Booze Cruise: The spirit of the Carthusian Monks

Monday 07th, July 2014 / 14:26
By Jeff Jamieson

AB-CITY-Booze-CruiseCALGARY — Chartreuse is not becoming popular again. For those in the know, it has always been popular. To imply that this product is influenced by the flimsy prospect of “popularity” is to not give it the credit it deserves.

Chartreuse, the spirit of the Carthusian Monks of France, has remained in almost uninterrupted production for over 400 years and has been available to the public since the 1730s. In that time it has gone relatively unchanged. The recipe given to the Monks as a medicinal drink in 1605 is roughly the same recipe that is used today. Some minor tweaking in the late 1700s led to what we now know as Green Chartreuse, which in 2014 celebrates its 250th anniversary (in the early 1800s, the sweeter and lower abv “Yellow” Chartreuse was created.)

Chartreuse is a herbal liqueur created by the distillation of grapes. After distillation, the spirit goes through an eight-hour maceration process in which a secret recipe of 130 herbs and plants gives Chartreuse its unique colour and flavour.

The spirit is known for its aniseed, mint and pepper aromas and when drank leaves an unmistakable minty licorice finish on the palate.

The recipe of these 130 herbs and plants is passed down by the monks and is only ever completely known by a total of two monks at any one time.

So how has Chartreuse survived this long? The answer is complicated, but one can point with certainty to two things: quality and versatility.

There are few spirits in the world that are more celebrated and well respected than Chartreuse. Not only has it won countless accolades and awards, the world loves this spirit so much that we named a colour after it. Chartreuse is very often enjoyed in its raw form, drank neat at a chilled temperature. This is an excellent way to enjoy many high quality spirits and Chartreuse is no exception.

Chartreuse also has the distinction of being incredibly versatile. For centuries, it has been a key ingredient in cocktail making for bartenders. In fact, if you consider yourself a bartender and you don’t have Chartreuse behind your bar, then sorry, you are not a bartender. While the list of cocktails that contain Chartreuse could (and likely does) fill a book, two in particular have become quite popular during the current “classic cocktail” revolution: the Bijou Cocktail and the Last Word, which was brought back from obscurity with help from Seattle bartending legend and ZigZag Café proprietor Murray Stenson.

I encourage you to try Chartreuse on its own and in a cocktail as soon as possible. You will quickly become a lifelong fan.

Bijou Cocktail

• 1 measure Gin
• 1 measure Sweet Vermouth
• 1 measure Green Chartreuse

Stir ingredients in shaker to very chilled, strain into cocktail glass, garnish with lemon zest.

The Last Word

• 1 measure Gin
• 1 measure Maraschino Liquor
• 1 measure Green Chartreuse
• 1 measure Lime Juice

Stir ingredients in shaker to very chilled, strain into cocktail glass.

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