Recipe: Monte Carlo (serves one)
- 2 oz. rye
- 1/2 oz. Bénédictine
- 2 dashes (= 1/4 tsp.) Angostura bitters
- lemon peel
Stir liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into ice-filled Old Fashioned glass and garnish with lemon peel.
You can think of the Monte Carlo as being similar to an Old Fashioned with Bénédictine liqueur instead of sugar, or a Manhattan with Bénédictine in place of the vermouth, or even a B & B with rye instead of brandy (and added bitters). Whichever way you think about it, it’s a delicious, relatively little-known classic that you can mix from ingredients found on a lot of liquor shelves.
When we searched for the Monte Carlo cocktail online, we came across an article called “Why you must order a Monte Carlo at L.A. bar The Varnish”. We hadn’t heard of The Varnish before, but it turns out to be a speakeasy-style bar in a back room of Cole’s, one of the two restaurants in LA that claim to have invented the French dip sandwich (the other is Philippe the Original). It’s in a gritty neighborhood downtown where a number of businesses have signs indicating they were established in the 1930’s or earlier.
The Varnish doesn’t have much of the secrecy that one might expect for a speakeasy: the Cole’s hostess gladly pointed us to it when we asked, and the door has a picture of a cocktail on it. We got there about half an hour after opening; the tables were already full. There was standing room at the bar, though, which was fine with us: we got to watch our bartender at work. He served the Monte Carlo with a large ice cube that he shaped on the spot with an ice pick to better fit the slanted sides of the glass. He also cut a giant slice of lemon peel and placed it vertically, sticking out from the top. We didn’t try to recreate those touches at home, but bits of performance and presentation like that added to the fun. All our drinks tasted great too.