Easy Chartreuse Cocktails

By / Wine + Drinks / May 1st, 2013 / 3

One of the most appealing things about spring is watching those little chartreuse-coloured buds appear on the trees. And before you know it, they turn into full-grown leaves. Loved this line from Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. The bar owner, Warren (played by the director), serves a green liqueur to some customers. After they empty their glasses and ask what was just served, Warren says, “Chartreuse. The only liqueur so good they named a colour after it.” Another spring smile-maker is forsythia in bloom. Its yellow flowers can turn a grey day sunny and make you smile.

All that fresh greenery puts me in the mood for chartreuse-coloured Chartreuse-based drinks. This sweet herbal liqueur was created by Carthusian monks in the French Alps as an “elixir of long life” in 1605. Today, the secret recipe is known by only three monks from the order who swear a vow of silence.

The liqueur has been on retailers’ shelves for almost three hundred years. It’s made by macerating herbs in neutral alcohol spirits. The result is then distilled and aged for five years in oak vats. There are two varieties of Chartreuse produced: green and yellow. Each is made from one hundred and thirty different plants. Chartreuse Green, 110 proof, has an intense floral and herbal flavour with hints of citrus, thyme, rosemary and cinnamon. Chartreuse Yellow, only 86 proof, has a distinct citrus, violet and honey taste accented by licorice.

Both Yellow and Green Chartreuse can be found in a bottling known as VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé), the same liqueur that is aged for a longer period of time. They have flavours similar to their younger counterparts, but you will find it more mellow. Hand sealed with a wax cork before being put to rest in a wooden box, it is labelled with a wax seal.

Chartreuse (especially Green) pairs wonderfully in recipes for seafood soufflés, desserts and chocolate. You can enjoy it chilled straight or on the rocks, or perhaps like the Swiss skiers, just a teaspoon dropped into a mug of hot chocolate.

Spring Feeling




Daisy Cutter



Sheila Swerling Puritt is a recognized judge at national and international wine, spirit and food competitions. She has maintained an ongoing love affair with the industry dating back to university and has taught in Sommelier programs. She was also President of the Wine Writers Circle of Canada.

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