Hemingway, Cognac and Benedectine

Cognac and Benedictine, Hemingway

Ever on the hunt for interesting cocktails and the stories that go along with them, I recently picked up the book, To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion, by Philip Greene. It certainly helps to know some Hemingway if you want to get the most out of this cocktail book, but anyone with an interest in the drinking culture of the 1930’s-1950’s will find at least a few good stories and recipes as well.

The book is organized by drink – with a recipe for each, and how the drink fits into the Hemingway¬†oeuvre (or his life beyond the pages of his books). There are entries for the Daiquiri (of course), the Cuba Libre, the Americano… but also more unusual drinks (at least to modern tipplers) like the Gambler’s Delight and the El Definitivo. And there are a number of super simple concoctions like gin and coconut water, or Scotch and lime juice, or Armagnac and soda. Which brings us to… the Cognac and Benedictine.

This drink is a 1 to 1 blend of Cognac and Benedectine, an herb and spice-laden liqueur from France that began production in the 1860’s but traces its roots back to the 1500’s. ¬†The story goes (and don’t ever fully believe any story about spirits like Benedictine) that this liqueur was originally imbibed by the monks of¬†the Benedictine Abbey of F√©camp in Normandy in the early 1500’s. After the production ceased for a few hundred years, a fellow by the name of Alexandre Le Grand revived the recipe (or at least created the backstory).

By the 1930’s, one of the popular uses for Benedictine was in a Benedictine and brandy (B&B), and the company behind it came out with their own bottled version of B&B (you can still get that today, but buying the pure Benedictine is the way to go, so you can use it in cocktails like the Vieux Carre or the Singapore Sling). Now, Cognac is a specific type of brandy, so the Cognac and Benedictine is basically a (better) B&B.¬†Made with a good Cognac, this is a lovely drink, a touch syrupy, but full of intrigue from the herbs and spices in the liqueur.

Hemingway, to have and have anotherSo what does this have to do with Hemingway? Turns out, young Ernest wrote a bunch of short stories upon his return home to the States after serving in the ambulance corps in Italy during World War I. One of these stories was set in a dive bar in Chicago, and prominently features the Cognac and Benedictine amidst tales of wartime in Sicily and the wishes of the Royal Republican Chilean Army. Intrigued? Try it yourself. Ernest would be happy to know it was because of him.

Recipe: Cognac & Benedictine 

Mix equal parts Cognac and Benedictine in an Old Fashioned glass over ice, stir and garnish with a lemon peel. Enjoy.



Shrub & Co. – The Curious Cocktail Elixir

I recently discovered a new little company in Atlanta that is making some great products to help the shrub reclaim its prominent place in the cocktail pantheon. The name is Shrub & Co., and I profiled them over at Creative Loafing Atlanta. I’ve just begun to play around with their shrub mixes, but they’ve already helped me make some incredibly good and interesting drinks. Here’s the intro, please click through to the full article if you’re interested in learning more…

There’s a new shrub in town. And I’m talking cocktails, not shrubbery. You’ll be forgiven if you don’t know what a shrub is, but haven’t you been reading all the excited pronouncements of its ascension to cocktail prominence? The simplest definition and background I’ve found is this from CLASS Magazine:

Shrub comes from the Arabic word ‘sharaba’, which means ‘to drink’. The first mention of the word ‘shrub’ in the English Dictionary was in 1747, which defined it as “any of various acidulated beverages made from the juice of fruit, sugar, and other ingredients often alcohol.”

Which brings us to Shrub & Co., which is a company, dedicated to making delicious shrubs. Shrub & Co. was founded by a small group of Atlanta bartenders and cocktail enthusiast friends who wanted to reinvigorate the use of shrubs in the “libationary arts.”

Read the full article at Creative Loafing


Cocktails: The Spiced Apple

I was browsing the latest issue of Imbibe Magazine and came across a cocktail recipe by Robert Ortenzio, from Yardbird in Miami,¬†that intrigued me. I was actually highly skeptical of the recipe, called “the spiced apple,” since I tend to like my cocktails strong and this one called for 3/4 oz chardonnay along with 1/2 oz cinnamon syrup and 1/2 oz apple juice (oh, and some bourbon). It sounded too sweet and too strange to work, but… part of the recipe involved infusing bourbon with apple and spices, and I had been wanting to try that.

So… I started with infusing some bourbon. Basically, you take some bourbon, not too expensive (Old Charter 8 year old was my choice), cut up some apples, throw in some spices, and let it all hang out together for a mere 24 hours. What you get after one short day is bourbon with a very evident cinnamon kick, and less evident (though still there) apples and baking spice. I had heard that cinnamon infuses quickly and can quickly overpower whatever spirit you’re combining it with, and this short infusion proved that one single day is about right.

Once I had the spiced bourbon, I decided to keep going with the recipe, tackling the equally easy and even quicker cinnamon syrup – which is basically simple syrup that mingles with cinnamon sticks for about 10 minutes to get an added boost of flavor. It turned out quite nice, and super easy.

So now that I had my spiced bourbon, and my cinnamon syrup, I decided to just go ahead and give the cocktail a shot. Spiced bourbon – check. Chardonnay – a cheap bottle from Trader Joe’s, intentionally buttery to add an apple pie crust twist to the cocktail. ¬†Apple juice – some Mott’s Natural will do. Cinnamon syrup – done. Orange bitters – got it. I shook it all up over ice, expecting disaster. All that sweetness can’t work, can it?

I took a hesitant sip. Then another. Then another. Hot dang, this is actually really good. Every ingredient brings something to the table, from the kick of the bourbon to the bit of oak and butter in the wine to the juicy, um, apple juice, to the lively bitters, to the extra sugar and spice in the syrup. Not too sweet, not too strong, just a really nice autumn cocktail. Well done Robert Ortenzio. You have won me over with apple juice and chardonnay. And bourbon.

