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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The Alchemist Spring/Summer 2021

Photo courtesy of the
Fairmont Pacific Rim

After months and months of being cooped up at home, there’s one thing we know for sure: We’re going to be spending a lot more time outside this summer.

So in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of the Alchemist, we celebrate the patio.

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Cognac & Pear Brulée

Justin Taylor’s Cognac & Pear Brulée. Dan Toulgoet photo

• 1.5 oz. Remy Martin VS Cognac
• 0.5 oz Bénédictine liqueur
• 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 0.75 oz pasteurized liquid egg white
• 1 oz caramelized pear purée (see note)
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
• 1 tsp cinnamon sugar

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A Mari Usque Ad Mare

A Mari Usque Ad Mare, created by L’Abattoir’s Katie Ingram for Canada 150. Amy Ho Photo

Inspired by the Canadian motto, meaning “Sea to Sea,” L’Abattoir head bartender Katie Ingram updated the classic Vieux Carré cocktail with luxe flavours from east and west coasts, including rum, rye and bitters made from Okanagan haskap berries and sour cherries.

INGREDIENTS:
• 0.75 oz (22 mL) Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 Rum
• 0.75 oz (22 mL) Crown Royal XO
• 0.75 oz (22 mL) sweet vermouth
• 0.25 oz (7 mL) Bénédictine or B&B
• Two dashes Bittered Sling Suius Cherry Bitters
• Two dashes Bittered Sling Western Haskap Bitters

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The Cosmopolitan

Our man at the bar, John Burns, on the seductive power of nomenclature

Illustration by Roxana Bikadoroff.

Names are my downfall. I’m just a sucker for them. For fanciful origin stories and tales of whimsy. The music of language spellbinds me, which is why I fall so often and so hard for the poetry of the label.

Take Bénédictine, that herbal liqueur purportedly invented by Norman monks. A cabal of French brothers whose order was founded by a Merovingian count in 658 AD created a secret recipe 500 years ago, then mislaid it when they fled the French Revolution. Come 1863, the industrialist Alexandre Le Grand — whose granddaughter Simone Beck would go on to co-author Mastering the Art of French Cooking — rediscovered (or made up) this proprietary mix of 27 botanicals and bottled it, sealing it with the gilded letters DOM: Deo Optimo Maximo, or “To God Most Good, Most Great.” Who could hear such an improbable yarn and stand unmoved?

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Vancouver Cocktail

The Vancouver cocktail. Laura McGuire photo

The Sylvia Hotel’s signature cocktail was created in 1954. 

INGREDIENTS:
1.5 oz London Dry style gin such as Victoria Gin or Long Table Gin
0.75 oz sweet vermouth such as Punte E Mes or Odd Society Bittersweet Vermouth
0.25 oz or “a good splash” of Benedictine liqueur
2 dashes of orange bitters

METHOD:
Place all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

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