French Benedictine Monks Apparently Knew Their Hoo...

French Benedictine Monks Apparently Knew Their Hooch

Among the great classic liqueurs that I have never really gotten around to playing with, the most famous and mainstream is Benedictine, along with its pre-blended cousin, B&B. Benedictine was created by Benedictine monks in France during the Renaissance, and its ingredients must have seemed like a liquid map of the world to the people of that age. The monks made Benedictine until the revolution, when the French, in their zeal to conflate democracy with killing anyone who disagreed with the mob, caused the monks to abandon their abbey at Fecamp. At that point, the recipe was lost for almost 70 years, before a copy was found in an attic. (Perhaps the guy was looking for stuff to sell on eBay) It has been a commercial success ever since.
The D.O.M. stands for Deo Optimo Maximo which roughly means, to God, the most good, the most great.
Over Christmas, I received a bottle of B&B to review, and that gave me the kick in the pants I needed to go out and buy a bottle of Benedictine, so I could try them both.
I started off with the Benedictine because, well, I’m a simple kind of guy and it made simple sense to me to try to understand the pure stuff first. This liqueur is a highly organized riot of flavors from citrus to spicy to a little savory. The flavorants include nutmeg and vanilla, cinnamon and cardamon, and even Myrrh, which I’ve been running into a lot lately. Benedictine says that there are 27 separate ingredients, and they probably store the secret recipe in the same vault guarded by a three-headed dog as Coke does. The website has a cool little trivia game for foodies, where you have to put some of the major spices onto their place of origin on a map of the world. (Go to the site and click on the discovery tab)
I went browsing through some recipes to see how I could deploy this drinkable perfume, and settled on the Frisco. There are two versions, and I started with the Rye variant:


  • 2 oz. Old Overholt Rye
  • 0.75 oz. Benedictine
  • 1 oz. Lemon juice

Stir and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist.

The resulting cocktail is a bit cloudy and yellow. It tastes very tart and not bad at all, for those of us who like our cocktails that way. But the Benedictine is very much a background player in this drink, and I couldn’t tell much about what exactly it was bringing to the party. Its presence is apparent, but this is not a great drink for me to evaluate Benedictine. I next tried the Bourbon version:


  • 2 oz. Blanton’s Bourbon
  • 0.75 oz. Benedictine

Stir and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist.

This cocktail is clear and much prettier. You can easily identify what the Benedictine is bringing to the party here, and drinking this version is where I got the idea to call it a highly organized riot. There is a lot of different stuff to savor, going in a lot of different directions, but the cool thing is, they don’t get in each other’s way at all. Unfortunately, this version is too sweet for me.
It was clear by this point that there’s a good reason why Benedictine’s been made forever. I am relatively easily confused by too many competing flavors, and that wasn’t happening here. This is, I suspect, why this liqueur is so accessible to so many drinkers. But is was also clear that a sour guy like myself was going to need another route make it work for me. I turned to Gary Regan’s recipe using B&B that I read on Intoxicologist:


  • 1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire
  • 0.5 oz. B&B Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz. St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz. Fresh lime juice

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Gary calls for a slice of kiwi floating in the glass for garnish, but like the Intoxicologist, I don’t keep that in stock.

Now we were getting somewhere! This cocktail is a delicious blend of flavors, with the floral Sapphire and even more floral St. Germaine really bringing out the Benedictine in the B&B. And this is not a sweet drink, it’s smooth and dry.
But I still was not satisfied. The flavors I was finding best in the B&B were the spices, as opposed to the florals. I reasoned that since both the B&B and the Sapphire are a mix of floral and spice, the floral St. Germaine was tipping the balance against where I really wanted to go. So I backed it out and replaced it with some more spice:


  • 1.5 oz. Bombay Sapphire
  • 0.5 oz. B&B Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz. Canton Ginger Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz. Fresh lime juice

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Float a thin slice of lime for garnish.

Bingo. This one definitely works well for me. The Canton tilts the balance toward the spicy side, but doesn’t unbalance the Benedictine’s broad spectrum of flavors. This isn’t a casual sipping drink, though. Try one when you feel like paying attention.


  1. Love the way this entire article plays out. Will definitely give the Zesty Zephyr a whirl.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. Paulius Nasvytis

    24 January

    I think we will play with this tonight too.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Doug

    24 January

    Let me know how it works for you both!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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