The surprise of the Chrysanthemum cocktail is the nose. Its creators surely weren’t trying to duplicate the chrysanthemum scent, but that combination of vermouth, Bénédictine and anise is redolent of gardeny lushness.
The drink itself is very pleasantly balanced—it’s often been noted that the blend isn’t anywhere near as sweet as you’d suspect from the ingredients; it is a light-flavored, richly layered, low-alcohol aperitif.
- 2 ounces Noilly Prat dry vermouth (or Lillet Blanc)
- ½ ounce Bénédictine
- Herbsaint or absinthe wash
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled, Herbsaint-washed cocktail glass. Express orange garnish.
I’ve found that it’s very easy to overdo both the Bénédictine and Herbsaint. Many recipes follow the Savoy model, which calls for a 2:1 vermouth:Bénédictine blend, but this 4:1 seems much better balanced (and probably helps to hold down the sense of sweetness.)
The amount of Herbsaint is a personal preference; my anise tolerance is limited, and I prefer to add it as a wash, Sazerac style, rather than adding the larger portions I’ve seen in other listings.
A variant I’d like to try substitutes white Lillet for the vermouth. The responders to Erik Ellestad’s writeup on Chrysanthemum at Savoy Stomp remarked on how well that version works. I believe it; I’ve often used Lillet interchangeably with vermouth, most notably in martinis, once even in a perfect Manhattan, and never with a bad result.
But back to the name, how did Chrysanthemum get that name?
“Chrysanthemum Cocktail” at cold-glass.com : All text and photos © 2009 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.