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Hive & Honey Is the Bee’s Knees

Before I start, I’m sorry for the title. I had to. I absolutely had to. Moving on…

This is another place I’ve had my sights on for some time. Either it wasn’t open when I was free, or I wasn’t free when it was. I also didn’t want to go alone and put my bank account in too grave a danger, so finding friends with free time and the desire to go was even more of an effort. Then one day, the chance threw itself in my face. I was out with my brother and a couple of our friends getting pho, and as I was walking back from the bathroom, I had a question posed to me. 

“You wanna go out for drinks? We were thinking of Hive & Honey.” 

I don’t know if y’all have ever watched Bob’s Burgers, but my mind (and possibly mouth) made that one noise Tina makes. “But why?” I mentally recoiled at my own hesitation, “You’ve had to do this for weeks. You’re getting paid to go. How is there any answer besides yes?” 

I wasn’t completely honest earlier. You see, there was another reason I wasn’t initially psyched: I tend to dislike bars in general. The piles of strangers, loud average music that blocks my thoughts, and my strong preference toward small hangouts all make me averse to most of them. That being said, I’ve certainly found bars I like (StillWater, for example), and I wasn’t gonna be the guy to clock out early on my friends, so I got myself together and rallied on with the crew to the Marriott rooftop. After a 12-minute stroll from the Irvine Spectrum parking lot (Friday nights get busy), we walked through the hotel lobby and got in the back of a line that didn’t have more than 10 people in it. Almost as soon as we joined in, the elevator opened and we were escorted inside. Sixteen floors later, we reach the top and emerge into Hive & Honey. 

Hive & Honey (Ryan Najjar)

Even though the bar is on the rooftop and open air, a good chunk of it gives the sensation that you’re still inside, albeit with an excellent view. Air flows freely, though, and the parts that are closer to the edge of the roof are especially nice to walk around during the warmer summer nights. As I walk along, I notice red and blue lights shining on the column, forming one soft large stripe of soft purple going all the way down, giving the place a sort of sensual vibe. The crowd is relatively young, mostly in their 20s and 30s, with a few professionals and older people spread around in the mix.

It seems like the type of place where it would take far longer to get in than it took us. Half an hour later, we would receive a text from our other friend reading “Line is huge now, they said it’s an hour wait.” We then remembered that we did arrive a little after 9 p.m., and suddenly our prompt entry made a bit more sense. Having taken in the world around us, we decided it was time for drinks. My brother grabbed a Karl Strauss, I grabbed their signature house brew, one of our friends got an old fashioned, and the other got a specialty cocktail called The Bee’s Knees, consisting of gin, honey and lemon juice. 

House Brew and fries (Courtesy of Yelp/Myra G.)

Speaking on their house brew, which I definitely didn’t expect a hotel rooftop bar to have, I found it to have a sweet and crisp taste, and I was a fan of how it didn’t feel too filling. I let one of my friends try it, and he noted a taste of toasted wheat with a touch of honey, adding that it’s a little malty at the end as well. Another friend gave it a shot, and he remarked that, while good, it wouldn’t be a fit for fans of IPAs, since the beer is more of a refreshment than a full experience. 

At that point, another reporter reviewing the place came up to me and, like me, was confused as to why this place had their own beer. She took a swig, said, “It’s a Bud Light,” and walked away. 

The second up for judgement was the old fashioned, which looked enjoyable enough. A sip, though, left my friend slightly disappointed. It wasn’t bad, though, he explained, and he had a higher opinion of it once he was finished. 

Cocktails (Courtesy of Yelp/Jeff P.)

The drink I was most excited to take a sip of, though, was The Bee’s Knees. I’m not a gin fan, but I definitely like honey and lemon, so I figured it would be worth my attention. The friend who ordered it tried it first, of course. He drank, stared at his glass for a little, and concluded, “It’s the bee’s knees!” Resisting the urge to slap him for a joke I would later steal for the title of this very article (sorry Alec), I took the glass as he handed it to me, took a light but full sip, and came to the same conclusion. The flavor of alcohol was low profile, thankfully, and the more subtle notes of the gin were allowed to shine, with the honey and lemon serving as the angel wings (bee wings?) to take this cocktail through the sky. 

Topping things off, we also did some work on a plate of sliders that defied our expectations of bar food. The beef was thick, the buns were soft, and the veggies inside tasted especially fresh. This made sense, we supposed; we were at the Marriott, after all. 

As we were preparing to head out, I found my new reporter friend from earlier to exchange some thoughts about the place.

“What were you thinking of rating it?” She said, “I was thinking a 4.25/5.”

“That seems fair,” I replied, “We don’t really do ratings like that but that’s where I’d place it.” She thought for a bit. “Or should it be a 4?”

“Hmmm. Well, how about this? We know it’s a 4.25, we know they earned that, but let’s give them a 4 so they’re motivated to do a 5/5 job next time.”

“Deal.”

You can learn more about the bar and what they serve on their website.