Bénédictine, An Impressive Birthday

By Ben Mims

Published on January 12, 2010

Five hundred years ago, in 1510, a thirsty Norman monk named Bernardo Vincelli created a digestif, which he handed down to generations of his brothers at the Benedictine Abbey of Fecamp. The recipe for which was lost in 1789, when the Norman Benedictine monks fled their cloisters during the French Revolution. Thanks to a curious distiller named Alexandre Le Grand, the spirit was revived in 1863 and was given a first-name abbreviation of "D.O.M.," standing for deo optimo maximo: "To God, Most God, Most Great." We drink it today under the brand name Benedictine.

Though the recipe remains a secret to the uninitiated, we know Benedictine is made from 27 herbs and spices, including angelica, hyssop, and lemon balm or melissa. Perhaps best known during these times as an ingredient in other cocktails the B&B and the Singapore Sling come to mind), we prefer it in its traditional role as a digestif after dinner, served neat, and swirled in and sipped from a snifter, as we ponder our full stomachs and the passage of time. —Jayanthi Daniel and Rachel Kalt, SAVEUR

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