Liqueur Lowdown is a series that gives you the lowdown on different types of popular liqueurs – what they are, how they taste and how to use them in cocktails or otherwise! Liqueurs are a form of sweetened liquor that you can use to add flavor to your cocktails, or simply drink neat for a pre- and post-meal treat!
Company: Chartreuse Diffusion
ABV: 55% ABV (Green Version), 40% ABV (Yellow Version)
Flavour Classification: Herbal
Dominant Flavour Note: Vegetal
Base Spirit: Sugar Beet Spirit (Green Version), Grape Spirit (Yellow Version)
Country of Origin: France
What Is Chartreuse? How Does Chartreuse Taste?
Chartreuse is a French herbal liqueur made from the infusion of over 130 herbs. There's both a green and yellow version. Both these liqueurs boast a complex, herbaceous flavour with vegetal notes of angelica, pine, and aniseed. The green version skews more herbal with more warming spice, while the yellow version skews slightly sweeter.
How Was Chartreuse Created?
Since 1737, Chartreause has been made by Carthusian monks, following a recipe for an "elixir of long life" set out in a manuscript left to them by François Annibal d'Estrées in 1605.
Still today, the secret recipe is known to only two monks, who oversees a distillery team. To make Chartreause, the distillery collects over 130 herbs and plants to macerate in alcohol, during which the chlorophyll gives Green Chartreuse its distinctive green colour. The mixture is then distilled in copper pots and aged in charred French oak.
Only two monks are privy to the Chartreuse recipe and are allowed into the herb room where Chartreuse is produced. In order to maintain the secrecy of the formulation, these monks would deliberately order too much of certain botanicals or even order botanicals not used in production for delivery into the herb room.
Other Variations / Substitutes
Green Chartreuse and Yellow Chartreuse can pretty much be used interchangeably with one another. If you can't get your hands on any variation of this monastic liqueur however, try substituting it with other herbal liqueurs like Genepy or Jagermeister.
How to Drink Chartreuse
Given that Chartreuse is a centuries-old liqueur, it's had plenty of time over the years to nestle itself into many of the cocktail recipes we know and love today. Some favourites from the Prohibition era endures today:
- The Last Word: Combine 1 part gin, 1 part Green Chartreuse, 1 part lime juice, and 1 part Maraschino liqueur. Shake the ingredients in a shaker and strain into a coupe glass.
- The Green Ghost: First appearing in 1937, this cocktail combines 4 parts gin, with 1 part Green Chartreuse and 1 part fresh lime juice. Shake the ingredients in a shaker and strain into a coupe glass.
- Naked and Famous: Combine 1 part mezcal, 1 part yellow Chartreuse, 1 part Aperol and 1 part lime juice into a shaker. Shake and strain into a glass.