Bénédictine is a brandy-based herbal liqueur flavoured using 27 plants and spices. It was first formulated in 1510 by Dom Bernardo Vincelli, a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Fécamp. The liqueur was made here for almost 300 years as a tonic to aid the monks, until the French Revolution destroyed the monastery and put an abrupt stop to production. More than 70 years later in 1863 Alexandre Le Grand came across Vincelli’s manuscript detailing his secret recipe, and after some revision released Bénédictine, the product we still drink today.
As you might expect from a herbal liqueur, herbal notes dominate Bénédictine, along with a butterscotch like sweetness. The sweetness is pretty strong, making it a bit sickly for drinking neat. Unfortunately, aside from the Last Word and another cocktail I will be covering shortly I haven’t really made much use of my bottle of Bénédictine, so I thought it was time to rectify this with a couple of interesting cocktails that put it to great use.
- 1 shot gin
- 1 shot dry vermouth
- ¼ shot Cointreau
- ¼ shot Bénédictine
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Stir well with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
The Argentina Cocktail didn’t initially catch my eye, but whilst browsing CocktailDB for Bénédictine based drinks the same basic mix of gin, vermouth, Bénédictine and bitters kept repeating, albeit with varying ratios and various added ingredients. I decided upon this version as it makes use of Cointreau, one of my favourite spirits, and sounded just a little more interesting than the others.
The drink provides a subtle blend of orange and Bénédictine sweetness, against the solid backbone of gin and vermouth. It’s sweeter than many cocktails I drink these days, but thanks to the use of bitters it stays just the right side of sickly to remain very drinkable. It’s always a little bit risky going blind in to a recipe you can’t find any further details for, but I’m pleased to say in this case the Argentina Cocktail proved to be very tasty.
- 2 ½ shots Rye whiskey
- ¾ shot Green Chartreuse
- ¾ shot Bénédictine
- Stir well with ice and strain in to a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The Purgatory was created by Ted Kilgore, bar manager at Monarch Restaurant in Maplewood, Mo. The recipe calls for Rittenhouse 100-proof Rye, and combined with Green Chartreuse (110 proof) and Bénédictine (86 proof) you would be forgiven for thinking this drink might better be named “Hell”. Indeed, I had reservations combining such strongly flavoured liqueurs and spirits, but based on how tasty the Last Word was I was willing to give it a try. A hearty recommendation from Garry Regan didn’t hurt either.
There is no masking this is a very strong drink. However, it is also rich, complex and, amazingly, very well balanced. The Chartreuse and Bénédictine provide a lovely herbal flavour, and they work well against each other to tone back the sweetness of the Bénédictine and the strength of the Chartreuse.
Despite 1½ shots of strongly-flavoured liqueur, the Rye stands up like few spirits would, and remains a strong background flavour in the drink. It finishes with a long anise flavour from the Chartreuse, which rounds off the drink nicely. Not a cocktail to drink on a school night then perhaps, but a delicious one nonetheless.
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