Only three monks at any given time in the world know the secret recipe for Chartreuse liquor. Deep in the Alps near Grenoble, France, the holy brothers macerate 130 herbs, plants and roots in wine alcohol. After distillation, honey and sugar syrup is added to the brew and set to age in large oak casks. So how was this recipe invented and why is the resulting liquor so special?
Origins of Chartreuse
In 1605, King Henri IV gave an ancient manuscript entitled “An Elixir of Long Life” to The Order of Chartreuse Monks. It contained a recipe that was so complex, only parts of it could be deciphered. Originally invented by a 16th century alchemist, the recipe failed to create aqua vitae (the waters of life). People believed aqua vitae restored youth to the aged and animated the dead. 133 years later in 1737, the monastery’s apothecary, Frère Jerome Maubec, succeeded in cracking the code. The rest as they say is history.
Monks led mules laden with small bottles of this elixir distributing them to the surrounding villages. People found it so tasty that they considered it a beverage rather than medicine. Recognizing they could make a tidy profit, the monks in 1764, adapted the elixir recipe to make a milder version known today as Green Chartreuse (55 per cent alcohol, 110 proof). Its popularity spread and in 1838, a sweeter, milder Yellow Chartreuse (40 percent alcohol, 80 proof) was born. Fast forward to 1963, when the Order added V.E.P. Chartreuse (Viellissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé) to their lineup. Only 100 bottles of this batch aged for 15 years are sold every year. Each bottle is individually numbered, sealed with wax, packaged in a carefully fitted wooden box and given an exclusive price of over $100.
How You Can Enjoy It
I can’t think of a more guiltless method of getting elegantly loaded since each and every Chartreuse purchase enables the monks to dedicate their lives to prayer and meditation. This liquor is definitely not made for pounding straight up unless you like the idea of swallowing strong herbal mouthwash. Its true essence really blossoms when mixed with juices or citrus ingredients. My favorite but less publicized cocktail recipe using Green Chartreuse is the Swamp Water containing equal parts of pineapple juice, lime juice, and the liquor. Build in a tall pilsner glass filled with ice and stir well. Inebriation aside, the drink packs a serious jolt of vitamin C along with a sharp thirst quenching herbal twist that seriously electrifies the tonsils. You too can invite the Most Holy Chartreuse to your next party with the following recipes:
Tequila 1 ½ oz
Lime juice 1 oz
Green chartreuse liqueur 1 oz
Crushed ice ¼ cup
Lime slice garnish
Except for garnish, place all the ingredients in a mixing glass. Shake well and pour into a chilled wine glass. Add garnish and serve.
1 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz grenadine syrup
1 tsp Strega herbal liqueur
Pour chartreuse into a frosted champagne flute. Fill half-way with crushed ice slightly packing with the flat end of a spoon. Add semi-frozen grenadine to form a layer, and fill with lemon sherbet. Sprinkle strega on top, garnish with a mint leaf and cherry, and serve with a straw.
Snakebite (If you dare)
1 dash Tabasco sauce
Fill shot glass almost to rim with green chartreuse, add a dash of Tabasco sauce, and toss back. Add more Tabasco sauce for a more venomous bite.