Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Green Chartreuse

I finally hit a critical mass of interesting looking mixed drink recipes using green Chartreuse and had to get myself a bottle. My first experience with green Chartreuse was many years back; after reading a rave review of the spirit in Wine Enthusiast by the spirits editor F. Paul Pacult, I bought a bottle for my brother as a Christmas gift. I tried it at least a couple of times and was fascinated by its complex herbal flavors.

Chartreuse is made by Carthusian monks, who apparently got the recipe for the stuff back in 1605 at the Chartreuse Monastery located in the Chartreuse Mountains. Chartreuse comes in many forms. Yellow, which is lower in alcohol and sweeter, the aforementioned green, which clocks in at 110 proof, VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé) versions of both yellow and green which are aged extensively in oak casks and are very expensive, and finally the Elixir Végétal, supposedly the original form of the spirit which comes in a handsome lathe turned wooden case, is 142 proof, and is not available in the U.S. (and is thus very interesting to me).

Green Chartreuse is excellent on its own, ice cold. It is high in alcohol, but has a light sweetness and an overwhelmingly complex herbal flavor. It is made with 130 herbal extracts. Think of an herb and you'll probably find it evoked in this liqueur.

A number of cocktail recipes can be found which make use of green Chartreuse. Just search CocktailDB and you'll find over 50 recipes. I picked a few from CocktailDB and other sites which seemed especially interesting.

Of note is the Chartreuse Swizzle which is excellent and makes use of Falernum and swizzling - some recent favorites of mine. This recipe came from Marco Dionysos (of Harry Denton's Starlite Room in San Francisco) and won a Bay Area Chartreuse drink recipe contest in 2003. A recipe I found on the internet calls for a garnish of mint and nutmeg. The mint is key, but I am eschewing the nutmeg as I have a strong association with it in rich creamy winter concoctions such as the egg nog and brandy Alexander - which makes it out of place in this drink for me. As for the Falernum, I used Taylor's Velvet as the Fee's would be too sweet in this with the pineapple juice. Also this drink is great with 1/2 to 1 oz. of white rum added if you find it too sweet.

The Swamp Water is also delicious and can be found on the menu at Los Angeles's preeminent Tropical Bar, the Tiki Ti.

The Last Word cocktail is an old-timer, dating from at least before the 1930's, but not widely known. The original recipe calls for equal parts of the ingredients, but as usual I find the Maraschino overpowering and reduced it a bit, while upping the gin a hair.

The St. Germain and the Green Ghost looked the most interesting among the CocktaiDB recipes. The St. Germain is a bit odd, but I like that it's not too sweet, nicely tart and has a nice rich egg white foam. It appears I'm becoming a big egg-white-in-cocktails fan. The Green Ghost is likewise very dry with the Chartreuse more in the background of the gin.

The Last Word
1 oz. green Chartreuse
1.25 oz. gin
0.5 oz. Maraschino liqueur
1 oz. lime juice
Shake ingredients with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass.

Swamp Water
1.5 oz. green Chartreuse
5 oz. pineapple juice
lime wedge
Combine in a highball glass with cracked ice. Squeeze lime wedge and stir.

Chartreuse Swizzle
1¼ oz green Chartreuse
½ oz falernum (Taylor's Velvet)
1 oz pineapple juice
¾ oz lime juice
Swizzle with crushed ice (stir until frost forms) in a tall glass. Garnish with a spring of mint.

St. Germain
1 oz. lemon juice
0.5 oz. grapefruit juice
1 egg white
1.5 oz. green Chartreuse
Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker and dry shake (i.e. without ice for 10 seconds). Add ice cubes and shake like the dickens for about a minute. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Green Ghost
2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. green Chartreuse
1/2 oz. lime juice
Shake ingredients with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass.

Final notes - Green Chartreuse is a complex and tasty herbal liquor. It is excellent on its own - in fact many believe it to be a waste to use it in mixed drinks at all. I do like Chartreuse on its own, well chilled, but also find it can make an excellent cocktail when paired with the right ingredients. Among the cocktails listed above, my faves are the "long drinks", the Chartreuse Swizzle and the Swamp Water, in that order. They're on the sweet side, but the flavors combinations are amazing. All are definitely worth a try.


  1. I haven't even started reading this one yet, but as soon as the page loaded I was like "awww shit: chartreuse!" I was waiting for this one!

  2. And BTW that was Mike's comment. I still haven't figured out how to post.

  3. Swamp Water was THE DRINK at The Roostertail in Detroit ...ooooh the 1970's...anybody remember???

    1. I still have a case of the promotional mason jars w/ napkins!!

    2. I looked up this liquor after watching Mysteries at the Museum this morning. Years ago (70's) we had a powerful CB base and called it the Swamp water Base.
      Are you planning on selling yours?

    3. The mention of the Mason jars recalls an old memory... my dad used to have a Swampwater boardgame, featuring jars with an alligator sipping from his own swimmin' hole (whihc he was in) through a straw. Since we never throw anything out, I wonder if it's still around.

    4. annnnnd that would be the logo, right up there in that ad!

    5. In the 70s, in Alsip, IL at Reno Corsi"s Bar & Grill, had my 1st Swamp Water served in the Swamp Water mason jar. Ohhh, the memories! Going to make some tomorrow to watch football with.

  4. My father, Bob Henklein invented the Swamp Water. He was an ad man on Madison Avenue and Chartreuse was his client. He concocted that and a few others in my family kitchen when I was a child.