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Charting the Course

Chartreuse establishes itself as a staple

Chartreuse on tap at San Francisco's Grand Cafe

It’s time to go and buy a bottle of Chartreuse, assuming you haven’t already.

The herbal liqueur is not new. It has been in production since the 18th century, after all. But Chartreuse has gained renewed importance behind the bar in the last year or two.

The liqueur used to be something of a relic, taken from the shelf only when someone ordered the classic Prohibition-era cocktail The Last Word.

There are several variations of Chartreuse, but the most familiar are green (stronger, more bitter) and yellow (lower proof, slightly sweet). Both versions are made by Carthusian monks, from a recipe that only two of them ever know.

But secrecy does not have to imply rarity. We’ve seen Chartreuse take the lead in a Swizzle, created by San Francisco bartender Marcovaldo Dionysos and propagated by spots like Red Medicine and Sunny Spot in Los Angeles. Chartreuse is also a natural mate for chocolate, offering a bitter edge that curbs sweetness without the overweening audacity of that other favored category, amaro.

And now Chartreuse has been moved to the tap: at Canon in Seattle and at Grand Café in San Francisco, where bartender Kristin Almy uses it her Grand Old-Fashioned (see the recipe), with cognac and bitters.

No longer obscure, Chartreuse is now a staple.

Buy Chartreuse
See the Recipe for a Grand Old Fashioned
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