Light, bracing – and pretty as a flower
Need a drink that won’t knock you off your game? The Chrysanthemum is here for you. It doesn’t contain a base spirit, so the alcohol quotient is moderate. And its rich, aromatic flavor is so satisfying that you won’t miss the extra alcohol.
The Chrysanthemum works well as an afternoon pick-me-up or predinner drink. Especially this time of year, when its eponymous flower reaches peak bloom.
Fall is perfect for planting. And you’ll definitely want this one in your garden of cocktail delights.
Recipe: The Chrysanthemum Cocktail
The Chrysanthemum contains dry vermouth and Bénédictine liqueur, with a small amount of absinthe for seasoning. It’s unusual in that it contains no “base” liquor (no gin, whiskey, vodka, tequila, brandy, or rum). So its alcohol content is lower than that of most traditional cocktails.
A recipe for the Chrysanthemum first appeared in print in Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks. Ensslin called for equal parts of dry vermouth and Bénédictine – making his recipe way too sweet for modern tastes. Today, most bartenders make this drink with 2 parts dry vermouth to 1 part Bénédictine. There’s still a kiss of sweetness to the drink, but one that’s pleasant, not cloying. It’s definitely dry enough to serve as a pleasing predinner cocktail.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 2 ounces dry vermouth
- 1 ounce Bénédictine
- ¼ teaspoon absinthe or substitute (see Notes for discussion of absinthe substitutes)
- orange twist garnish (optional)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir briskly until the contents are well-chilled (about 30 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled. Garnish with an orange twist, if desired, and serve.
- Want a slightly less voluminous drink? Use 1½ ounces dry vermouth, ¾ ounce Bénédictine, and a scant ¼ teaspoon absinthe.
- Why stir rather than shake this cocktail? Because all the ingredients are clear. Shaking introduces small oxygen bubbles, which can make the drink cloudy.
- But if you want to shake, go ahead. We often do.
- Absinthe was banned in the US (and much of the world) for years because one of its ingredients was thought to psychoactive and addictive. But it’s legal again now, and widely available in liquor stores.
- Absinthe is still expensive, though. So you might want to substitute a taste-alike, such as Pernod. That’s an anise-flavored liqueur (or pastis, to use the French term). There are other brands of pastis available, too – just ask the good folks at your liquor store for a recommendation.
- Dry vermouth is a key ingredient in this drink, so select a good one. The Martini and Rossi brand would be a good choice, as would Noilly Prat or Dolin.
- BTW, vermouth is fortified wine, and relatively low proof. Which means it will oxidize once opened. Store the open bottle in the refrigerator to extend its life.
- Bénédictine is an aromatic herbal liqueur. It’s a bit sweet (but the vermouth and absinthe tame its sweetness in the Chrysanthemum).
- Our usual note: We’re noncommercial, and don’t get compensated for naming brands. We recommend only what we like and buy with our own money.
- In The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), Harry Craddock reports that The Chrysanthemum was “well-known and very popular” in the American Bar of the S.S. Europa, a then-new German passenger ship. The Europa was a high-speed steam turbine ship that could cross the Atlantic Ocean in 5 days, sailing between Bremerhaven and New York.
- During World War II, the Europa was captured by the Allies. In 1945, the US claimed her for use as a troop transport. Eventually, the ship wound up in France, where she was refitted and renamed Liberté. From 1950 until 1962 she sailed between Le Havre and New York.
- You may have seen Liberté in movies without realizing it. She was featured in the 1954 film The French Line, starring Jane Russell. She also made a brief appearance in How to Marry a Millionaire, a 1953 movie with Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall. But perhaps her best-remembered role was in Sabrina, a 1954 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, where Liberté appears in the final scene.
Turn On, Tune In, Drink Up
“Love this cocktail,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And its florid name.”
“Makes me want to wear some flowers in my hair,” I said.
“Ah, yes, the summer of love, 1967,” said Mrs K R. “Fifty years ago – we were just little flower buds at the time.”
“Not the mature blossoms we are now,” I said.
“Well, one of us is,” said Mrs K R. “Mature, I mean.”
“I’m a late bloomer,” I said.
“Every flower must grow through dirt,” said Mrs K R.
You may also enjoy reading about:
The Opera Cocktail
The Last Word Cocktail
The Alaska Cocktail
The Hearn's Cocktail
The Hanky Panky Cocktail
The Bellini Cocktail
Or check out the index for more
Be still my heart! This is such a lovely drink :). And I love that it uses absinthe! Anything anise-flavored is welcome in my life!
Hi Kelsie, isn't this nice? Delightful flavor and fragrance. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow 2 new spirits to try and a beautiful drink too. Does it really taste like the flower tea with an extra buzz? Beautiful shots John!!!
Hi Bobbi, doesn't taste like the flower tea at all, but it's awfully good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Seriously I would drink this simply because of those gorgeous photos. Well done, John!
Jeez, your cocktail photos always knock me off my chair! Gorgeous.
What an awesome name for a cocktail: Chrysanthemum! And a very unusual one at that. Three alcohols I enjoy too! Great pics!
Loving the lower alcohol content in this sweetly named cocktail! I enjoy the lighter touch with alcohol. And it's chrysanthemum season too!
