Bénédictine is a French liqueur that’s been around for over 500 years, and it’s been enjoying popularity at craft cocktail bars around the country. The Wilson in New York City features it in its Bottle Rocket Old Fashioned with bourbon, Grand Marnier, and maple syrup, while the Oak Bar in Nashville enhances its Singapore Sling with Bénédictine’s herbal profile. Even so, cocktail enthusiasts are often unsure about how to best use the sweet and versatile digestif, made with 27 herbs and spices including hyssop, angelica, and lemon balm.
Other centuries-old liqueurs have found a permanent place on the bar shelf, from green chartreuse to Italian amari. Bénédictine deserves a chance at owning a slot — consider it a sleeper agent that will make your cocktails more robust. Lindsay Ferdinand, beverage director of Eleanor’s, a speakeasy-inspired bar just outside of Atlanta, is such a fan of the liqueur that it appears twice on her current menu, which often highlights whiskey– and gin-based drinks. Ferdinand shares what to expect the next time you see Bénédictine on a menu and how to use it in your own creations:
- “Bénédictine is a digestif, but it’s not bitter or medicinal like fernets. Instead, Benedictine has a sweeter flavor, because there’s honey added, and it’s made with warm spices — like nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove — which add depth to cocktails. You don’t need to use a lot. A little bit makes a drink more unique and adds flavor.”
- “It goes well with stirred whiskey cocktails and is often paired with darker spirits because of the barrel-aging notes and spices. Bénédictine brings out the whiskey, but doesn’t overpower it. ... At Eleanor’s, we did a barrel-aged cocktail that’s a play off of a Vieux Carre, which traditionally uses Bénédictine. In our version, we use sherry as well. The Bénédictine removes the raisiny characteristics of the sherry, which goes nicely with the warming spices. We use a higher-proof whiskey to balance the higher-proof alcohol.”
- “A classic drink is the B&B — brandy and Bénédictine. Instead of doing equal parts, use one ounce brandy and a half-ounce of the liqueur to see how it enhances the flavor and takes the heat away from the cognac. We also use Bénédictine in a drink called the Booze Cruise — kind of like our take on a dark and stormy. We blend black rum, which has a funky note to it, with cardamaro (a bitter fortified wine) and Bénédictine. The Bénédictine gives it these nice baking notes, like cinnamon and nutmeg, which go great with the ginger beer that tops off the cocktail. Depending on how you use Bénédictine, you can get the flavor profile to come out in a different way, which makes it fun.”
Lia Picard is a freelance writer eating her way through Atlanta.