Chartreuse, available in both green and yellow formulations of the liqueur, is a bit of an enigma. Both varieties are said to be made with 130 different alpine botanicals, but the exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, known, as legend holds, by only two of the Carthusian monks who produce the liqueurs. The original formulation is said to date to 1605; the brand was registered in 1840.
The herbaceous liqueur first appeared as an “elixir” used for medicinal purposes, and evolved into the contemporary Chartreuse Verte, or green Chartreuse, bottled at 110 proof or 55% ABV and bearing brighter, sharper botanical notes than its yellow counterpart. Chartreuse Jaune, or yellow Chartreuse, which was introduced to the market many years later, is 86 proof or 43% ABV and is notably lighter and sweeter, with notes of saffron and honey.
No matter which version you prefer, the centuries-old liqueur is excellent both sipped neat and when shaken or stirred into cocktails. These are eight to try, from revered classics to contemporary concoctions from top bartenders.
For many people, this classic is probably the first Chartreuse-employing cocktail that comes to mind. Calling for an equal-parts combination of gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice, the drink has since spawned endless riffs.
Calling for London Dry gin, sweet vermouth, and green Chartreuse (plus a couple dashes of orange bitters), this classic gets its name from the jewel tones of its components. The original formulation called for equal parts of the three ingredients; we’ve adjusted it a bit, amping up the gin and dialing down the green Chartreuse a bit to make the drink more suited to modern drinkers’ palates. The resulting cocktail is a true gem.
This Martini-like cocktail, crisp and bold, is made with gin, yellow Chartreuse, and a dash of orange bitters. You can use either the London Dry or Old Tom styles of gin; the recipe originally called for the latter, although most drinkers these days prefer the former.
Love & Murder
Chartreuse is almost always a supporting player in a cocktail, but in this cocktail created by bar pro Nick Bennett, the green version takes the leading role alongside Campari. The two liqueurs are joined by lime juice, simple syrup, and saline solution to produce one of the more unusual yet delicious cocktails you’ll ever try.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
This riff on a Brooklyn cocktail is named for a trendy neighborhood in the borough and was created by bartender Michael McIlroy at NYC’s Milk & Honey in 2006. To make it, stir together rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, yellow Chartreuse, and both Angostura and orange bitters and finish it off with a lemon twist.
A straightforward twist on the Last Word, with equal parts spirit, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice, this cocktail from NYC bar pro Phil Ward takes an unexpected turn with its base spirit: mezcal infused with pineapple takes the place of the traditional London dry gin. The swap takes the drink into new heights of flavor, both vegetal and tartly fruity.
This cocktail by bartender and distiller Allen Katz gets its ruby glow from hibiscus syrup, which is joined in the shaker by pisco, grapefruit juice, and yellow Chartreuse to produce a richly, botanically flavored drink as delicious as it is beautiful.
This pre-Prohibition classic, a twist on the Bijou, appeared in multiple cocktail books during the early part of the 20th century. It employs Irish whiskey, green Chartreuse, and sweet vermouth. The folks at The Dead Rabbit kept all ingredients and added a dash of Angostura bitters, also tweaking the proportions slightly from those earliest recipes to bring it into line with modern palates.