Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

It’s the good ol’ plague time of year: If you haven’t been sick this month, you almost certainly knew somebody who was.

Seriously, people: If you would all stop “giving up” drinking after New Year’s Eve (or New Year’s Day brunch), I think we could all avoid this. Skeptical, are we? Well, allow me to expound the wonders of the miracle liqueur, Chartreuse!

If you read this column on a regular basis, you know I tend to avoid naming specific brands. This is an independent paper, and also the liquor companies don’t pay me. Sometimes, however, naming a specific brand is unavoidable—like when a spirit has such a unique flavor and proprietary process that there really are no substitutes. The king (pope?) of those brands is Chartreuse. It’s made under the supervision of monks, who follow mysterious protocols and recipes known only to them. It has been around long enough to have a color or two named after it, so that’s pretty OG. Most importantly to my theme: If you had been sick in the mid-to-late 1700s, had the means and happened to live a horse’s ride from a particular monastery in France, you probably would have been counting on it in some fashion for your recovery.

OK, enough of the fanboying and apocrypha: Let’s get to the bottom of the green bottle.

It turns out the history of this stuff is pretty interesting. If you want to read the entire thing, it’s available on the company website (, but I will summarize it here. In 1605, Duc d’ Estreés gave the gift of a mysterious manuscript containing a recipe known as “The Elixir of Long Life” to a certain order of monks known as Carthusians (named after the Chartreuse Mountains, which became “Charter-House” to the English)—specifically, the ones residing in a small monastery outside of Paris. The order, founded by St. Bruno, encourages a life of silence and solitary living. I could go on, but since few people are as fascinated by the history of Western Monasticism as I am, let’s move along.

The manuscript was confusing and complex, but a certain brother “cracked the code” of the manuscript in 1764, creating the “Elixir Vegetal de La Grande-Chartreuse,” a version of which is still made today. Sadly, this version is not available in the U.S.—but if anyone wants to smuggle a bottle in from France for me, I will pay you handsomely. Anyway, this “elixir” became quite a local sensation, and the monks eventually came up with a more readily consumable version we know today as Green Chartreuse, which has an all-natural green hue. This version contains 130 herbs, and the secret to its color is closely guarded. However, due to a couple of centuries of revolution, intrigue, monastic orders being expelled from France, Napoleon, nationalization and later privatization, the recipe did pass through many hands at various points. All we need to know, for the purpose of this column, is that in 1840, the monks made a sweeter, less-potent Yellow Chartreuse—and ignited arguments among cocktail geeks 160 years later as to which version was the “real” one for the cocktail recipes of antiquity.

The monks are back in charge of production, with two brothers entrusted to mix the herbs. As for the herbs, I covered a few of the key ones in a recent column—but I know you’re here for the drinks. So here are a few of my favorite modern recipes using each type of Chartreuse. (If you wonder why I left out the Last Word cocktail, well, I’ve been doing this column since 2016, and that would be beating a dead horse at this point.)

The Greenpoint

  • 2 ounces of rye whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce of sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce of Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 dash each of angostura and orange bitters

Stir; serve up with a twist of lemon. This one was created for the bar Milk and Honey by Michael McIlroy. This was one of the first of the New York “rye-revolution” drinks I encountered, right around the time I tried the Redhook. They had a theme going here: Manhattan variations named after Brooklyn neighborhoods. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s made with the green stuff; if they try, slap them away with a slice of greasy pizza.

The Naked and Famous

  • 1 ounce of mezcal
  • 1 ounce of Aperol
  • 1 ounce of Yellow Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce of lime juice

Shake; serve up; and it’s pretty enough without a garnish. I featured this one in a column last year on “four-part drinks” if you want the history, and it’s still in my regular rotation. People just can’t seem to get enough mezcal these days, so I thought I would mention it again.

The Chartreuse Swizzle

  • 1 1/2 ounces of Green Chartreuse
  • 1 ounce of pineapple juice
  • 3/4 ounce of lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce of falernum

Mix in a tall, Collins-style glass with crushed ice using a swizzle stick, if you have one; otherwise, a barspoon works fine. You want the outside of the glass to be frosty; for easy handling, you can wrap a bar napkin around the outside. (I like to make mine look like a bandanna, but that’s optional, of course.) I like a mint garnish, but anything goes, including a lime wheel, pineapple or even basil, to switch up the aromatics. This one is from Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco and is on the short list of “drinks I wish I’d invented,” but the credit goes to Marco Dionysos. Order one, and watch your bartender get giddy (or perhaps run to the back to Google it … no judgment; I’ve been there). If you make it at home, I suggest buying a spice-forward falernum, and not Taylor’s lighter version. Taylor’s will work in a pinch if you don’t want to make your own falernum. It’s better, though, to find yourself a bar with the “real stuff”; it makes for a much-more interesting cocktail.

I am not a doctor, and the preceding does not constitute medical advice. Besides, everyone knows only hot toddies cure the common cold. Enjoy some Chartreuse anyway!

