Last week, a kind gentleman representing the fine spiced liqueur, Bénédictine, stopped by the shop. He was looking to procure a wide variety of herbs and spices, each representing prime flavor notes in Bénédictine's closely guarded secret recipe. Using these, he would create an aroma kit, like those used by wine tasters, to demonstrate his liqueur's depth to costumers. With the aid of Bridget, Old Town's manager, the gentleman was so pleased with the Spice House that he offered a bottle for us to enjoy. So the question was posed, “how best to honor such a fine gift?” With a custom cocktail, that's how! This is how the “Spice House Sling” was born.
Bénédictine is a sweet and intensely complex spiced spirit, often used in well crafted cocktails. Invented in the 19th century by a French wine merchant, Alexandre Legrand, with the aid of chemist, Bénédictine has been widely popular both do to its versatile complex flavor and Legrand's masterful marketing. Some will claim that Legrand created the recipe for Bénédictine from medicinal elixers used by French monks, but these stories are all just the concoction of Legrand's own century old marketing. Origin story aside, Bénédictine's elaborate flavor has continued to win the favor of modern bartenders and drink crafters when an extra dash of spice is needed to compliment a cocktail.
The exact recipe to Bénédictine is only known to a handful of people, containing many distinct aromas ranging from myrrh to saffron, the spices in this liqueur work well to temper mixed drinks lacking depth and body. Often seen as a welcome compliment in many classic cocktails, I set my sights on the original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling as a jumping off point to create a great cocktail featuring Bénédictine. The Singapore Sling is a tropical gin based cocktail, often reduced to a cheap knock off using sour mix and lemon-lime soda, yet the true version of this classic cocktail is a real crowd pleaser. The cocktail's base of gin is complimented with a Danish cherry brandy (although other quality cherry brandies can be used), then fleshed out with Cointreau and spicy Bénédictine, finally tempered with sweet pineapple, sour lime juice, and a touch of grenadine. This drink is a great hot summer treat for any palate, with just the right balance of sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter. But now we give it the Spice House touch!
Drink preferences at the Spice House range wide, from the quick Rum and Coke to the most sophisticated wines, but the Spice House Sling needed to please the gamut. So I stripped the Singapore Sling down to its basics, added a touch more spicy Bénédictine, compensated with an extra hint of orange, finishing on a subtle bitter note of pomegranate mollasses. The result is a well balanced sweet and sour citrus cocktail with a natural fun foamy top, to simplify the recipe for serving a crowd I've also included a modified version for a tasty punch. After a long busy Sunday, the whole staff played welcome tasters to the new drink in our backyard garden. Enjoyed by all on our end, I think the Spice House Sling will soon be a hit at many summer parties! So here's the recipe so you can try one at home:
The Spice House Sling
4 parts gin
3 parts Bénédictine
2 parts Cherry Heering (or good quality cherry brandy, such as Bols Cherry)
1 part pomegranate mollasses
1 part sugar
7 parts pineapple-orange juice
1 part fresh squeezed lime juice
Dash of orange bitters
To mix, stir pomegranate mollasses and sugar at the bottom of a cocktail shaker until well combined. Stir in lime juice and add ice to fill shaker. Add gin, Bénédictine, Cherry Heering, and pineapple-orange juice. Shake vigorously for one minute. Add dash of bitters and gently shake a few times to roughly combine. Strain into tall glasses with lime wedge to garnish.
For a punch variation of this cocktail, use the same ingredients but change the quantities to 5 parts gin, 4 parts Bénédictine, and 4 parts Cherry Heering. Stir together pomegranate mollasses and sugar at the bottom of a pitcher. Add lime, gin, Bénédictine, Cherry Heering, and pineapple-orange juice. Stir until well combined, add dash of bitters to taste. Serve over ice, topped off with club soda.