, thereby, cover up the flavor notes of illegal bathtub gin. But in Longlott’s modern rendition, the honey and lemon are there to complement, not cover, green-to-the-nose Ford’s gin, a somewhat new product that was designed by cocktail legend Dushan Zaric.
And beyond the choice in gin, fresh lemon juice and fresh local honey make a good deal of difference to a cocktail that most bartenders deem too simple to improve upon or approach with originality. Key to Longlott's success is her use of honey, which is scraped nightly from a dripping, glass-encased slab of honeycomb. She elevates the cocktail with one final ingredient: a touch of orange flower water, which complements the citrus but also ties in a motif of florality that’s key to the drink and its name.
Stepping away from the bar, you can take in the sprawling space the Bee's Knees has at its disposal. Like the restaurant across the lobby and the hotel itself, the spaces feel luxurious. The entire ground floor of the hotel is modern but not over the top. In the bar, a muted pink wrap-around couch that can easily sit 15 rests at the room’s center. There's space for what will become a temperature-controlled closet for barrel-aging cocktails, as well as an additional lounge area with more plush leather seating, a pool table, and a flatscreen. The main bar area also features a marble fireplace with smoke and patterns projected onto the space above the mantelpiece.
It makes a great backdrop for enjoying a Fancy Free cocktail, Longlott’s simple blend of bourbon, Luxardo Cherry juice, and Angostura bitters. It tastes, in a sophisticated way, like a boozy, dark cherry-flavored Blow Pop.
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All cocktails are available during happy hour, from 4 to 6 p.m. daily, at half-off their original prices, along with all beers and wine. For more information about The Bee's Knees, visit The Camby website.