the colleen bawn

If Boston has a secret handshake cocktail, it must be the Colleen Bawn. It seems that every bartender worth their salt in Boston knows this drink. It’s not too sweet, but rich and herbaceous — a perfect nightcap.

Jason and I like to end our night out with a flip, but typically they don’t appear on menus, especially during the summer. Curiously enough, at almost every bar in Boston where we’ve asked for a flip, we’ve received a Colleen Bawn.

This led me to believe it was a pretty standard cocktail. But, when we visited some bars on Washington D.C., we got some perplexed looks, servers Googling the recipe on their iPhones, and embarrassed apologies that the bars didn’t stock Benedictine. (What??!) So, if you’re planning on ordering one of these at a bar, you’re probably best off in Boston.

Better yet, make it at home.

The drink is named after a play which dramatizes the true, sad story of a young Irish cailín bán who is murdered by her husband. I’m not sure how this drink is connected to the murdered girl, or why it became the unofficial Boston flip. Maybe it has something to do with Boston’s Irish heritage? Maybe it’s just that Chartreuse and Benedictine are delicious?

My guess is one of Garrett Harker’s family of restaurants and bars popularized it, because it would seem every bartender I’ve ordered it from since has some connection to the Hawthorne or Eastern Standard. Regardless of who popularized it, I’d like to extend my gratitude. I’ve probably had more Colleen Bawns than most bar patrons, and I love them in all their eggy goodness.

Now, on to the recipe.

Many recipes call for equal parts of rye, yellow Chartreuse and Benedictine, from 3/4 oz to an ounce and a half. I stick with an ounce and a half of rye (usually Rittenhouse) and Chartreuse, but I tone down the Benedictine. Some experimentation has led me to 3/4 oz as a good amount.

Since a flip includes a full egg, a trip to the farmer’s market and some vigorous shaking is required. No milquetoast grocery store eggs, please — when you’re slurping them raw, make sure they’re from happy chickens.


the colleen bawn
1 1/2 oz rye (preferably Rittenhouse)
1 1/2 oz yellow chartreuse
3/4 oz Benedictine
1 egg
Nutmeg for garnish

Combine ingredients except nutmeg in shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, until the shaker is frosted over. Strain and remove ice. Pour ingredients back into the shaker, and dry shake about 20 more seconds. Fine strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with nutmeg.


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