Chartreuse - facts and fiction
Chartreuse is a liqueur originally created in the 16th century (possibly much older) by the Carthusian monks near Grenoble, France (Or they were given the recipe by the Marechal d'Estrees).
The secret formula supposedly contains more than 130 different plants and herbs. There are two types of Chartreuse produced, the original green 110 proof, and a sweeter yellow Chartreuse, 86 proof, created in 1840.
Depending on which kind of Chartreuse you buy, it can range in color from green to yellow and comes in a variety of proofs. However, the one thing that binds all kinds of Chartreuse is the fact that they’re made in absolute secrecy away from prying eyes by a single pair of monks, both of whom are literally the only people on Earth trusted with its recipe.
The liqueur itself has existed since around the 18th century, however, its recipe can be traced back even further than that and it supposedly started life as an “elixir of long life” created by an unknown alchemist 500 years ago. According to historians, the original recipe was so complex that virtually nobody save for people with an intimate understanding of apothecary could read it. Let alone prepare it in a way that wouldn’t cause you to suffer from a severe bout of holy diarrhoea.
It wasn’t until 1737 that a monk called Frère Jerome Maubec was able to create a workable and practical recipe from the original notes. However, the tonic ended up being so ridiculously tasty that the monks of Chartreuse had to adapt the recipe to make it safer. You see originally the tonic was around 138 proof (68% alcohol), however, so many people were buying the tonic just to drink it all, that the monks altered the recipe to make it less alcoholic so that people wouldn’t accidentally drink themselves to death.
Since that day, the recipe and how to prepare the 130 different herbs needed for it have been a secret known only to a select few, passed down by the monks to only their most trusted members.
The liqueur is still being made to the exact same recipe, in secret, by two monks from the same order in a monastery in France. To make things even more secretive, the Chartreuse monastery itself isn’t accessible to the public and all the monks who live there live in almost total silence. *see Historically and Today for current manufacture.
Ingredients and how to drink it
Green Chartreuse is the only liqueur in the world with a completely natural green colour
It is powerful and unique.
Only two Chartreuse monks know the identity of the 130 plants, how to blend them and how to distill them into this world famous liqueur. They are also the only ones who know which plants they have to macerate to produce the natural green and yellow colours. And they alone supervise the slow ageing in oak casks.
Ingredients : alcohol, sugar, 130 plants and flowers.
Alcohol content : 55% (110° proof US)
Presentation : Packaged in a traditional Chartreuse liqueur bottle. Very elegant with the embossed seal of La Grande Chartreuse.
How to drink it : To bring out all its flavour, it should be consumed very cold, even on the rocks. Traditionally considered an after dinner drink, Chartreuse is more and more being enjoyed as a long drink.
Chartreuse has a very strong characteristic taste. It is very sweet, but becomes both spicy and pungent. It is comparable to other herbal liqueurs such as Galliano, Liquore Strega or Kräuterlikör, though it is distinctively more vegetal. Like other liqueurs, its flavour is sensitive to serving temperature. If straight, it can be served very cold, but is often served at room temperature. It is also featured in some cocktails. Some mixed drink recipes call for only a few drops of Chartreuse due to the assertive flavour. It is popular in French ski resorts where it is mixed with hot chocolate and called Green Chaud. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartreuse_(liqueur))
Historically and Today
According to tradition, a marshal of artillery to French king Henry IV, François Hannibal d'Estrées, presented the Carthusian monks at Vauvert, near Paris, with an alchemical manuscript that contained a recipe for an "elixir of long life" in 1605. The recipe eventually reached the religious order's headquarters at the Grande Chartreuse monastery, in Voiron, near Grenoble. It has since then been used to produce the "Elixir Végétal de la Grande Chartreuse". The formula is said to include 130 herbs, plants and flowers and secret ingredients combined in a wine alcohol base.
The book The Practical Hotel Steward (1900) states that green chartreuse contains "cinnamon, mace, lemon balm, dried hyssop flower tops, peppermint, thyme, costmary, arnica flowers, genepi, and angelica roots", and that yellow chartreuse is, "Similar to above, adding cardamom seeds and socctrine aloes." The monks intended their liqueur to be used as medicine. The recipe was further enhanced in 1737 by Brother Gérome Maubec.
The beverage soon became popular, and in 1764 the monks adapted the elixir recipe to make what is now called Green Chartreuse. In 1793, the monks were expelled from France, and manufacture of the liqueur ceased. Several years later they were allowed to return. In 1838, they developed Yellow Chartreuse, a sweeter, 40% alcohol liqueur (80° proof) coloured with saffron.
The monks were again expelled from the monastery following a French law in 1903, and their real property, including the distillery, was confiscated by the government. The monks took their secret recipe to their refuge in Tarragona, Catalonia, and began producing their liqueurs with the same label, but with an additional label which said Liqueur fabriquée à Tarragone par les Pères Chartreux ("liquor manufactured in Tarragona by the Carthusian Fathers").
At the same time, a corporation in Voiron that obtained the Chartreuse assets produced a liqueur without benefit of the monks' recipe which they sold as Chartreuse, but all attempts to reproduce real Chartreuse failed. Sales were very poor, and by 1927 the production company faced bankruptcy, and its shares became nearly worthless. A group of local businessmen in Voiron bought all the shares at a low price and sent them as a gift to the monks in Tarragona.
After regaining possession of the distillery, the Carthusian brothers returned to the monastery with the tacit approval of the French government and began to produce Chartreuse once again. Despite the eviction law, when a mudslide destroyed the distillery in 1935, the French government assigned Army engineers to relocate and rebuild it at a location near Voiron where the monks had previously set up a distribution point. After World War II, the government lifted the expulsion order, making the Carthusian brothers once again legal French residents.
Today, the liqueurs are produced in Voiron using the herbal mixture prepared by two monks at Grande Chartreuse. Other related alcoholic beverages are manufactured in the same distillery (e.g. Génépi). The exact recipes for all forms of Chartreuse remain trade secrets and are known at any given time only to the two monks who prepare the herbal mixture. Chartreuse is also used as an addition to other drinks. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartreuse_(liqueur))
Effects - mythical and otherwise
Many describe Chartreuse to have that same illusive effect as Absinthe. In fact if you were to go by that the odds of chasing the green fairy are improved with Chartreuse. It likely contains more wormwood in its mysterious 130 herbs than Absinthe, never mind adding in the cumulative effects of the other 129 herbs. Plus just in terms of proof, it's much higher in punch than most liquors in existence. So if you want to try a naturally green drink, make sure you have some hangover remedy handy the next day and enjoy the potential waking dream state (thujone-like psychotropic effect) you may experience when imbibing!
Don't like this list? Edit it and make your own list!
Don't like this list? Edit it and make your own list! We will pubish it on our site! You can share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc