Once upon a time, chartreuse was exclusively the providence of monks in France. Today, it can be found in bars across the world. And yet, the herbal liqueur remains shrouded in mystery. Only one order, at the Monastery of the Grand Chartreuse just north of Grenoble, holds the recipe. Here, just two monks are entrusted to macerate the 130 flowers, spices, and herbs that create this magic elixir.
Luckily for us, chartreuse has made its way around the world and today two types of chartreuse are on the market. Traditional green chartreuse—the more intense and aromatic—gets its color from chlorophyll and is full of minty, spicy flavors. Yellow chartreuse gets a hit of sweetness from honey, is lower in alcohol, and is said to get its color from saffron.
Beverage Director Amanda Reed likes the two in equal measure.
“The yellow is a little lower in proof. It’s a little more viscous, it has some black pepper, it’s more integrated,” says Reed. “Green is bolder, more aggressive. It has stronger spice notes.” And while those stronger spice notes make for fantastic sipping, a little can go a long way. And, VEPs—green chartreuse aged in oak casks—make for great after dinner sips.
Chartreuse can also play well with food, or at least with the kind found at Heartwood Provisions. In fact, Reed and Chef Varin have created a unique octopus and chartreuse pairing that features octopus, spicy paprika and herb paired with a cocktail of sherry, dolin blanc and green chartreuse.
And, in honor of this secretive spirit, Reed also has a secret cocktail. You won’t find it on the menu, but come in any day and ask for a “garden in a glass” and Reed will put a special concoction—yellow chartreuse, gin, cherry bitters, and some other things—in front of you.
Just don’t tell her we sent you.