Chartreuse, (pronounced char-trooze) is likely a bottle you’ve seen before while perusing the curious and inquisitive liqueur section at the liquor store. In fact, you’ve seen two — yellow and green chartreuse. “What is it?” you have probably asked yourself, and why does it cost $50?
Chartreuse is another one of those secretive and distinct liqueurs crafted in dark monasteries in the European mountains by robed monks who have vowed a code of silence when it comes to divulging how this ancient spirit is made. Purportedly, the recipe for Chartreuse is known to just two people in the world and consists of 130 plants and flowers.
By itself, the flavor of green chartreuse is sharp, grassy and herbal, yet slightly sweet with tastes of key lime pie, anisette and a hint of peppermint. Yellow has more of a honey sweet taste and less alcohol by volume. Both are wholly unique to the spirit world and serious home barkeeps keep a bottle of each in stock.
You don’t need to add much of either green or yellow per cocktail to benefit from its unusual flavor, so a bottle should last much longer than your normal spirits. That is, unless you acquire a taste for the following cocktail, called The Last Word, a Prohibition classic that exudes complex yet soft herbal notes. It’s absolutely the perfect cocktail when the weather turns cooler. Since the recipe, which has been dated to the early 1920s and attributed to the bar at the Detroit Athletic Club, calls for equal parts of each ingredient, this is an easy cocktail to mix in batches and serve as a palate cleanser for your next dinner party.
Kevin Hopper enjoys crafting classic cocktails at Capitol Bar in State Street and can end any debate with The Last Word.
The Last Word
3⁄4 ounce premium gin, such as Death’s Door*
3⁄4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
3⁄4 ounce Green Chartreuse
3⁄4 ounce fresh lime juice
Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish needed.
*Death’s Door Spirits (a must taste) from Washington Island, Wis. will soon be available at Idaho liquor stores.