All About Chartreuse, and How to Make the Last Word Cocktail
Like Quentin Tarantino's character said in Death Proof, "The only liqueur so good they named a color after it."
These days, a sure sign of autumn's arrival (or at least what passes for it in these parts) is the reintroduction of pumpkin spice-flavored everything on store shelves.
I have a better idea. Let's break out the Chartreuse.
What is Chartreuse, you ask? For starters, it's a yellow-green color. It's also a very delicious French herbal liqueur. In case you were wondering, the color was named for the liqueur. Cool, huh? The spirit is made by monks up in the French Alps. It's said that they use over 130 various herbs and plants to make the liqueur.
Since there's so many botanicals (and the monks who make it are famously secretive about the recipe), it's very hard to pin down the exact flavor. I get quite a bit of thyme and mint when I taste it. Beyond that, it's like drinking the essence of an alpine meadow.
Chartreuse is an acquired taste. Part of the reason is its very green flavor; another reason is that the original green Chartreuse is a whopping 110 proof. There is also a yellow Chartreuse, which is more accessible thanks to a sweeter flavor and being only 80 proof. Personally, I say go right for the green.
Chartreuse is quite nice on its own; I'm fond of enjoying some on the rocks after a nice dinner. In cocktails, it works wonders if you do it right. Thanks to the assertive flavor, it can be a bit tricky for mixing. The Last Word cocktail shows off Chartreuse very nicely, pairing green Chartreuse with equally assertive maraschino liqueur.
I think I've mentioned maraschino liqueur a couple of times, but I'll give a quick recap anyway: This isn't the liquid in a jar of maraschino cherries. That's just sugar syrup with some almond flavoring and a ton of red dye added. Maraschino liqueur is an eau-de-vie made from Marasca cherries and their pits. The inclusion of the cherry pits gives maraschino liqueur a mildly astringent flavor.
In the Last Word, maraschino's astringency is nicely tempered by Chartreuse's herbal kick, and vice versa. Fresh lime brings tartness, and the juniper notes of gin bring together the whole package.
As much as I adore a Last Word, my favorite application of Chartreuse is very simple. Once the weather starts to show a bit of a chill and you're in the mood for some hot chocolate, just add green Chartreuse to your mug. I don't know what it is about green Chartreuse and chocolate together, but it's some of my favorite alchemy in the entire world of spirits.
Last Word ¾ ounce fresh lime juice ¾ ounce London dry gin (such as Tanqueray) ¾ ounce green Chartreuse ¾ ounce maraschino liqueur
Shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
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