We’re yet to be disappointed by a story that begins, “This liquor has been made by monks for centuries….” — so Bénédictine (as in Benedictine monks) has obvious appeal.
Here’s the thing about Bénédictine: It’s allegedly based off a recipe that Benedictine monks made as a medicinal tonic dating from the 16th century. But the Bénédictine you’ll see in the bottle today was actually developed by French wine merchant Alexandre Le Grand in 1863. So the company lore goes, his family possessed ancient texts that contained within them a recipe for a liqueur made from 27 plants and spices penned by a monk named Vincelli in 1510. Already an expert in wine, spirits, and distillation himself, Le Grand took more than a year to recreate it.
It is indeed unlike any other liqueur out there. Made from a cognac base and sweetened with honey, it has a luscious, pleasant sweetness against an array of earthy, herbal, floral, and gently bitter flavors. Classics including the Vieux Carré or Singapore Sling call for it by name, but we love it in these three perfectly straightforward drinks that let Bénédictine’s complexity shine.
Easy: Bénédictine & Tonic
Any herbal liqueur is a logical match for tonic water, and Bénédictine is no exception. Since the liqueur is quite sweet, we’re keeping the dose somewhat low (1 ounce) to keep the drink balanced.
Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine 1 ounce of Bénédictine and 4 ounces of a high-quality tonic water. Squeeze a lime wedge into the drink.
Intermediate: Repo-Bénédictine Manhattan
Sweet, herbal, and complex — why, that reminds of us sweet vermouth (even if their flavors, proofs, and methods of production are quite different). And sweet vermouth belongs in a Manhattan. We’ll go one further by swapping out whiskey for slightly grassy, slightly vegetal reposado tequila, an ideal match for Bénédictine.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 2 ounces of reposado tequila and 1 ounce of Bénédictine, with a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir all that up until well-chilled, then strain into a cocktail coupe. Garnish with a lime twist, squeezing over the surface of the drink to spray its citrus oils over the top, plus a brandied cherry.
Advanced: Bénédictine Sour
A classic sour (whiskey, lemon, sugar; no sour mix, please!) is a fun canvas for lots of flavors, and Bénédictine is a great match. Its honey-like sweetness and complex warm spice are a smart pairing for bourbon, with a burst of citrus to brighten it up.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of bourbon (we’re using Wild Turkey 101), 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 3/4 ounce of Bénédictine, and a 1/4 of simple syrup. Shake all that up hard, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a few thin lemon wheels.