Benedictine is an old liqueur yet it has a well-deserved place in the modern bar. It is one of the most versatile herbal liqueurs and its sweet honey and spice taste can be found in some of the best cocktails we enjoy today. If you have a taste for refined, spiced sweetness, Benedictine is a liqueur you'll want to pick up.
What Does Benedictine Taste Like?
Benedictine is a truly unique liqueur and it can be difficult to describe its taste.
The liqueur uses 27 plants and spices and none of those dominates the blend.
Unlike other herbal liqueurs, Benedictine is not medicinal. Instead, it has the flavor of sweet honey accented with holiday spices, fruit tones, and an herbal nuance. Imagine brandy mixed with gin and sweetened with honey and you'll have a closer idea of the intriguing taste of Benedictine.
You will also notice that Benedictine is not a mild liqueur. It is bottled at a full 40% ABV, which is the same as the average whiskey, rum or any of the other base spirits. This higher alcohol content punctuates its flavor medley, creating a bold, robust and complex liqueur. Other things to note about Benedictine:
- Benedictine can be enjoyed on its own.
- Much like a good whiskey, its flavor comes to life with a single ice cube (the larger the better).
- It's famous for a simple mix with brandy, which creates a drink called the B&B.
- Benedictine also bottles and sells a pre-mixed B&B that uses French brandy. It is quite tasty, convenient and used in a Peary Bird recipe.
Fun Fact: Ernest Hemingway mentioned the blend of brandy and Benedictine in his 1919 short story, "The Mercenaries."
You will find that Benedictine mixes well with a variety of flavors and in a variety of cocktails.
From the simple style of the B&B to the complex Vieux Carre, it's a liqueur that can take you many places in your drink adventures. It's no wonder that this is considered a staple in any well-stocked bar.
- B&B - brandy
- Cherry Lane - cherry vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters
- Creole Cocktail - bourbon, sweet vermouth, maraschino
- Derby Cocktail - bourbon, bitters
- Frisco Sour - whiskey, lemon and lime juices
- Honeymoon Cocktail - applejack, curacao, lemon juice
- Milk & Honey - milk
- Singapore Sling - gin, cherry liqueur, lime juice, simple syrup, club soda
- Vieux Carre - rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, bitters
- The Benediction - Another simple drink that displays Benedictine in a very pure form. Pour 3/4 ounce Benedictine into a Champagne flute, add a dash of orange bitters and top with Champagne. Add a lemon twist garnish if you like.
How Is Benedictine Made?
The recipe for Benedictine is proprietary and it is one of those 'secret' recipes that we see so often in the liqueur side of the distilled spirits industry. While we do not know exactly what goes into it, there are a few things we do know.
Benedictine is made of 27 plants and spices. Reportedly, among those are angelica, hyssop, lemon balm, juniper, saffron, aloe, arnica, and cinnamon.
The brand, however, makes no claims or allusions to what the exact ingredient list is.
The distillers at Benedictine will tell us that those 27 ingredients are divided into four groups. Each group is combined with neutral spirits and distilled either once or twice. The result is four distillates called Esprits.
The finished Esprits are then blended with honey for the flavor and a saffron infusion for the color. This blend is double heated to finish the flavor before going into oak barrels to age for about four months. Before bottling, the spirit is filtered.
The Benedictine Story
Benedictine has a long history and, like many spirits of this age, there may be more myth to it than actual fact. At any rate, it makes for a great story.
The story begins in 1510 with a Benedictine monk named Dom Bernardo Vincelli at the Abbey de Fécamp in Normandy, France.
Vincelli was one of the many monks that dabbled in alchemy during that time and it's said that the original formula which inspired Benedictine was intended to revive tired monks.
Fast forward to the 1860s and Alexandre Le Grand. The wine merchant was browsing his family's collection that included acquisitions from the 1789 French Revolution during which the monks fled the abbey.
Among the collection was Vincelli's manuscript that included some 200 recipes, one of which was the original formula for this unique herbal liqueur. Le Grand interpreted the incomplete recipe and what we know as Benedictine today was created.
Fun Fact: The term D.O.M. found on the label stands for Deo Optimo Maximo which translates to "God, infinitely good, infinitely great" and is used to remind us of the liqueur's origins at the abbey.
Le Grand first sold Benedictine in 1863 and it was imported into the U.S. beginning in 1888. It is produced near the original abbey in Fécamp, France and the brand is now owned by Bacardi Limited.
- 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof)
- Retails for around $35/750ml bottle