Drink of the Week: The Widow’s Kiss


I’ve been through most of the drinks in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails over the last 12 or 13 years but I’ve missed this evocatively named drink up to now. It was probably that, whenever I looked at the Widow’s Kiss recipe, I didn’t have any Yellow Chartreuse or, if I had that, I was fresh out of Benedictine.

Now, I have both but not for much longer. The Benedictine isn’t a problem. I complained about the price of Green Chartreuse when I made The Diamondback and the now-standard The Last Word a decade or so back. The more expensive green liqueur was going for $50.00 when I wrote those posts. Now, it’ll set you back about $110. The Yellow Chartreuse is a mere $99. Either amount is a lot to lay out to use ¼ to ¾ ounce at a time.

It was tempting to imagine that the legendary Carthusian monks, who keep a tight grip on their top-secret recipe, had dropped their vows of poverty and became debauched price gougers, partaking of the forbidden fruit of greedflation. My kneejerk anticlericalism led me astray, however. The Carthusians reduced production in 2019 for spiritual reasons and to lower the ecological footprint of their brew – admirable, even if it makes my drinks more expensive. “There’s only so much Chartreuse you can make without ruining the balance of monastic life,” a former member of the order told the New York Times. Unfortunately, the arrival of COVID the next year and an ensuing rise in home bartending created a shortage when God met Mammon. We can thank the good lord above that Benedictine remains affordable. Despite the religious invocation on the bottle, it is owned by a secular private company with no connection to the religious order.

But enough about why I haven’t made the Widow’s Kiss, let’s talk about what happened when I finally did. With all due respect to the great Dr. Cocktail, the recipe in Ted Haigh’s book is just too much for me. It’s comprised of equal parts apple brandy, Benedictine, and Yellow Chartreuse and that, my friends, is a lot. Too much sweetness, too many cloying herbal flavors. Even Haigh’s instructions to go against cocktail conventional wisdom and shake rather than stir this juiceless drink doesn’t sufficiently cut through the flavor glut. It might remind me of widows, but the kind my late grandma used to hang out with.

This adaptation by Jim Meehan, a second-generation hero of the cocktail revival, pairs things back for a drink that’s less sweet and more accessible to modern tastebuds. It’s more like a Manhattan and stronger to make sure the widow is merry, I suppose.

The Widow’s Kiss

2 ounces apple brandy (American, I suggest)
¼ ounce Yellow Chartreuse
¼ ounce Benedictine
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 cocktail cherry (garnish)

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker and stir vigorously with plenty of ice. Strain into a small and well-chilled cocktail glass. Add the cherry and salute the sadder but wiser women of the world!


In my preferred version, a Widow’s Kiss is a subtly sweet drink that will work before or after dinner. It’s all booze, and strong booze at that – every ingredient is at least 80 proof and I prefer 100 proof Laird’s Bottled in Bond Apple Brandy; this is not an ideal drink for newbies. It’s for sipping appreciatively and not for gulping.

I preferred the Widow’s Kiss with Laird’s apple brandies. While the somewhat more expensive 100-proof bottled in bond expression yielded what seemed to me like the tastiest drink, the difference when I used lower-priced Laird’s Straight Applejack 86 was subtle enough that I’m not sure if I could have told them apart in a blind taste test.

In his take, Ted Haigh preferred calvados, the French style of apple brandy. I used affordable, but not bottom-shelf, Busnel when I made my first Widow’s Kiss a la Dr. Cocktail. I tried it again. It was okay but not as good as with Lairds. The astringent, more obviously apple flavor got in the way. A Widow’s Kiss is never a simple matter, I suppose.


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