One of the most incredible experiences about deep-diving into specialty cocktail ingredients is discovering something that has stood the test of time, somehow maintaining its relevance, complexity, and deliciousness. Green Chartreuse is one of those historic beverages and has not only been made since 1605, I was surprised to hear the color itself, Chartreuse, was named after it.
Best described as a Kermit the Frog meets Incredible Hulk color, the drink gets its Chartrusian hue from the chlorophyll of the region in which it is made, the green mountains of Chartreuse, France. The monks that first concocted it blended 130 flowers, herbs, and spices throughout the region, capturing a perfect snapshot via this boozy elixir. Although they have vowed silence when it comes to the recipe, I’m not sure who would go through the trouble of recreating such a beguiling drink.
Although there are many cocktails that are brought to life by the green spirit, let’s take a poke at it with only a good hunk of ice twirled around a few times to chill:
On the nose, right away you can tell are hundreds of aromatics popping out like a confetti canon. Hints of clove, anise, spearmint, wintergreen, and even some wet bark-like woodsiness. It’s like walking into a small car where three different people are chewing Orbit Wintergreen, Big Red, and Doublemint gum. There are hints of Easter peeps, touches of wet leather, hints of barber shop. Green Chartreuse doesn’t stop with the aromatics. It smells both feminine and masculine at the same time.
The mouthfeel is where the real fun starts. It’s viscous like a sweet clover honey mead, yet somehow doesn’t thin with ice. Sipping on my glass, it feels like Sleepytime tea. It’s calming, meditative, and almost zen-like. Mint ice cream? Yeah, I totally get notes of that. It would probably take the entire bottle to figure it out, and at 55 percent alcohol (110 proof), I’m not sure that’s possible. Also noteworthy is the utter lack of alcohol burn. It’s definitely warm and cozy, but not a backdraft-hot at that proof.
My go-to Chartreuse cocktail: The Last Word. I’m all about simple cocktails at home, and it doesn’t get any easier than a three-ingredient drink mixed in equal parts. Stir one ounce each of Green Chartreuse, fresh lime juice, and Luxardo Marasquino liqueur over ice, then strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with lime, mint, or stick of gum for later.
A big bottle can set you back around $55, so definitely try to grab the smaller 375ml bottle one at big-box booze stores for around $30.