Bénédictine’s storied role in cocktails old and new
If you’re the sort of person who likes their cocktails served with a side of storytelling, then Bénédictine is the drink for you. Consider it the Forrest Gump of the spirits world, popping up at just the right moments and in the just the right cocktails.
Bénédictine is an herbal liqueur produced in France, based on Cognac, sweetened with honey and flavoured with 27 herbs and spices including saffron, hyssop and lemon balm. Like Chartreuse, it was originally produced centuries ago, concocted by monks as a medicinal tonic.
When this cocktail appeared in the 1935 Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, it was an equal-parts cocktail and, like La Louisiane, has been made stronger and less sweet over time. Some versions are almost Martini dry; this one retains enough liqueur to highlight its sweet spice.
The original La Louisiane cocktail dates back to the late 19th century in New Orleans, where it featured equal amounts of rye, vermouth and Bénédictine. This contemporary version, which is far less sweet, is adapted from The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan (2011).
Now that we’re all spending so much more time at home, this is a good opportunity to brush up on our home-bartending skills. That means learning at least a few recipes to serve to the people in your bubble and, eventually, all the many friends you’re making on Zoom.
The most important drink you should know how to make is the one you like best. That’s also the best advice for stocking your liquor cabinet, though for your sake I hope it’s something simple, like a highball, rather than, say, a Ramos Gin Fizz, which requires egg whites, orange blossom water and a seltzer bottle, among other things.
After that, it’s best to start with classics. They are, after all, classics for a reason—they taste good, and they work—but they are also a good place to start experimenting if you want to get creative. Here are five drinks every home bartender should have in their repertoire.
The way the story goes, this mid-20th-century drink was named for the elderly Italian men who swerved all over the road while cycling home after drinking in the local café. This recipe is part of The Alchemist‘s series of cocktails you should know.
• 2 oz Campari • 1.5 to 2 oz dry white wine, preferably Italian • Soda water • Garnish: citrus slice (optional)
Plenty a tall tale has crossed the polished oak; after all, bartenders like to dish out lively anecdotes along with the gin and spiced nuts. But when it comes to boozy myths, legends, outright lies and wholesale whoppers, “more cling to the Martini than any other cocktail.”
So writes Robert Simonson in his IACP-nominated book The Martini Cocktail (Ten Speed Press). He is fascinated by the outsize role the Martini has played in popular culture ever since its invention in 1849, or maybe it was the 1880s, or possibly 1906, who knows?