Bénédictine D.O.M. is an herbal liqueur produced in France. Its recipe comes from a 16th-century monk and includes a secret blend of 27 herbs and spices in a neutral spirit that's sweetened with honey. It may be an old liqueur but it has a well-deserved place in the modern bar. Bénédictine is a favorite distilled spirit worldwide and adds a refined spiced sweetness to some of the best cocktails ever created.
Bénédictine vs. Drambuie
Bénédictine and Drambuie are two dark-colored, honey-sweetened herbal liqueurs often featured in high-end cocktails. They are considerably different. Bénédictine uses a neutral spirit base with a barely noticeable honey taste while Drambuie is dominated by a scotch and honey foundation. The herbal recipe for both is a secret, though saffron seems to be a common ingredient. Tasting the two reveals the real distinction: Bénédictine has citrus, cedar, nutmeg, and sage notes and Drambuie is medicinal with notes of grass, licorice, and orange peel.
Bénédictine is a unique herbal liqueur and there is no perfect substitute for it. The best option is B&B, which is a blend of Bénédictine and brandy, though it's not as sweet. Yellow Chartreuse is probably the closest in terms of the herbal bouquet and some amaro and pastis may work, too. Drambuie is a good choice if your drink can handle the richer honey aspect. Regular brandy may work as well, though you're losing the herbal flavor. Carefully consider the drink you're making when selecting substitutions. If cost is a factor, most of these options are just as expensive as Bénédictine.
- Ingredients: 27 herbs and spices, honey
- Origin: France
- Taste: Sweet, herbal, spice
- Aged: 1 year in total
- Serve: On the rocks, cocktails
What Is Bénédictine D.O.M. Made From?
Bénédictine has a long history. Like many spirits of this age, there may be more myth to it than actual fact. The story begins in 1510 with a Bénédictine monk named Dom Bernardo Vincelli at the Abbey de Fécamp in Normandy, France. Vincelli was one of the many monks during that time who dabbled in alchemy. He documented his medicinal liqueurs in a manuscript that included some 200 recipes. One was the original formula for this unique herbal liqueur, which was apparently intended to revive tired monks.
In the 1860s, a wine merchant named Alexandre Le Grand was browsing his family's collection that included acquisitions from the 1789 French Revolution. The monks had fled the abbey during the conflict and Vincelli's manuscript was in the collection. Le Grand interpreted the incomplete recipe and created what is known today as Bénédictine.
Le Grand first sold Bénédictine in 1863 and it was imported into the U.S. beginning in 1888. It is produced at Palais de la Bénédictine near the original abbey. The brand is now owned by Bacardi Limited.
The recipe for Bénédictine is proprietary and one of the "secret" recipes seen so often on the liqueur side of the distilled spirits industry. There are a few aspects to the two-year production that are revealed.
Bénédictine is made of 27 herbs and spices. It's believed that it includes hyssop, lemon balm, juniper, aloe, arnica, and cinnamon. The brand, however, only reveals angelica and saffron, making no other claims or allusions as to what the exact ingredient list entails.
The distillers at Bénédictine do reveal that those 27 ingredients are divided into four groups. Each group is combined with neutral spirits and distilled either once or twice in copper stills. The result is four distillates called esprits. The esprits are aged for eight months then blended with honey for flavor and infused with saffron for color. This blend is double-heated to finish the flavor before going into oak barrels to age for four months. Before bottling, the liqueur is filtered.
The term D.O.M. found on the label stands for Deo Optimo Maximo which translates to "God, infinitely good, infinitely great." It is used to remind everyone of the liqueur's origins at the abbey.
What Does Bénédictine D.O.M. Taste Like?
Bénédictine is a truly unique liqueur and it can be difficult to describe its taste. None of the botanicals used to make it dominates the blend and it is not medicinal like other herbal liqueurs. Instead, it has the flavor of sweet honey accented with holiday spices, stone fruits, and an herbal nuance. Imagine brandy mixed with gin and sweetened with honey and you'll have a close idea of the intriguing taste of Bénédictine.
Bénédictine started out as a single-bottle brand but it offers two additional bottles today:
- B&B Bénedictine: During U.S. Prohibition, a cocktail called the B&B was developed at New York City's Club 21. It's a simple mix of brandy and Bénédictine and became so popular that the brand created a pre-mixed version with French brandy. Considered one of the first ready-to-drink cocktails, bottles of B&B are quite common today. It's a bit drier than the liqueur, also 80 proof, and can be used in cocktails.
- Bénédictine Single Cask: In 1984, the brand released Single Cask. It is similar to B&B in that it's a blend of French brandy and Bénédictine, but it is aged for three months in small Limousin oak casks. The result is a drier version that is bottled at 86 proof. It's said to be very impressive but is only available at the distillery in France.
How to Drink Bénédictine D.O.M.
Bénédictine 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). Alternatively, shake or stir it with ice and strain it into a glass for a quick chill. Bénédictine also mixes well with a variety of flavors and is featured in many cocktails. You'll find it in both classic and modern recipes alongside brandy, gin, vodka, and whiskey. It's used so often that it's considered a staple in any well-stocked bar.
Many popular recipes rely on Bénédictine. It's useful in the most complex of mixes as well as the simplest, though they're almost always very elegant and refined. In The Benediction, for instance, half a shot of Bénédictine and a dash of orange bitters are topped with Champagne in a flute then garnished with a lemon twist.