Green Chartreuse, the king of liqueurs, has a bright green colour and complex flavour. It is an ancient herbal liqueur produced by Chartreuse monks in France. The taste is unique, with sweet but herbal notes. A very enjoyable liqueur served on its own and in many cocktails.
A brief history
Back in 1605, the Chartreuse monastery in a small suburb of Paris received an ancient text containing the details for an Elixir of Long Life. It is believed to be the work of a 16th-century alchemist with exceptional skills and knowledge of botanicals. Unfortunately, the monks weren’t as skilful and the recipe was not fully developed until the 18th century when the text was sent to a monastery in the mountains, to La Grande Chartreuse. Their apothecary finally drew up a formula for the Elixir. Even today, the liqueur of health is made only by the Chartreuse monks using the same recipe.
The elixir was so delicious people were drinking it for pleasure rather than using it for medicinal purposes. Because of this, the monks adapted the recipe in 1840 by lowering the ABV to 55% (down from 69%), creating the Green Chartreuse we know today. They also produced a sweeter, milder form of the elixir, known as Yellow Chartreuse, bottled at 40% ABV.
On a few occasions over the years, the monks had to stop production or move it outside of France. They even lost the rights to the recipe, but eventually regained ownership and continued their production.
How Green Chartreuse is made
Only two Chartreuse monks actually know all 130 botanicals used in the recipe, how to blend them and how to produce the exceptional green (and yellow) colour. These are the same botanicals used in the original text. The herbs and plants are dried, crushed and mixed in a special herb room at the monastery. They are divided into specific groups and stored in numbered bags. The bags are then delivered to the distillery. The content of each bag is macerated in neutral alcohol before distillation. Finally, the liqueur is left to age in oak casks for several years. The same two monks also supervise the ageing process. They will test the flavour and decide when it is ready for bottling.
The outcome is a sweet, herbal and grassy liqueur with a warm but minty finish. The flavour profile is softer than many other herbal liqueurs, with a gentle mouthfeel. You can detect some spices such as cinnamon and cloves and herbs like thyme, basil and rosemary.
How to drink it
To get the most out of the flavours, Green Chartreuse should be enjoyed very well chilled or on the rocks. It works well as a digestive. Elevate your hot chocolate with a measure of Green Chartreuse. Of course, it also works well in many cocktails and long drinks. Below are some of my favourite recipes.
Rosemary Chartreuse Spritz
This recipe is based on the recipe from a book called Bubbly by Colleen Jeffers.
25ml Green Chartreuse
5ml Fresh lime juice
1 Sprig of rosemary
Rub the sprig of rosemary around the inside of your glass. Pour the Chartreuse, Prosecco and lime carefully in the glass and garnish with the rosemary. I prefer this recipe without ice. Just make sure your Chartreuse and Prosecco are well chilled.
Chartreuse, My Love
50ml Gin (I used Daffy’s Gin)
20ml Green Chartreuse
15ml MONIN lemongrass syrup (or replace with rosemary syrup)
15ml Fresh lime juice
Muddle the cucumber slices with the gin in the bottom of the shaker. Add remaining ingredients and shake well with ice. Double strain into a cocktail glass. If you prefer a longer drink, top up with soda water.
My Grass Is Greener Than Yours
50ml Gin (I used Weisshorn Alpine Gin)
10ml MONIN bergamot syrup
15ml Green Chartreuse
10ml Fresh lemon juice
5 Mini kiwis*
Muddle a few mini kiwis with the gin in the bottom of the shaker. Add all but soda water and shake well with ice. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler and top up with soda.
*Mini kiwis are hairless and the size of a grape. They taste more like gooseberries than kiwi so if you can’t find them locally, replace with gooseberries.
Italian Iced Tea
50ml Vodka (I used Kalevala)
25ml Green Chartreuse
20ml Fresh lemon juice
15ml MONIN bergamot syrup
30ml MONIN green tea syrup
1 Passion fruit (+ half for garnish)
San Pellegrino mint & lemon sparkling water
Shake all but mint and sparkling water and pour over ice (including the passion fruit pulp). Add mint and top up with the mint & lemon sparkling water.
The Noble Mexican
35ml Tequila Plata (I used Pancho Datos due to its savoury flavour profile)
15ml Green Chartreuse
50ml Pineapple juice
10ml Fresh lime juice
10ml Jalapeno syrup*
Shake all ingredients in a Boston shaker and strain into a tumbler filled with ice.
*You can also use plain sugar syrup or agave syrup and just add a piece of jalapeno in the shaker. Shaking the fresh chilli will bring extra kick to the cocktail.
Green Chartreuse is the only liqueur in the world with a natural green colour.
Chartreuse continues to age and improve in the bottle.
There used to be a White Chartreuse, which was softer and less expensive. It was named White Chartreuse due to its lack of colour.
The sales give the Chartreuse monks the funds they need to survive in the commercial world and allow them to dedicate their lives to prayer and meditation.
Have you tried Green Chartreuse? How do you like to serve it?
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