The mysterious monk

Bénédictine’s storied role in cocktails old and new

Bénédictine’s romantic story is part of its appeal. Photo courtesy of benedictinedom.com

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.

Or was it?

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Poet’s Dream

Poet’s Dream. Getty Images photo

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.

• 1 oz gin

• 1 oz dry vermouth

• 0.5 oz. Bénédictine

• 2 dashes orange bitters

• Garnish: lemon twist

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De La Louisiane

De La Louisiane. Getty Images photo

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).

2 oz rye whisky

0.75 oz Bénédictine

0.75 oz sweet vermouth

3 dashes absinthe

3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Garnish: 3 brandied cherries

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5 drinks every home bartender should know how to make

Our editor’s essential cocktails

An Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail every home bartender should know how to make. Getty images photo

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.

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Champagne cocktail

A classic Champagne Cocktail. Getty Images photo

One of the world’s oldest cocktails, this dates back to the mid-1800s. This recipe is part of The Alchemist‘s series of cocktails you should know. 

• 1 sugar cube, preferably cane and brown
• 1 to 2 dashes Angostura bitters
• Splash of Cognac
• 3 oz Champagne or sparkling wine
• Garnish: lemon zest (optional)

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Bicicletta

A classic Bicicletta. Getty Images photo

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)

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Gibson

A classic Gibson. Getty Images photo

This savoury take on the Martini dates back to late 1800s San Francisco. This recipe is part of The Alchemist‘s series of cocktails you should know. 

• 2.5 oz gin or vodka
• 0.5 oz dry vermouth
• Garnish: 2 cocktail onions, skewered

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Margarita

A classic Margarita. Getty images photo

“Margarita” is Spanish for “daisy,” and this is likely a tequila-based 1930s variation on the even older drink of that name. This recipe is part of The Alchemist‘s series of cocktails you should know. 

• 2 oz blanco tequila
• 1 oz orange liqueur such as Cointreau
• 1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
• Garnish: Salted rim, optional lime wedge

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The Martini

The murky past of a clear favourite

Martini. istockphoto.com

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?

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