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Gabriella Mlynarczyk with her creation, the Bees’ KneesEXPAND
Gabriella Mlynarczyk with her creation, the Bees’ Knees
Michele Stueven

This Spring-Inspired Cocktail Is Buzzworthy

’Tis the season, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! OK, in case you think I’ve lost the plot, think again. You see, except for an occasional dalliance with autumn, my bae is spring. You can keep your happy holidays and sizzling summers — my favorite of all the seasons is barging in on us right now with hailstorms, tempestuous gales and below-60-degree temps (oh SoCal!).

I love, love, love weather when it is at its most passionate. Watching new life sprout from the chilly dark depths of the earth as it makes its journey up to the sky to worship the sun is my idea of a raging good time! And to my landlord’s disgust, I allow said life to take over my front yard, jewel-like buds popping out from every nook and cranny.

The only caveat is that with all this glory comes that uninvited guest, pollen. Oodles of it being whipped around in the bullying gusts of wind, wending its way most definitely not into my heart! I, like many other residents of this fair and usually temperate county, have been waking up of late with sniffles, watery eyes and an incredibly itchy schnoz. Our highly functioning immune systems are working overtime to rid us of those ghastly marauding symptoms.

But what’s an over-the-counter-medication-hating damsel in distress like me to do? Who will be the vindicating savior? As it turns out, you don’t have to look much further than your possibly overgrown front yard. For the last 200 years or so, homeopaths have been raving about the concept of like curing like: In small amounts, they say, an irritant can be taken as an antidote to itself. While some folks might think it’s all hooey, I’ve been dosing myself successfully with pollen for years.

The Bees’ KneesEXPAND
The Bees’ Knees
Michele Stueven

Not just any pollen, though, it has to be local pollen collected by bees in order to have any kind of healing effect. There’s no point in buying Hawaiian bee pollen if you live in Los Angeles; we have different flowering species, so different types of allergens. While all bee pollen contains vital nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, it won’t do a whole lot of good for your seasonal allergies.

Bee pollen, in case you were wondering, is a ball of flower pollen that has been collected by those busy little foragers on the backs of their legs. With the addition of an enzyme it turns into a small yellow pellet, and unless we humans intervene, it's taken back to the hive to provide a primary source of protein for larvae and worker bees.

There are numerous ways you can partake in this ambrosial experience — a co-worker of mine sprinkles it on her morning toast, or perhaps you might whip it into a smoothie. Since I’m in the business of making beverages, my suggestion is to mix both local pollen and raw honey into a soothing, delicious cocktail inspired by the classic Bees' Knees. To make my version truly buzz-worthy, I decide to pair it with a chrysanthemum tea infusion, both playing on the whole flower theme and because the tea is used in Chinese medicine to clear the liver and the eyes, bringing clarity.

The fragrant honey is complemented further by a dry riesling, a delicately botanical Akvavit instead of the usual gin and a splash of lemon. All that’s left to say is cheers and bee well!

Bees Knees
(1 serving)
1 oz. Ahus Akvavit
1 oz. dry Riesling
1 oz. chrysanthemum tea–infused quina (recipe below; I used Cap Corse quina blanco but Lillet blanc will do, too)
½ oz. raw honey syrup (recipe below)
¾ oz.  fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Scrappy’s cardamom bitters
½ oz. aguafaba (aguafaba is a vegan substitute for egg whites, is non-smelly and can be obtained by craftily draining the water from a can of chickpeas — this water is the aguafaba)
local bee pollen as garnish

Add all ingredients to your shaker tin with one small piece of ice, and whip-shake for five seconds to aerate the protein strands in the aguafaba and get them light and fluffy. (For all you nerds, this small piece of ice will contract your shaker tins and make sure the proteins fluff up and trap air so the tins don’t get pushed apart and break open.)

Add two ice cubes and hard shake for a further five seconds Strain into a chilled glass of your choice and garnish with a generous sprinkling of local bee pollen.

Honey Syrup
1 cup local raw honey
1 cup boiling hot water

Chrysanthemum tea–infused quina
1 750ml bottle Cap Corse quina blanco
8 chrysanthemum tea bags
If using the sous vide method, pour ingredients into a Ziploc bag and infuse with immersion circulator set at 55 degrees C; infuse for 2 hours, then strain when finished.
If using conventional method of steeping, place bag into a hot water bath; you will need to replace hot water as it cools to ensure a full flavor from the tea. Infuse as long as possible and up to 12 hours. Strain before using.

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