Edit ModuleShow Tags

Spirit of the Month: Benedictine

This bourbon- and brandy-friendly spirit deserves to be in your liquor cabinet


Published:

Photo courtesy of Palais Benedictine via Facebook

 

Benedictine. If you grew up in the ’70s, it was probably a staple in your parents’ (or grandparents’) liquor cabinet. Or, maybe you know its prepackaged cousin, B&B (Benedictine and Brandy), that used to come in a cool collector’s tin.  

It would be a stretch to say Benedictine’s making a resurgence. Rather, it pops up on menus every now and then at the craftiest of craft-cocktail spots and I’ve yet to find an instance where it doesn’t make for a thoughtful, tasty cocktail. Most recently, bartender Jay Choi (Ad Libitum, Realm of the 52 Remedies, CoLab) used it in a bourbon bartender’s-choice cocktail he made for my husband. As Choi was making the cocktail, he commented on how much he liked using Benedictine.

“What I personally like about it is its distinctive flavor,” he said, “honey, clove, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon peel and orange peel. I often play with it with brandy or also bourbon.” (See below for Choi’s bourbon-and-Benedictine cocktail recipe.)

The herbal liqueur was created in the 19th century by a French winemaker, Alexander LeGrand, who came up with a clever origin story as a marketing tool. He claimed monks at the Benedictine abbey of Fécamp in Normandy produced the liqueur until the abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution. LeGrand claimed to have found the recipe among his family’s library.

Like so many other liqueurs, Benedictine’s recipe remains a secret. We know some of what’s in it, but not everything.

With its pleasant flavors—one review I came across described Benedictine as “sublime”—you can drink it neat or over a large cube of ice. Add some to coffee for dessert. Its most famous use is in the classic Vieux Carre cocktail, one of my favorites.

 

Here’s Choi’s Benedictine cocktail (it’s excellent):

1 1/2 ounce high-proof bourbon
1/2 ounce Benedicine
1/2 ounce Fernet-Branca
2 dashes Boy Drinks World walnut bitters (pick up a bottle at Collins & Coupe)

Stir with ice and serve in a rocks glass over ice.

 

Where to buy Benedictine:

You can find it pretty much anywhere, really. Make sure it’s Benedictine D.O.M. (and not Benedictine B&B).

 

Where to try Benedictine:

Wagyu Old-Fashioned @ Born and Raised: The upscale steakhouse uses Benedictine in this classy take on an old-fashioned that includes a Wagyu-infused bourbon, aromatic bitters, and citrus zest.

Bolt from the Blue @ Ironside: With its hints of citrus, Benedictine pairs well with agave spirits, evident in this tasty cocktail made with mezcal, tequila, Averna, and Angostura bitters.

East County @ George’s Level 2: Sam Peters’ elegant ode to his old stomping grounds (part of Level 2’s epic San Diego–inspired cocktail menu) is made with cognac, Lustau Vermut Rojo (a sweet, nutty vermouth), malted rye, Benedictine, and a caraway tincture.

Or, if you're really into it, visit Le Palais Bénédictine in Normandy, the insanely elegant, actual palace, where Benedictine's distilled.

 

Got a spirit you’re curious about? Email me and I’ll feature it.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

More »Related Stories

Give Dad the Gift of Health

This Father’s Day, remind dad to take time for his health

Checking In with Prohibition’s Ryan Andrews

We chat about the bar’s big anniversary, its haunted location, and a new menu concept

Special Episode: Live from Our Best Restaurants Party

Happy Half Hour Podcast: Special Edition
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Sponsored

Vote Now in San Diego’s Cutest Pet Contest

Your furry family member could win a pet prize package and be featured in San Diego Magazine

What Would You Do with a Life Without Disease?

For William "Bill" Brown the answer is clear: Make the world go round.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. San Diego's Best Restaurants 2019
    Nearly 7,500 of our hungriest readers voted in our annual poll—and the results are served
  2. Vote Now in San Diego’s Cutest Pet Contest
    Your furry family member could win a pet prize package and be featured in San Diego Magazine
  3. First Look: Il Dandy
    Michelin-starred Italian chefs open a stunner in Bankers Hill
  4. Best of North County 2019
    Our annual roundup of what's up-and-coming and full-on buzzy above the 56
  5. The Best Veggie Burgers in San Diego
    The citywide hunt for the best plant-based burger found a clear winner
  6. San Diego Homebuyer’s Guide 2019
    It's possible to find an affordable home in these six up-and-coming enclaves
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module