The Bensonhurst is among the many modern-classic variations on the Brooklyn cocktail (itself a riff on a Manhattan) named for the borough’s various neighborhoods.
It was created by bartender Chad Solomon in 2006, who was working at both Milk & Honey and Pegu Club in New York City at the time. “I was inspired to create the Bensonhurst as an alternative to the Brooklyn cocktail, partly because of the lack of original-formula Amer Picon,” Solomon is quoted as saying in Regarding Cocktails by Sasha Petraske. Vincenzo Errico had created the Red Hook at Milk & Honey a couple of years earlier as the first of the Brooklyn variations, “which set the precedent of choosing other Brooklyn neighborhoods to name the variations it spawned,” says Solomon.
Solomon’s riff takes its name from the traditionally Italian neighborhood in south Brooklyn, which he lived near at the time. It’s a particularly appropriate choice, as his Brooklyn riff differentiates itself by calling for Cynar, a bitter Italian liqueur, to replace the Amer Picon.
Otherwise, the cocktail is in fact more faithful to the original Brooklyn recipe than are many of its borough-named brethren. It retains its predecessor’s rye whiskey and dry vermouth in the same quantities. The maraschino liqueur is still there, but dropped back in quantity slightly. And, addressing the unavailability of Amer Picon, the French liqueur is swapped out for Cynar, an amaro made with artichokes, its earthy bittersweetness replacing the Amer Picon’s bitter orange notes.
The result? A boldly flavored cocktail that’s as assertive and complex as its namesake.
2 ounces rye whiskey (preferably Rittenhouse)
1 ounce dry vermouth (preferably Dolin)
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur (preferably Luxardo)
1 teaspoon Cynar
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled coupe or Nick & Nora glass.