The writing has been on the wall for a while about how climate change threatens the global food system and, more recently, how inflation is driving up food costs, but here’s a new one. The world’s supply of Chartreuse, a bright green herbal liqueur so distinctive that a color was named for it, is becoming a rare commodity. In January, the French monks who have been distilling it since the 17th century announced that they would limit production in an effort to devote more time to solitude and prayer.
The origin story of Chartreuse reads like a Knights of the Round Table legend. In 1605, a French duke entrusted a monastery of Carthusian monks with a precious manuscript listing 130 botanicals that, when combined, produced a longevity elixir.
After about 150 years of R&D, the monks hit upon what is now known as Chartreuse, an aromatic spirit derived from roots, flowers, bark and spices that tastes vegetal and subtly sweet. There are higher- and lower-proof Chartreuses—a 110-proof green Chartreuse and an 80-proof yellow Chartreuse. The former tastes intense and peppery, while the latter has more of a round, honey flavor profile.
Trend-setting mixologists put Chartreuse back on the map during the craft cocktail renaissance of the late 2000s and early 2010s, adding a distinctive herbaceous flavor and eye-catching hue to classic drinks like the Alaska, the Bijou and the Verte Chaude or “Hot Green.” It’s also served as a digestif after dinner, a cordial or as a tonic.
Here’s the bottom line. While Chartreuse isn’t disappearing from the face of the Earth yet, the Carthusian monks’ decision to quiet-quit their day job means that it will become more difficult to find. Luckily, in the Bay Area there are several cocktail bars and restaurants that source Chartreuse in their signature drinks. These are a few of our favorite spots to drink Chartreuse.
This Michelin-rated modern bistro boasts at least 20 varieties of Chartreuse on its 54-page tome of a drink menu. It serves chilled 1-ounce pours in snifter glasses. The Morris also pioneered both the Chartreuse slushy and Chartreuse cappuccino.
At this Afro-Latino tapas lounge, the “Naked & Shameless” cocktail is a cherry-infused mezcal drink that’s supplemented by yellow Chartreuse. It’s available in a glass or a pitcher.
The barkeep at this Divisadero Street mainstay mixes a hot rum drink with allspice, bitters and yellow Chartreuse called the “Heat Miser.”
“3rd Time’s the Charm” is a rye whiskey, brandy and sweet vermouth aperitif that incorporates yellow Chartreuse.
The “#4" is an inventive combination of jalapeño-infused mezcal, aperol and yellow Chartreuse. Chambers is located inside the Phoenix Hotel, and you can enjoy a Chartreuse cocktail on the poolside patio.
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