It's been a long time. Too long.
The 1950s were a time when giants roamed the earth. The three-martini lunch (gin martinis, of course--vodka is an abomination and back then many people knew that) defined the businessman's day. The amount of alcohol consumed on the job (at least in middle-class, middle-management corporate workplaces) would shock today's cubicle-prone worker bees who live at the gym and drink mineral water from small Pacific islands.
The rye fire, first lit by patriots in the 1790s, was damaged by Prohibition but not yet done in. Clearly, the emergence of a cocktail-besotted culture in the 1950s kept some classics alive. Even the cocktail guru David Wondrich admits that the origins of this drink are obscure. But that it was included in Esquire: Handbook for Hosts, first published by the men's magazine in 1949, tells us enough. The drink is straightforward, direct, and tasty. The simplicity suggests pre-Prohibition origins.
As a potent mix of dry vermouth, Benedictine liqueur, and rye, it has few equals. You might raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of France's oldest continuously made liqueur (since 1510), but remember that the first patriots called on the French in a time of great need--and they delivered. The least we can do is again mix the traditions of two great powers and forces for liberty in the world, if only in honor of Lafayette, Rochambeau, deGrasse, and those forgotten French soldiers who died on American soil.
Here's what it takes to honor America's first foreign friend:
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Benedictine liqueur
2 oz rye whiskey
Mix ingredients, shake well over ice, serve in a martini glass. Add an orange peel garnish (if you wish).
Though there are lots of variants out there--including versions made with Scotch (how dare they bring Great Britain into this), bourbon (not ideal, but will do in a pinch), and even Irish whiskey (does green food coloring come with that?)--don't get this wrong. Use rye. Before you sip, be sure to raise the glass to the brave patriot and French armies that defeated the royal menace at Yorktown, VA, in 1781.