Chartreuse Verte Celebrates 250 Years

Chartreuse Verte Celebrates 250 Years

Shaken, stirred, sipped…cocktails are cool and Chartreuse is shimmying its way back into the best mixologist’s repertoire. No, we aren’t talking about the colour – we’re talking about the liqueur, the monk’s elixir for health and long life. This is the year, during the 250th anniversary, to discover this “new” old drink.

The Chartreuse distillery is located in Voiron, close to Grenoble and the snow-covered slopes of the Alps. Not far away in a quiet valley, thirty monks live together in a monastery, guardians of the secret recipe for Chartreuse liqueur. The monks, part of the Carthusian order, have taken vows of poverty, obedience, celibacy and silence. They only speak with each other on Sundays, spending the rest of the week in prayer and contemplation.

The vow of silence may have helped keep the recipe secret through the years. The recipe, from a manuscript entitled “An Elixir of Long Life,” was a gift from Marshal D’Estrées in 1605. In 1764, after a century of experiments, Brother Antoine perfected the recipe and Chartreuse Verte was born. Today, only two monks, Dom Benoît and Brother Jean-Jacques, know the names of the 130 herbs, plants, roots and flowers used as a basis for the liqueurs.

The original recipe is used today to make the Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse, 142-proof. Aficionados believe that a healthy little nip every day will prolong life. Serve it straight-up, mixed with a little sugar water or sprinkled on a couple of sugar cubes. Brother Antoine’s recipe for Chartreuse Verte is still used to produce the 110-proof liqueur. The monks also make Chartreuse Jaune which is bit milder and “only” 80-proof.

The best way to taste these liqueurs and learn about them is a visit to the distillery. You’re treated to a 3-D movie about the monks and their “potions,” followed by a tour of the world’s largest liqueur cellar. This year, in celebration of the 250th anniversary, an exhibition entitled “Green Chartreuse 1764 – 2014: A Story That Is Only Just Beginning” opened to the public on May 17 and will close on Dec 31, 2014. The interactive exhibit helps visitors discover the liqueur through its colours, its aromas and its taste.

After the tour comes the best part: a dégustation in the thoroughly modern tasting room. During our visit, we sipped the 142- proof Elixir Vegetal beside an older French couple who drive to Voiron every three months to buy their supply of the Elixir.

“I’ve never felt better,” Madame told us. “I had arthritis for years, and since taking the elixir regularly, I have no pain.”

Jonathan Mills, writing in the New York Times, describes Chartreuse as “A fetish among cocktail enthusiasts, but obscure to the general public…bartenders increasingly reaching for it to add depth and nuance – and instant classical cred – to their creations.”

Cheers! Here’s to Chartreuse and a long healthy life. And we’ll leave you with a “Last Word…”

Last Word* Cocktail

¾ oz. gin

¾ oz. Green Chartreuse

¾ oz. maraschino liqueur

¾ oz. lime juice

Shake the ingredients together and strain into a chilled glass.

*This recipe was re-invigorated in 2004 by Murray Stenson in Seattle. He found it in an old copy of the 1951 classic cocktail book, Bottoms Up! by Ted Sauer.

Chartreuse Distillery, 10 Blvd Edgar-Koffler, 38516 Voiron, France, Tel: 33 (0)4 76 05 81 77. Open every day 9 am -12 pm, 2 pm -7 pm

Kathy Morton and Debra Fioritto, certified by Atout France as “France specialists,” are travel planners for New York-based Tour de Forks. Recipients of the Julia Child Endowment Fund Scholarship, they design personalized epicurean adventures in France. Past clients include Ina Garten of Food Network and Barefoot Contessa fame. Join Tour de Forks for an uncommon epicurean adventure in France. For more information, visit: Tel: 212.327.3424





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