Friday, January 14, 2011

Chartreuse: A Combination of History & Quality

The Chartreuse Cellar
Chartreuse is a spirit unlike any other! Over 130 herbs, plants, roots and leaves are incorporated into a base of wine alcohol, creating a complex, flavorful liqueur with a natural green color. Although typically served as a digestif, Chartreuse is also an essential ingredient in cocktails such as The Last Word and Amber Dream.

The Last Word:
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1/2 oz lime juice
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Amber Dream:
1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz vermouth
1/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

However, what makes Chartreuse especially unique is its fascinating history.

The Chartreuse Order of the Carthusian monks was founded in 1084, which makes it one of the oldest religious orders in Christianity. The Order was more than 500 years old when, in 1605, they received a special gift: a manuscript titled "An Elixir of Long Life". A long and complex recipe, it was not fully studied until 1737 by the monastery's apothecary. After intensely studying the manuscript and performing a series of test runs, Chartreuse Elixir was finally created!

This "liqueur of health" was distributed into small villages in the area. People were so fond of it that they drank it as a beverage, rather than taking it as medicine. Realizing this, the monks made a milder beverage, which we know today as "Green Chartreuse". In 1838, the distillers developed a sweeter and milder form of the original recipe. Since it was no longer a vivid green, this new liqueur was identified as, and is known today as, "Yellow Chartreuse". Presently, only two monks have been entrusted by the Order with the production secrets of these unique spirits.

While most of the spirits are bottled right after production, small portions are kept aside and subjected to long periods of aging in oak casks, allowing them to reach exceptional quality. The resulting liqueurs are known as Chartreuse Green V.E.P. and Chartreuse Yellow V.E.P. They are produced in a very limited quantity with a wax-sealed cork, a back label wax-stamped with the Chartreuse seal, and presented in a wooden box marked with a branding iron. Every bottle is identified by it's own number.

So whether you enjoy Chartreuse in a cocktail or prefer to sip the V.E.P., hopefully this history will help you savour it just a little bit more.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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