This year Benedictine celebrates its 500th anniversary.  Like most liqueurs we drink today, Benedictine was first produced by a monk for medicinal purposes.  Seriously, if it weren’t for French monks we wouldn’t have as much deliciousness to add to our cocktails.  In 1510 at a Benedictine monastery in Normandy, France a monk named Dom Bernardo Vincelli distilled regional plants, herbs and spices (27 to be exact) into a medicinal elixir.  But when the monastery was destroyed during the French Revolution, Vincelli’s recipe was lost.  But only temporarily.  In the mid-19th century, a wine merchant and art collector Alexander LaGrande discovered the recipe in an old book and revived the lost spirit and put it on the market as Benedictine.  The same company he started in 1863 is still producing this yum liqueur in Fécamp where the monastery originally stood.

The other night, Julie and I were making Julia Childs’ beef bourguignon which is quite a long process, so I mixed up a couple Montpeliers for us to enjoy while we chopped, browned, sautéed and braised.  The Montpelier is a fabulous cocktail developed by Scott Marshall at Drink for a Benedictine competition (it was a finalist and I personally can’t believe it didn’t win).  It’s a new favorite that I have been mixing up for every occassion since Thanksgiving.  Each time I serve it, it is met with a smile.  This drink is apply, spicy, herbal, sweet, and tart all at the same time.  The flavors—the apple of the brandy, nutmeg, vanilla, and allspice of the Benedictine, the cinnamon of the simple syrup, and the fig and raisin of the bitters—are familiar and reminiscent of all the yummy things we eat this time of year.

The Montpelier at Thanksgiving

So here’s the recipe:

Montpelier (created by Scott Marshall)

½ oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy (if you can’t find that, I’ve substituted Apple Jack; it changes the flavor a bit, but it works)

¾ oz Benedictine

½ oz lemon juice

¼ oz cinnamon syrup*

2 dashes Jerry Thomas decanter bitters

Shake and serve.  I like it over crushed ice best, but you can do it straight up, too.

*Making simple syrup is, well, simple.  Crush about 2 oz (or 50 grams) cinnamon sticks into 2 cups water. Heat mixture.  Then cool and strain so that you have no bits of cinnamon.  Then add equal parts sugar to mixture (2 cups).  Shake, shake, shake and voila—cinnamon simple syrup.

Celebrate Benedictine’s birthday with a Montpelier.  Cheers!