1 jigger of bourbon or rye
Dash of lemon juice
Dash of grenadine
Dash of Bénédictine
Stir in ice until cold and serve in a stem glass with a maraschino cherry.
I think we should start with this charming bit of doggerel from the introduction to the Beverages section of Charleston Receipts:
Ratifia* is a drink
That ought to make you pause and think.
The drink is thimble-sized, it’s true
But what that thimble does to you! ! !
Remember, e’er you grow too bold,
That David knocked Goliath cold!
Wise words, especially where this little gem is concerned.
Given the drink’s provenance, it’s hard not to think of this one as a kissing cousin to the mint julep: essentially, an excuse to drink straight bourbon by adding in a few new flavors and chilling it. And you know what? That’s fine with me. The julep is a classic for a number of reasons, chief among them that it allows one to get keg-stand knackered in polite company while maintaining a veneer of decorum.
Alas, rye whiskey was in short supply in our neighborhood. Neither our local grocer nor the only liquor store within walking distance carried it, so I went with bourbon. The Bénédictine – a French liqueur with an interesting history – I found at said liquor store, and though it will set you back a bit, I’m guessing a bottle will last you a good long while, because I can’t imagine using it in quantities greater than a dash, or perhaps a good dollop in a cup of coffee for those mornings when the prospect of sheparding college freshmen through the subtleties of Emile Durkheim’s notion of collective effervescence is just too soul-crushingly depressing.
I, uh, think I’ve said too much. Onward!
So, the drink: The lemon juice, grenadine and Bénédictine combine to produce a kind of tart/sweet flavor – imagine a less orange-y old fashioned – while the distinctive taste of bourbon sneaks up on you afterward. (And, unless you are careful, having done so it then rolls you and takes your shoes.) It’s a winner, as far as I’m concerned, and a worthy addition to one’s cocktail arsenal.
Like the julep, though, this one is strong, so drink with care, and don’t plan on driving anywhere anytime soon. Instead, amuse yourself by lobbing pithy bon mots at your significant other and/or cats. Should they fail to appreciate your rapier’s wit, merely pour them one and soon you’ll be the hit of party you’d throw if only you could remember where the phone was.
Seriously, it’s strong. I’d say “Never challenge a Charleston woman to a drinking contest,” but then, you already knew that.
* Ratifia, as near as I can tell, is a spirit distilled from molasses and flavored with the kernels of fruits like apricots, peaches, or cherries as well as with almonds. Given that almonds, as well as peach and cherry kernels, contain cyanide, it has the added distinction of being potentially lethal.