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Four is a magic number …

OK, I know that isn’t how the song goes, but when it comes to cocktails, some of the most popular drinks use equal parts of four ingredients. When using the right ingredients, the resulting drink can be well-balanced like a properly made table, while using the wrong ones will give you a figurative pile of lumber.

It’s important to have a few of these in your cocktail portfolio, to experiment with and maybe even make into your own modern classic! So just in time for the fourth month of the year, here are some of the most popular classics and modern classics using four ingredients in equal measure.

While its name suggests I should end with it, I will start with the Last Word, since in the early days of my discovering well-made cocktails, it was a favorite. It’s a bit of a tell that someone is sticking their toes in the world of craft for the first time, so to speak, if they order a Last Word. This isn’t to suggest it’s a beginners’ cocktail, though. The unlikely combination of gin, green Chartreuse, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and lime juice is a bold and funky mix of aggressive flavors. According to David Wondrich in Imbibe!, the recipe shows up in 1915 on the menu of the Detroit Athletic Club, and is attributed to monologist and vaudevillian Frank Farrell. This blast from the past is a pricey home cocktail to make, though; expect the ingredients to run just less than $150 total—and your guests will certainly drink you out of them once they get a taste!

  • 1 ounce of gin
  • 1 ounce of Chartreuse, green
  • 1 ounce of Luxardo maraschino
  • 1 ounce of lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a cherry if desired.

Another classic that uses four equal parts of ingredients (plus a dash of absinthe, but who’s counting?) is the ever-popular Corpse Reviver No. 2 from The Savoy Cocktail Book. Inventor Harry Craddock states that “four of these in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again!” True. Bear in mind the Kina Lillet in the recipe would have been more bitter than Lillet Blanc that most people now use in it, so you can use Kina L’Aero D’Or or Cocchi Americano instead for a more accurate reproduction. Feel free to use Curacao instead of the triple sec for a richer drink.

  • 1 ounce of dry gin
  • 1 ounce of triple sec (Craddock used Cointreau)
  • 1 ounce of Kina Lillet (see above)
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice

Shake; strain into a cocktail glass that has been rinsed or spritzed with absinthe, lightly. No garnish needed, but some people like a cherry or lemon zest.

Another cocktail with which I was enamored in my early days of drinking, and which has undergone many strange and complicated iterations over the years, is the Singapore Sling. While the Raffles Hotel in Singapore gets the attention for this one, Wondrich points out in Imbibe! that the drink was ubiquitous in Singapore years before the hotel claims it was created there. Ignore all the other recipes you see in cocktail books; the real McCoy is equal parts of the four ingredients. Feel free to adjust the proportions to your preferences as you go, of course.

  • 1 ounce of gin
  • 1 ounce of Cherry Heering
  • 1 ounce of Benedictine
  • 1 ounce of lime juice

Build this one in a tall glass; add soda or mineral water, and stir gently.

Being a sling, it’s going to need some bitters as well; I like four to six dashes of Angostura. No garnish needed, but a cherry flag is fun, and traditionalists like a spiral cut lime zest.

Now onto a couple of “modern classics” that I frequently make behind the bar, starting with the Paper Plane. Sam Ross invented this one just more than 10 years ago in New York, and it quickly became a “must-know” drink if your establishment attracts cocktail nerds.

  • 1 ounce of bourbon
  • 1 ounce of Amaro Nonino
  • 1 ounce of Aperol
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass; no garnish is necessary, but I usually use an orange zest. Don’t skimp on the expensive Nonino! Although this drink can be made with, say, Averna, it won’t be the same.

You can see the pattern developing here: one part of a strong spirit, two parts of liqueur, and one part of citrus. This becomes a template for creative substitution, or in bartender parlance, “Mr. Potato Head” cocktails.

Next up is the Naked and Famous. Joaquin Simó, who came up with this one while at New York’s Death and Co., calls it “the bastard child of a classic Last Word and a Paper Plane, conceived in the mountains of Oaxaca,” according to a feature online in Imbibe magazine.

  • 1 ounce of mezcal
  • 1 ounce of Chartreuse, yellow
  • 1 ounce of Aperol
  • 1 ounce of lime

This one can also be made as a mezcal Paper Plane just by subbing the spirits, but the lime and yellow Chartreuse pair better with mezcal, so it’s worth doing it this way. Although Simó made it with Del Maguey Single Village Chichicapa mezcal, that’s a pricey ingredient that’s better enjoyed neat, in my opinion. Any decent mezcal will do.

This little list is by no means exhaustive, and I know I am leaving some people’s favorites out (looking at you, Blood and Sand!), but I chose these ones specifically for their particular balance and widespread appeal. They are also the drinks that people like the most at cocktail parties in my experience, especially the Corpse Reviver No. 2 and the Paper Plane. As a bonus, the recipes are easy to remember and measure. You don’t even need a jigger, really—just a small shot glass or anything like it will do in a pinch!

So, yes, four is a magic number—when it comes to cocktails, at least.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails