Chartreuse (liqueur)

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Type Liqueur
Manufacturer Carthusian monks
Country of origin Voiron, France
Introduced 1605
Alcohol by volume 40% - 55.0%
Proof 80 - 110
Color Green or Yellow
Flavor herbal

Chartreuse is a French liqueur composed of distilled alcohol flavored with 130 herbal extracts. The liqueur is named after the Grande Chartreuse monastery where it was formerly produced, located in the Chartreuse Mountains. The liqueur is nowadays produced in a factory in the nearby town of Voiron under the supervision of monks from the monastery.


[edit] Types

The two types of Chartreuse most often found are:

  • Green Chartreuse (110 proof or 55%) is a naturally green liqueur flavored with extracts from 130 plants with its coloring coming from chlorophyll.
  • Yellow Chartreuse (40% or 43%), which has a milder and sweeter flavor and aroma.

Other kinds of Chartreuse are:

  • Chartreuse VEP (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé) is made using the same processes and the same secret formula as the traditional liqueur, and by extra long ageing in oak casks it reaches an exceptional quality. Chartreuse VEP comes in both yellow and green.
  • Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse (142° proof or 71%). The Herbal Elixir gets its unique flavour from 130 medicinal and aromatic plants and flowers. It can be described as a cordial or a liqueur, and is claimed to be a very effective tonic.

[edit] History

Chartreuse counterfeits
The cellars of the Chartreuse
The old-style pot stills (no longer in regular use, they have been replaced by stainless steel stills)

According to tradition, a marshal of artillery to French king Henri IV, François Hannibal d'Estrées, presented the Carthusian monks at Vauvert, near Paris, with an alchemical manuscript that contained a recipe for an "elixir of long life" in 1605.[1] The recipe eventually reached the religious order's headquarters at the Grande Chartreuse monastery, in Voiron, near Grenoble. It has since then been used to produce the "Elixir Végétal de la Grande Chartreuse". The formula is said to call for 130 herbs, flowers, and secret ingredients combined in a wine alcohol base. The monks intended their liqueur to be used as medicine. The recipe was further enhanced in 1737 by Brother Gérome Maubec.

The beverage soon became popular, and in 1764 the monks adapted the elixir recipe to make what is now called Green Chartreuse. In 1793 the monks were expelled from France, and manufacture of the liqueur ceased. Several years later they were allowed to return. In 1838 they developed Yellow Chartreuse, a sweeter, 40% alcoholic (80° proof) liqueur, colored with saffron.

The monks were again expelled from the monastery following a change in French law in 1903, and their real property, including the distillery, was confiscated by the government. The monks took their secret recipe to their refuge in Tarragona, Spain, and began producing their liqueurs with the same label, but with an additional label which said Liqueur fabriquée à Tarragone par les Pères Chartreux ("liquor manufactured in Tarragona by the Carthusian Fathers").

At the same time in Voiron a corporation owning the Chartreuse assets produced without benefit of the monks' recipe a liqueur which they sold as Chartreuse, but all attempts to reproduce real Chartreuse failed; sales were very poor, and by 1927 the production company was facing bankruptcy, and its shares became nearly worthless. A group of local businessmen in Voiron bought all the shares at a low price and sent them as a gift to the monks in Tarragona.

After regaining possession of the distillery, the Carthusian brothers returned to the monastery with the tacit approval of the French government, and began to produce Chartreuse once again. Despite the eviction law, when a mudslide destroyed the distillery in 1935, the French government assigned Army engineers to relocate and rebuild it at a location near Voiron where the monks had previously set up a distribution point. After World War II, the government lifted the expulsion order, making the Carthusian brothers once again legal French residents.

Today the liqueurs are produced in Voiron using the herbal mixture prepared by three monks at the Grande Chartreuse. Other related alcoholic beverages are manufactured in the same distillery (e.g. Génépi). The exact recipes for all forms of Chartreuse remain trade secrets and are known at any given time only to the three monks who prepare the herbal mixture.[citation needed] The herb hyssop is one of the most obvious major constituents of the flavor.[citation needed]

[edit] Cultural references

In the short story "Reginald on Christmas Presents" (contained in the 1904 collection Reginald by Edwardian English author Saki), the title character declares that "people may say what they like about the decay of Christianity; the religious system that produced green Chartreuse can never really die."

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, Gatsby shares a bottle of Chartreuse with Nick, the narrator. From Chapter 5: "Finally we came to Gatsby's own apartment, a bedroom and a bath, and an Adam study, where we sat down and drank a glass of some Chartreuse he took from a cupboard in the wall."

In Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited, Anthony and the narrator Charles Ryder drink Chartreuse after dinner. Anthony muses that it's "Real G-g-green Chartreuse, made before the expulsion of the monks. There are five distinct tastes as it trickles over the tongue. It is like swallowing a sp-spectrum."

In John Updike's short story "Domestic Life in America," first published in The New Yorker and later in the short story collection Problems, Jean offers her separated husband Fraser some Chartreuse as they go over her proposed alimony budget. Fraser: "Where does the money for Chartreuse come in?" Jean: "Under 'household necessities.'"

In Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, the bar owner Warren (Quentin Tarantino) serves a green liqueur. After having emptied their glasses, and being asked what was just served, Warren says "Chartreuse, the only liqueur so good they named a color after it."

In Poppy Z. Brite's novel Lost Souls, Chartreuse features heavily, serving as the main drink of the New Orleans' Vampire protagonists. The strong green colour of the drink calls to mind the expression "green with envy", as envy and jealously are major themes of the novel.

In Ray Bradbury's short story "The Fox and the Forest" from the collection The Illustrated Man, "Searchers" from the year 2155 leave behind purchased Chartreuse, as well as other alcohol and tobacco products, after hunting down the fugitive protagonists in Mexico in 1938 and returning to the future.

In "Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer" by the band Morphine, one of the verses goes: "It was later it was after two. We found a bottle of good chartreuse. The lights were green and gold. We played Latin soul. By the time Priscilla put the Al Green on the bottle was gone. "

[edit] The Taste

Chartreuse has a very strong characteristic flavor. It is very sweet, but turns both spicy and pungent. By way of comparison, it is quite similar to Liquore Strega or Galliano. Its taste varies depending upon the serving temperature. It is often served on ice, but can be added to cocktails or added to a mixer. Some mixed drink recipes call for only a few drops of Chartreuse, so assertive is its flavor. Though the flavor is highly complex, anise is easily discernible as one of the ingredients.

[edit] See also

  • Chartreuse, a web color named in the 1990s after Green Chartreuse liqueur.
  • Chartreuse yellow, a color named in 1892 after Yellow Chartreuse liqueur.
  • Bénédictine, another liqueur with monastic origins.

[edit] References

  1. ^ "The monks got hold of the recipe, originally a health potion, in 1605 but it was so complex they didn't master it for another century.""Chartreuse Liqueurs". Immaculate Heart of Mary's Hermitage. 
  • Harold J. Grossman and Harriet Lembeck, Grossman's Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits (6th edition). Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1977, pp. 378-9. ISBN 0-684-15033-6

[edit] External links

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