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Drinks: Bénédictine, a 500-year-old classic

Benedictine.. For Food Section / Marjorie Robins -

Benedictine.. For Food Section / Marjorie Robins - Peter Gianotti's Drinks page . ( Handout ) ltc Credit: Newsday/Handout

Bénédictine celebrates its 500th year in 2010. Yes, 500.

What makes this French liqueur have such staying power is simple: It's very good. Sample the classic solo or in a cocktail.

The liqueur's history is traced to Fécamp Abbey, where a Bénédictine monk, Dom Bernardo Vincelli, created it. He never quite attained the immortality accorded Champagne-maker Dom Pérignon.

And the story goes that the recipe was lost after the French Revolution. In 1863, it was uncovered. Credit: wine merchant Alexandre Le Grand. The lively stuff includes ingredients from 27 plants and spices, among them angelica and hyssop.

By 1888, Bénédictine was exported to the United States. Forty-six years later, a New York bartender mixed it with brandy, creating the "B&B" cocktail. In 1937, B&B Liqueur itself entered the repertoire.

A 750-ml bottle of Bénédictine is about $30.

If this seems a too-cerebral beverage, consider a bottle of Orkney Skull Splitter, a "Braveheart" of an ale from Scotland. High-octane, amber-shaded, with dried-fruit and spice notes, it's a very assertive production. A six-pack is about $14.

How do you resist a brew called Brooklyn Black Ops? The responsibility goes to the Brooklyn Brewery. The malty take on Russian Imperial Stout arrives smooth, chocolaty, dense and creamy, finishing on the dry side. About $22 for a 750-ml bottle.

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