SPECIAL EDITION GUEST BLOG POST
We are sharing our first-ever guest blog post. See below a post from our good friend Elin Lawrence who has a fabulous Blog called:
Travel * Food * Cool: Travel, Cooking, Doing, Eating and Drinking (that about covers it)
This was a great piece she penned last year (May 15, 2017) on the French liqueur Chartreuse.
We have had the pleasure of meeting Elin in person and we have shared food and spirits with her. She is a dynamo and an absolute pleasure to be around. We are super excited to have her as our first guest blogger. And we love Chartreuse!
Take it away Elin…
CHARTREUSE WITH ENVY
Did you know that tomorrow is World Chartreuse Day? I’m not making this up. May 16th is considered World Chartreuse Day. Now before everyone gets too excited, you will still have to go to work! It is not a “get the day off work” holiday. Chartreuse is a French liqueur made by Carthusian monks since 1737 using instructions given to them in a manuscript in 1605 (16.05 or 16 May – pretty clever, isn’t it?) which comes in yellow and green varieties.
When you say Chartreuse, most people think of chartreuse green, a colour which causes great confusion – no, it’s not teal. It is in fact precisely halfway between green and yellow (Pantone PMS 390 in your swatchbook):
The colour “chartreuse” was given its name by Chartreuse liqueur. The term “chartreuse” was first used as a term for the colour in 1884. Pretty impressive achievement for the monks’ liqueur. How did the monks start to make it? Well, they were given an alchemical manuscript by King Henry IV’s marshal of artillery, François Hannibal d’Estrées, that contained the recipe for the mystical “elixir of long life”.
So what do you need for this magic elixir? Well you start with 130 different types of herbs, plants, flowers and secret ingredients which may or may not contain cinnamon, mace, lemon balm, dried hyssop flower tops, peppermint, thyme, costmary, arnica flowers, genepei, angelica roots and combine it with a wine alcohol base where it is steeped for about 8 hours. (If you want Yellow Chartreuse, you may or may not also use saffron, cardamom seeds and socctrine aloes).
The formula for Chartreuse is a well-kept trade secret. At any given time, even today, only two Carthusian monks actually know what it takes to make this special green liqueur. The monks originally meant this drink to be a medicine. This “medicine” became so popular that in 1793 the monks were driven out of France. (Okay, so this may have had a little bit to do with the French Revolution in 1789 and the fact that Members of all Religious Orders being expelled from the country.) They had the last laugh as their removal resulted in the halt of Chartreuse production. I’m not sure if this was what caused them to be welcomed back a few years later, but I bet it didn’t hurt.
Yellow Chartreuse showed up on the scene in 1838 as their lighter (40% – 80 proof), sweeter offering. Yes, you read that correctly, 40% is the lighter Chartreuse, the Green Chartreuse (as it is now called to distinguish it from the younger sibling) is a whopping 55% or 110 proof. Besides having a heavy kick on the alcohol front, Green Chartreuse is also a little more bitter, spicy and pungent with a stronger herbal taste (think Galliano or Strega).
Our Carthusian monks were again expelled from France in 1903 and had their property (and distillery), in Voiron, seized by the French government. The monks took their recipes and headed off to Tarragona, Spain. A corporation in Voiron called “Compagnie Fermière de la Grande Chartreuse” tried to produce the liqueur without the recipe and sell it. Karma kicked into high gear and they failed. In 1929, the company went bankrupt and the shares in the Voiron company were all sold to a group of local businessmen that bought the shares (for a low price) and gave them to the monks as a gift in Tarragona. The monks returned to their property and production of the “real” Chartreuse started again. After World War II, the French government lifted the order of expulsion on the monks and the Carthusian monks were once again legal French citizens. Voiron is again (happily) the place for Chartreuse production and the recipe remains a well-guarded secret. It is still only known by two monks at Grand Chartreuse at any time.
Since the Chartreuse secret is only known to two people in the world at any given time, Chartreuse in 2007 created “Chartreuse M.O.F. Cuvée des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Sommeliers” by working with some of the best sommeliers in France to come up with special edition blend. [ELIN’S TIP: This is extremely hard to find, grab it if you see it!] This is lighter tasting and lower alcohol 45% than the Green Chartreuse, but higher than the Yellow.
The Chartreuse Cellars are open for visits with a complimentary tasting. If you want to go: Caves de la Chartreuse: 10 Bd Edgar-Kofler – 38500 VOIRON – April 5 – November 1 open daily from 9:30 – 11 am and 2 – 6 pm 9 (except July 4 & 5 when they close at 5 pm); November 2 – March 25 open Monday to Friday 9:30 – 11 am and 2 – 5:30 pm.
So after all that, what do you do with Chartreuse? Tune in this Thursday for some Chartreuse cocktails!