B&B 's 70th Anniversary

B&B 's 70th Anniversary

by Cristina Velocci
03.31.2008

 

Let’s play a game of word association: I say B&B, you think…cozy little cottage that serves you breakfast in bed? Well, it turns out B&B is actually a liquor too, and the reason you’d never heard of it is that it’s likely too blue for your blood. The mix of fine French Otard cognac, spiced Bénédictine liqueur, Acacia honey and a pure distillate of saffron is only served in select tony restaurants like the infamous ‘21’ Club, which is where the spirit celebrated its 70th birthday on Tuesday night.
 
The location choice had more to do with history than mere cache: the ‘21’ Club was also the birthplace of the B&B, which was invented by a bartender who combined Bénédictine with French Brandy (hence the name B&B, although the latter “B” has since morphed into a “C” when the brandy was replaced by cognac). The drink was a hit, and probably not just because of its sweetly smooth taste—even though B&B wasn’t bottled until 1937 at the Bénédictine Palais in Fécamp, France, it was first vaguely created in “the 1930s” in the cradle of Prohibition (the ‘21’ Club was a notorious speakeasy back in the day). Hmm. That being said, we’re going to take a gander here and say that this cocktail came to be during the nation’s dry spell, meaning it was illicit material and ergo automatically a sensation.
 
Guests were greeted by 1930s era flappers upon entrance into the first floor Puncheon Room where the illustrations of artists James Montgomery Flagg, McClellan Barclay and Bradshaw Crandall flank the walls and the restaurant’s rare collection of oversized antique silver trays line the high ceilings. B&B served neat, in a Sidecar, in a chocolate martini-like confection called the Chocolat Pharoah (Kahlua, Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur and chocolate shavings) and in a bitter citrusy punch made with grapefruit juice were passed around to a mixed crowd of industry people and Birkin-toting Upper East Siders (who, presumably, knew all about B&B long before its cause for celebration). 
 
The main event was the Master Mixologist Showcase where four mixologists were tasked to create a new B&B cocktail. Their concoctions were judged for taste, presentation and name by a panel which included none other than the cocktail king himself, Dale DeGroff. First up was Philip Greene, a founding member of The Museum of the American Cocktail who also boasts some serious street cred from his lineage: his Orleanian ancestors include Antoine Amedee Peychaud (of the eponymous bitters). As DeGroff held the microphone for Greene to have both hands free to mix and stir, he quipped “This is the equivalent of having Tiger Woods caddying for you.” Greene whipped up the Claiborne Cocktail, which utilized his ancestral bitters and is named for the third governor of Louisiana “because there already exist cocktails named after the first two.”
 
Next, native Australian Naren Young, who currently tends bar at BoBo in the West Village and has mixed drinks at the Pegu Club, Pravda, Public and La Esquina, created the Spice Market, so named for its use of vanilla, clove and nutmeg. Cocktail historian John Myers then took the stage, explaining that when he came up with his cocktail he suffered a bad cold and couldn’t taste, relying on feel alone—hence his name, the Touchable. The writer from Portland, Maine added a healthy dose of fresh maple syrup from his hometown, which is just being tapped from the trees.

Last but not least, Brooklyn’s own LeNell Smothers, who owns specialty whiskey shop LeNell’s Ltd. in Red Hook and makes her own brand of whiskey called Red Hook Rye, shook up the Fécamp Frappe, using little more than vermouth and bitters in order to showcase the B&B and an egg from her backyard hen “for its sexy taste.”

After the four judges deliberated for a few minutes, Myers came out on top and his winning concoction was passed around for all to enjoy. Guests left with a B&B shaker (or is it a coffee mug? We’re going to go with eye of the beholder here and fill it with liquor only) and a new appreciation for this throwback pre-mixed liquor.

Create the winning cocktail (and the runners up) at home:

The Claiborne Cocktail

1 ounce B&B
1 ounce Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whiskey
¾ ounce Martini & Rossi Italian Sweet Vermouth
2-3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters

In a rocks glass, add ice, set aside
In a pint glass, add ice, then add above ingredients. Stir well, then strain into rocks glass. Twist lemon rind over drink, then drop it in and serve.

The Touchable

1 ounce B&B
1 ounce Bacardi 8
1 ounce Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
½ ounce pure maple syrup
½ ounce fresh lime juice

Shake all ingredients and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Fécamp Frappe

1 ounce B&B
¼ ounce Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth
¼ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce egg white
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Put egg white in shaker and shake for about five seconds to emulsify. Add spirit and strained juice. Shake hard with ice. Pour into a 9 ounce cocktail glass filled with crushed ice. Top with dashes of bitters.

Spice Market

1 ½ ounce Wild Turkey Rye
¾ ounce B&B
½ ounce clove and vanilla syrup
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
1 egg white

Place all ingredients and ice into a shaker and shake well. Strain into a small wine glass. Garnish with fresh nutmeg.

 

 

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