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Posted by Reese On January - 27 - 2010

I mentioned in the intro that this week’s cocktail, and more specifically its ingredients, are old school.  In fact, very few are more old school than Benedictine.  This year the herbal liqueur celebrates its 500th anniversary!  The liqueur was first developed by monks in 1510.  Their production of the herbal spirit progressed for over 250 years until the recipe was tragically thought lost in the 1791 during the French Revolution.  As luck would have it, the recipe had been written down in a book that was then sold to a local art collector.  The recipe remained lost, however, until it was rediscovered in 1863 by Alexandre Le Grand.  Alexandre recognized the quality of the recipe and finally relaunched the liqueur as a commercial product in 1873.  The company he created has been making the spirit ever since.


But, what is it?  What’s it like?  I had the very same questions until fairly recently.  Like most people I’d heard about the liqueur or its namesake cocktail the B&B (Benedictine and Brandy, for which the company has released another product), but I’d never tried it.  The flavor is likely unlike anything you’ve ever had before.  Like the first time you taste Chartreuse, your first sip of Benedictine is an intriguing one as the flavors expand and develop.  The aroma is like that of a really fresh herb garden.  I pick up notes of sage, rosemary, juniper all very crisp and fresh.  The liqueur is more viscous than I expected given it’s 40% ABV.  You really don’t notice the high alcohol in the flavor though.  It’s well covered by the sweetness and herbal qualities.  The flavor of the herbs is more well blended in the flavor than I found in the aroma.  I don’t get any one specific herb coming through stronger than any others.  The flavor profile as a whole is really complex and fantastic.  While I don’t think it’s something I’d drink straight (it’s quite sweet), in cocktails like the Chrysanthemum or the Monkey Gland it adds a depth of flavor that I don’t think can be achieved any other way.

If you’ve never tried Benedictine you really owe it to yourself to pick some up and mix up a drink.  You’ll appreciate the results.

If you’re looking for some deeper background info check out these sites:

Wikipedia – Benedictine Liqueur (General background info)

Benedictine’s Website (More in depth history.  Be sure to check out the palace as well)

Serious Eats – Benedictine (Paul Clark discusses the history, ingredients and uses of Benedictine)

Engineer’s Guide to Drinks

Posted by Reese On January - 26 - 2010

As I was sifting through my RSS feeds this morning I stumbled upon these engineering drawings of cocktails.  They’re very well done and quite geeky.  Or, put more succinctly, awesome.

In reading through the comments on Nathan’s post, it seems that this was originally a full color poster.  If anyone knows where I can purchase one, please let me know.  I’d love to add it to my collection of cocktail ephemera.

Foodista Blog Of The Day

Posted by Reese On January - 2 - 2010

Cocktail Hacker is Foodista’s Blog of the Day today! :)  Cruise on over to the site and check out some of the other great food blogs and features.  Very cool site.

Foodista Food Blog of the Day Badge

Champagne Resources

Posted by Reese On December - 30 - 2009

I’ve been tantalizing you with Champagne cocktails all week but haven’t really been pointing you in any specific direction on the choice of Champagne.  Let’s see if we can’t rectify that with this post.  I’m going to offer you two paths.  The first is to do your homework, understand the basics, seek some advice and then make an educated decision.  The second path is way simpler, just use my suggestions and happily enjoy.

Champagne Cocktail

Path One

While this is the more complex path I’m going to keep it relatively simple for you.

Step 1 - Do some basic research.  I’d start with a quick read of Wikipedia, as any good geek would suggest.  There is a lot of great info on there about growing regions, naming requirements, etc.  Given that wealth of information, I’d recommend you focus on a few facts.  One, if the wine isn’t from the Champagne region of France it’s not really Champagne.  One-B, despite this regulation, there are some great “Champagnes” from other places around the US and the world.  Two, there are a range of sugar contents and each has an associated name.  For most mixing I’d stick with Brut.  It’s a dry option which will allow you to adjust the sweetness of your drinks as you see fit.  For drinking straight I also lean towards Brut, but there are other options depending on your preferences.  Three, there are a variety of Champagnes that are classed based on their grape composition.  For example a “Blanc de Blancs” is composed completely of Chardonnay grapes, whereas a “Blanc de Noirs” is a combo of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.  That said, a lot you find simply won’t say, and that’s fine too.

Step 2 – Okay, now you’ve got the basics down, how about some suggestions?  Well, naturally you can go lots of places to seek this advice.  My personal suggestion is to first talk to friends and family.  Chances are, if they’re wine appreciators they’ll have some suggestions for you.  As a second option here are some resources that know more about wine than I do.  Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV has a number of episodes about sparkling wines.  This episode is one of my favorites and covers a huge range, both in style and price.  Ben Carter of Benito’s Wine Reviews put up a post last year on some of his personal recommendations.  Finally, I’ll point you to a series of posts on Fredric Koeppel’s blog Bigger Than Your Head where he covers a lot of sparkling wine options.

Path Two

Okay, here’s the compressed, ADHD version for the attention challenged among us.

Mixing – Gruet Brut.  It’s fairly cheap, my bottles were on sale for $12.49, usually $16.99.  Better still, it’s good stuff.  I’d drink it straight and it blends well in cocktails.

Drinking Straight – Schramsberg Brut Rose.  Although my personal choice is the Rose their Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs are also very good.  These are more expensive choices, about $40.  You could certainly use them for mixing, but I’d say just drink they alone in a flute instead.

So there you have it.  Some guidance on education and selection and the quick approach to the problem.  Let me know if you have any great recommendations to share with everyone.

Real Drink Costs

Posted by Reese On December - 29 - 2009

Have you ever sipped an $8 Gin and Tonic and felt like you were somehow getting screwed?  Well, chances are good that you were.  Drinks are a very high profit item for restaurants and bars.  To give a better idea of the true costs check out the Cocktail Calculator that Rob whipped up over on Cockeyed.  I have to admit I spent about 20 minutes playing with different combinations to see the results.  True geek fun.

To give an example, one of my perennial favorites the Gin and Tonic contains about 36 cents worth of ingredients when made with well spirits.  That’s even cheaper than my budget recipe that rang in at 83 cents.