I really love cocktails with absinthe and after the day I've had, maybe I'll add a little extra ;)
You might get me to try a cocktail eventually. Each of your recipes is more tempting than the last. And I could use an afternoon pick-me-up, though if it had alcohol it might make me too sleepy to get to 5:00. Full disclosure: I drank a _second_ diet coke for lunch. Decadent!
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Angie, the flavor really is a nice as the shots! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mimi, we do make an effort. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Evelyne, the ingredients really combine so well -- neat combo of flavors. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Deb, yup, I've been waiting until chrysanthemum season to write about this cocktail. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, if it's been that bad a day, maybe two of these?:-) Thanks for the comment.
This is the drink for me! So pretty and less of a kick for a lightweight. You post the most interesting cocktail recipes - love it.
Hi Mae, I keep trying to tempt you. :D And a second diet coke? Living large! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Tricia, there are SO many different cocktails out there! Many aren't that good, but there are more than enough good ones to keep us busy for quite a while. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It's such a pretty cocktail, I just love that first photo where the colour in the glass looks wonderful! It seems a bit sweet for my taste but I'm not sure I could resist how pretty it looks in the glass.
Hi Eva, I don't generally like sweet cocktails, but this one is OK. Although you'll definitely taste sweetness, the balance is good -- it's rather enjoyable actually. Thanks for the comment.
John, I certainly admire your academic knowledge of cocktails- no doubt gained from your various books. I certainly remember the Summer of Love from 1967- this cocktail sounds like something I'd like to try!
H Fran, lots of reading to do when it comes to cocktails. And taste testing. Research, and lots of it. Busy, busy, busy, that's us. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow that's a beauty. I will always be in awe of your ability to take such stunning photos of drinks because it's insanely hard!
Hi GiGi, drinks as good as it looks. :-) Thanks for that very kind comment.
Yep! You got me again. This is such a beautiful cocktail, so different.
Cheers to you and your fabulous cocktails... and drink pics!
Hi Anna, this is rather different, isn't it? And really good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Denise, cheers! And thanks for the comment.
I have the ingredients and will make this as an aperitif this evening! GREG
PS I also have a vase full of white Chrysanthemums on the dining room table. I never have fresh mums in the house and coincidentally bought them as a centerpiece to an Asian themed dinner party I had on Tuesday.
I'm digging! Like this combo. Great for fall. I'm also ready to put a big bushel basket of mums on my porch!
Hi Greg, you can sip on your Chrysanthemum will enjoying the chrysanthemums on your dining room table. :-) This is a neat drink -- a really fun change of pace. Think you'll like it. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, this combo of ingredients sounded weird to me at first, but it really works. Wonderful fall drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
So pretty! Perfect drink for fall season.
Hi Holly, isn't this nice? And wonderful flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Such a perfect cocktail to usher in the new season. Even though it's still officially summer, it feels like autumn!
Hi Liz, it does feel like autumn! Nice. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I am fascinated by all your cocktail stories. Your photos, your knowledge, what a fun read John. I think I would love this drink. Prost!
Hi Gerlinde, it's really a nice drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a pretty and stunning looking drink. Suits well for this coming Autumn. And your photos are breathtaking, John. I so wish that I could grab that glass right away. So good. Have a lovely weekend.
This one is a beauty! Your cocktail photos are always outstanding, but this one, well, it is something beyond! The drink sounds good, too, though I'm more inclined to last week's gin daisy. But why choose? Have both.
Hi Anu, it took a LONG time to figure out how to light glass properly. Read _Light, Magic, & Science_ it's more a theory book than a "recipe" book, but it'll tell you how to light anything. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jean, I prefer last week's drink, too, but choices are nice! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Pretty, pretty and it sounds delicious too! I know I've had Bénédictine but can't think of the taste now. I love dry vermouth so may just have to try this. Thanks for the recipe, John!
Hi Pam, since you like dry vermouth, you'll like this! Really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh how I do love this cocktail. So simple and delicate. Love the lower alcohol content since I'm having to drastically reduce my intake. Thanks for sharing this John. It's a keeper!
Hi MJ, the flavor of this is really satisfying -- you'll like. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely colour, this looks great. Vermouth is used in so many cocktails!
This is such a pretty cocktail and it sounds tasty too! Great colors and photos in this post, John :)
Hi Marcelle, it's really tasty! A good one :-) Thanks for the comment.
It looks pretty and sounds very tasty.
Hi Caroline, American bartenders fell in love with vermouth (both sweet and dry) in the last half of the 19th century, so it is indeed found in TONS of cocktails! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, it is very tasty! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Such a pretty drink to see the summer out and welcome the autumn in with.
Hi Emma, isn't this a nice one? Perfect for this time of the year! Thanks for the comment.
That looks like such an elegant drink. Somehow I picture enjoying that while lounging on a chaise. ;)
Hi Carolyn, heck, any drink is good while lounging on a chaise! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love the name of this drink and you pictures look beautiful. Another winner!
Hi Dawn, we really like the name too. And the drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This sounds like a really nice drink when you're looking for something that's light and won't knock you on your butt. Perfect for an aperitif. Great photo too!
Hi Pamela, it really is a nice, light drink. And with wonderful flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Sounds refreshing, and, as always, thanks for the interesting read.
Hi Jeff, it's really a nice drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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