P.S. I also tried the drink hot, as the magazine suggested, which ends up tasting a bit like a cross between apple cider and a hot toddy. I like it cold better.

Here’s a slightly modified version of the recipe. (For the original recipe, pick up a copy of the latest Imbibe Magazine.)

The Spiced Apple

1 1/4 oz spiced apple bourbon*
3/4 oz chardonnay
1/2 oz apple juice, preferably unfiltered
1/2 oz cinnamon syrup**
3 dashes orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice, shake vigorously, then strain into a rocks glass over ice. Optional garnish with a thin slice of apple.

*To make spiced apple bourbon, combine 1/2 l bourbon with 2 apples (cut into large pieces, core removed), 3 whole cloves, 4 cinnamon sticks, and 2 whole star anise (or 1/4 tsp anise seed), let sit for 24 hours in a covered glass container, then filter out all solids. That’s it! Feel free to play with the spices.

**To make cinnamon syrup, combine 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 3 cinnamon sticks broken into large pieces. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, let cool, then remove cinnamon. Can be stored in a glass jar in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Bartender’s Best Friend

With all the awesome new vodka flavors out there (CAKE! WHIPPED CREAM!!! CHOCOLAT RAZBERI!!!!! FLUFFED MARSHMALLOW!!!!!!!!), I’m amazed no one is talking about what surely must be the best friend to any aspiring bottle-juggling-mixologist-in-training. Bitters? No way. Too old school. I’m talking the ultimate flavor enhancer for your cocktail creations. Something that’s smooth and sweet and likely to cause women to swoon in anticipation. Ahh, yeah, break out the Coffee-Mate! What? You’ve never made a Coffee-Mate-ini? If not that, what about sneaking a little bit of vodka or whiskey into your morning Coffee-Mated coffee flavored beverage? No??? Who are you? C’mon, they’ve already got Amaretto and Irish Creme and Eggnog ready to go; you’re halfway there before you even start.

OK, I’ll be honest. I hate the stuff. You will never ever ever find a bottle of Coffee-Mate in my house. The ingredient list is enough to scare the bejeezus out of anyone opposed to consuming large quantities of chemically-modified foodstuffs (actual example: WATER, SUGAR,¬†PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND/OR COTTONSEED OIL, AND LESS THAN 2% OF NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, SODIUM CASEINATE (A MILK DERIVATIVE)**, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, CELLULOSE GEL, CELLULOSE GUM, CARAGEENAN, DEXTROSE). Delicious, right? The whole idea of flavoring your coffee with chemically-enhanced “creamer” is antithetical to the whole notion of enjoying COFFEE. Enough ranting, though, let’s get to the cocktails! (There is an actual cocktail at the end of this rant.)

Milk and cream are not entirely foreign to the cocktail bar. There’s the White Russian, of course, and the Irish Coffee. Those are both acceptable uses of dairy behind the bar, if you ask me, but the slope gets very slippery after that, once you head into the land of the Screaming Orgasm (the drink, that is). I did, however, discover another acceptable usage of dairy, particularly the Coffee-Mate “almost dairy” type: when your friends whip up a batch of espresso-bean-infused bourbon during a spring break-induced fit of ingeniuty and invite you to figure out what to do with it. Sure, you can go elegant and play around the robust coffee with aromatic bitters and nut-based liqueurs and even certain dark beers boiled down to a syrup. Or, you can go crass and commercial. Espresso-infused bourbon… meet Fat Free French Vanilla Naturally and Artificially Flavored Coffee Creamer and a few cubes of ice. Magic. You can thank me later. And don’t be surprised next time you show up at your favorite bar and there’s a big shelf full of Coffee-Mate beside the Italian Amaro and Carpano Antica and all that jazz. Just hope they don’t start juggling the bottles, that stuff makes a mess.

Revisiting Jeremy Lin (the Cocktail)

Linsanity has plateaued somewhere far below its peak in New York City, but Jeremy Lin (the player) is still managing to play some excellent basketball. The news this morning captured the current state of the Knicks, “Fueled by a dose of Linsanity and a timely coaching change, the Knicks are making a furious charge toward a division title.” So, with Lin’s mini-resurgence, I decided to revisit the Jeremy Lin cocktail I created a month ago at the peak of Lin-diculousness. How Lin-diculous did things get? Well, the Thirsty South-devised cocktail made the Wall St. Journal. What!? (Scroll down in that link, apparently Rory McIlroy and Andrew Luck take precedent over a good cocktail!)

The day I created the cocktail, I didn’t even have the ingredients I wanted on hand. After all, not many folks have Kao Liang sitting around the house. ¬†It was a “theoretical cocktail” (and I am now pursuing my PhD in Cocktail Theory, it takes about a lifetime to complete). Now, though, with Kao Liang in hand, I can present a slightly modified version of the recipe. As intended, this drink is strong, with bite and a nice zing to it, and an undercurrent of earthy mellow sweetness pinning it down. The combination of ginger and rhubarb and the slightly funky brown sugar-y notes of (sorghum-based) Kao Liang really works nicely. I’ve axed¬†The King‚Äôs Ginger Liqueur in favor of Domaine de Canton, partly due to the fact that I CAN’T GET THE KING’S GINGER in Georgia, and partly because the Domaine de Canton is a bit more subtle and I think it allows the unusual flavors of the Kao Liang to come through. With that… enjoy!

The Jeremy Lin


  • 1.5 oz Kao Liang
  • 0.75 oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
  • 0.25 oz fresh lemon juice
  • Dash Brooklyn Hemispherical Rhubarb Bitters

Shake ingredients over crushed ice like a madman. Strain into a chilled glass. Slam it home.