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What the #$@! Do I Do with This? Green Chartreuse: What It Is and How to Use It.

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(photo composite: Laura Sant)

You bought a bottle of booze because a cocktail recipe called for a very minute amount. Now you’re stuck with the remaining 9/10ths of the bottle and wondering what to do with it. No worries. Thrifty bartenders weigh in with tips and recipes for getting every last drop out of an underutilized ingredient so it doesn’t gather dust on your bar shelf.

The Carthusian monks who’ve distilled this French liqueur in the mountains in Voiron with a heavily guarded secret recipe may have some creative ideas about how to use it. But if so, they aren’t talking. Their pale green elixir is essential in classic cocktails like the Last Word and Bijou, where it’s stirred with gin, sweet vermouth and orange bitters. Green Chartreuse can also elevate an après-ski sipper: Add a shot to hot chocolate, and you’re on your way to drinking a Verte Chaud. But the liqueur’s botanical punch from 130 herbs takes on a subtle sweetness that can balance out the tart and the bitter, making it far more useful than you’d think.

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Chartreuse, in my opinion, is the king of liqueurs,” says Adam Gamboa, the lead bartender at Il Posto in Denver. “It’s powerful, unique, smooth and versatile and leaves me questioning what hidden flavors and aromatics I have yet to discover,” he says. Gamboa uses it in his gin-based “bartender’s choice” cocktails and also complements or contrasts ingredients including lime, pineapple, thyme, basil, rosemary, coffee, vanilla or absinthe. In his Lutin Vert cocktail, it’s shaken with gin, elderflower, lime, lavender bitters, coffee and muddled rosemary. More of a gateway cocktail, he says, is using it in a Manhattan riff.

“Most people feel that Green Chartreuse is too harsh, too astringent, too medicinal,” says Jules Elkovich, a sommelier at Michael Jordan’s Steak House at Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville, Conn. That’s usually because they were given a shot at room temperature, she adds, which can exacerbate its alcohol content and botanical punch. “Hiding behind that signature licorice bite is a backbone of green pepper, baking spices, rosemary and lavender,” she says. When it’s chilled down with ice and stirred or shaken with other ingredients, the liqueur’s sharp notes evolve into citrus and fresh garden herbs all while keeping that peppery structure. The combo of baking spices, grassiness and herby notes in reposado tequila play especially nicely with Green Chartreuse, she says.

Though Green Chartreuse isn’t generally used in rum drinks, Scott Woodworth, the lead bartender at 12@Madison in Denver, thinks this is a great way to wean people off the notion that it’s merely a stand-in for pastis or sambuca. It even adds an unexpected and interesting layer of flavor to Tiki-style cocktails like his Brother Hal, made with rum, mezcal, John D. Taylor’s Velvet falernum and lime and orange juices. “It provides the perfect balance of sweet, savory and citrus,” says Woodworth.

You can also use Green Chartreuse as a secret weapon to add balance, says Eddie Riddell, the bar manager at Trifecta in Portland, Ore.: “Used in small amounts, it can increase complexity and add a little sweetness to counter acidic or bitter elements,” he says. A quarter-ounce in a Gimlet lends it an awesome herbaceousness, he says. Store it in a spray bottle or atomizer to rinse glassware or top a cocktail, or add it to whipped cream to top an Irish Coffee.

Finally, keep in mind that how you mix your drink matters. Shaking a Chartreuse cocktail will exacerbate the sweeter elements, while stirring it lends a viscous palate-coating mouthfeel. Now that’s a secret even those monks may not know.

Finish up that bottle of Green Chartreuse by mixing up one of these three great cocktails.

(image: Tim Nusog)

Bonpland

This Sazerac variation from Elkovich is an homage to Aimé Bonpland, the French botanist who explored Mexico between 1799 and 1805 with Alexander von Humboldt and who created the country’s first maps. “Reposado tequila has the perfect marriage of spice, baking spice, green grass and fresh herbaceous notes that play so well with Green Chartreuse,” she says. “And the name seemed an appropriate hat tip to the marriage of Mexican and French influences.”

Get the recipe.

(image: Tim Nusog)

Brother Hal

“Chartreuse is not classically used in rum cocktails; however, the herbaceous character can play well with sugar-cane-based distillates,” says Woodworth. His drink with white rum, mezcal, falernum and fresh citrus “provides the perfect balance of sweet, savory and citrus,” he says. It can also show that Green Chartreuse is not a one-trick pony of medicinal licorice flavors.

Get the recipe.

(image: Tim Nusog)

Manhattan

“Creating a beautifully balanced cocktail with Chartreuse can be challenging as few spirits stand up to its bold profile,” says Gamboa. It works well with lots of different herbs, as well as anise, coffee and vanilla, he says. “But for those not interested in all that tomfoolery, this simple variation of the classic Manhattan or Tipperary cocktail should do the trick,” he adds. Depending on your taste for sweetness, you may want to eliminate the simple syrup altogether.

Get the recipe.

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