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)