B & B and a Little BS

February 21, 2012

It got pretty cold the week before last so I turned to a great winter warmer – B & B, or Bénédictine and Brandy.

It’s a stunningly simple drink to make (equal parts brandy and Bénédictine) but exceedingly delicious.

I’d been meaning to make this for a long time – since hearing about it on QI actually – but ran out of brandy about two days before I bought Bénédictine.

You see QI ran an interesting story about Bénédictine. Apparently the Burnley Miner’s Club in Lancashire is the biggest seller of the liqueur in the world. They all drink B & B’s and Benny and ‘Ot (equal parts Bénédictine and hot water) instead of the more expected pints of lager. Lancashire regiments were based near the abbey where Bénédictine is made in World War One. The troops aquired a taste for it, brought it back with them, and kept drinking it right up until the pleasant day.

Bullshit, I’m afraid. A little further digging finds that this account is largely unsubstantiated. Lancastrians might enjoy Bénédictine, but this tale, since reported very often, dates back to a single, dubious 1994 newspaper report. Oh well, nice story.

Bénédictine itself has been made by Benedictine monks in the Fecamp Abbey in France for 500 years now. The recipe was invented by a monk called Dom Bernardo Vincelli from 27 herbs and spices, and made  by the monks until it was lost in the French Revolution. Upon presenting the fruits of his labour to the abbot, Dom Bernado received the reply “Deo Optimo Maximo (Oh God, most good, most great)”, which is why the Bénédictine bottle still prominently features the letters D.O.M. After the recipe was lost in the French Revolution, it was unearthed in the 1860s by wine merchant Alexandre Le Grand. He found it in an ancient grimoire in his family library. He revived the lost liquid, and never looked back.

Bullshit, but incredibly good marketing. It seems that Le Grand made up the recipe himself, with the help of a chemist and that Dom Bernardo Vincelli never existed. Oh well, nice story.

B & B

1 1/2 oz Cognac

1 1/2 oz Bénédictine

Stir lightly in an old-fashioned glass with a few ice cubes.

Some recipes call for this drink to be served warm. I’ve tried it, and think that ice is better, even on a cold day. Sometimes a coupe or martini glass is called for. The rocks glass feels better to me. I’ve seen a recipe saying to float the brandy on top. This isn’t a good idea. It tastes much better mixed. Bénédictine even sells a pre-mixed version in some parts apparently.

The drink is great. Bénédictine is sweet without being cloying, and deliciously herbal with nice grassy tastes and spices. It goes together beautifully with VSOP Cognac (I used Courvoisier; a bottle I’m really starting to like). I also tried it with a dash of St Germaine Elderflower. That was delicious too, adding a floral quality to the herbal. Really, this is a hard drink to cock up. It’s certainly a new favourite.

In Taiwan Cognac is dead easy to find, and despite Courvoisier being one of the cheapest VSOP offerings, it works great in cocktails. You can find it at Carrefour, RT Mart etc for about 1000NT. Bénédictine is a little harder to find, but I’m fairly sure they have it at Breeze Supermarket, and I’ve seen it at a few liquor stores, such as Cape Wine and Spirits (Drinks don’t carry it).


11 Responses to “B & B and a Little BS”

  1. Ben Says:

    Bénédictine is Cognac based right? So B&B is really just weakened Bénédictine. That seems a bit odd to me.

    Last winter I experimented with rusty nails: Drambuie and scotch, which is the same idea liqueur made from scotch waterered down with scotch. Never really got into it as Drambuie tastes too much like some sort of medicine. Probably need to change the ratio I use.

  2. Ben Says:

    I never really knew what DOM stood for and always imagined it stood for “drunk old monks”.

  3. theboolion Says:

    I love ‘drunk old monks’.

    I can follow you logic, but hardly think that cognac weakens or waters down the Bene. The cognac base (of many liqueurs) is left far behind in terms of its final flavour. And any effect wouldn’t necessatily be a weakening. Adding water to (water-based) beer would weaken for sure, but adding fresh lemon juice to (lemon juice-based) lemonade would strnagthen it.

  4. Ben Says:

    The Bénédictine is weakened by the addition of Cognac. Not weakened in terms of alcohol content or Cognac flavour, but in the flavour of the infusements in the Bénédictine. The Bénédictine flavour is lessened by being diluted by extra Cognac. In your example, since the base of lemonade is water (not lemon juice, which is just the flavoring), adding more water would weaken the lemonade flavor.

  5. theboolion Says:

    Well yes, I guess every ingredient in a cocktail is weakened by the others, in that sense.

  6. Ben Says:

    Well no, not in that sense. The point is that in a B&B you are adding Cognac to flavoured Cognac. In other cocktails you are mixing flavours.

  7. theboolion Says:

    Firstly, Bénédictine isn’t exactly ‘flavoured Cognac’. Even though it has a Cognac base, it udergoes its own distillation and aging processes. Secondly, I still don’t see adding Cognac to it as ‘weakening’ the ‘Bénédictine’ flavour. As the drink is made up partly of a (somewhat changed) Cognac flavour, and 27 herbs and spices, adding cognac while downplaying (or weakening, if you like) the herbal aspect, is strengthening the cognac, spirit aspect.

  8. […] is another good Smash. With the Benedictine, it’s a little like a mild and minty B & B. Great stuff. […]

  9. […] day (or possibly the same night) I went for brandy, and did it B & B […]

  10. rob bibaud Says:

    B & B liqueur has been readily available for quite some time. It comes in the same bottle as Benedictine with a gold seal replacing the red.

    • theboolion Says:

      I don’t think you can buy it here in Taiwan, though. I’ve never tried it, but it’s so easy to make your own, anyway, without having to buy and extra bottle. What do you think of the pre-mix?

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