Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

DIY Chartreuse

Have we actually discovered how to make a homemade version of Chartreuse using creative infusion techniques that have eluded everyone for hundreds of years?

No, but we had fun writing this post for April Fools Day. Look, we want to make DIY Chartreuse as much as anyone, and we came pretty close with water and food coloring—but it just tasted like water. Judging by the comments, some people can’t handle a joke. We gave it a month and fooled a lot of people, and they keep coming. If you are seriously desperate for the green stuff, best of luck to ya. The only option that comes close is Ver. But, if you landed here and don’t mind a bit of foolery, keep reading. . .

Despite what appears to be a worldwide shortage of Chartreuse, we don’t see any signs of slowing down our excitement for this product, nor falling out of love with the cocktails that call for it. As foolish as it might sound, we plan to keep moving forward, mixing Swizzles and Last Words whenever we like. Why? It’s not because we recently stocked up on extra bottles, or that Ver by Elixir Craft Spirits is a worthy substitute. No, our enthusiasm continues because we discovered how to make this mysterious ingredient at home!

That’s right! Despite the fact that Chartreuse has enjoyed hundreds of years of secrecy with a recipe known only to two individuals at any given time, and that production is exclusively managed by monks in the mountains of France—in spite of all of that, we have learned that making a do-it-yourself version is almost trivial.

We are often inspired at this time of the year to share insights and innovations, but never have we imparted details that stand to make such an impact on mixology culture. Our usual starting place involves research, and in this case, it requires some understanding about our goal. Chartreuse is an herbal, high-proof liqueur supposedly containing over 130 different botanical ingredients. That description alone is all you need in order to get started.

As we pondered the scale of that statement which seems almost too overwhelming to begin, we decided to break it down starting with the basics. We know, for example, that Chartreuse contains alcohol, and because it is not pure, it must also contain water to bring the percentage down to 55%. It’s also sweet, so right off the bat, we know it has sugar. That’s three ingredients we can be absolutely certain of: alcohol, water and sugar.

Most of our DIY projects are better because we start with a list of ideas. Since we needed a lot of different botanicals, we started jotting down typical candidates like mint, cilantro, basil, thyme, rosemary. . . and then we pulled open the spice drawer and really went to town, noting things like pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise. We decided to just list everything and sort out the options later.

Something interesting happened at that point—we ran out of ingredients and we were still way shy of 130! Clearly, we were missing something. Perhaps our definition of “botanicals” was just too conservative. We decided to broaden our perspective and opened the pantry, then the refrigerator and the freezer.

Soon, our list had grown to include everything in the house from allspice to zucchini, bananas to yams, cornmeal to xanthan gum—and everything edible in between. Now we were getting somewhere! And like any good brainstorming list, some ideas were not appropriate. For example, meat products don’t often work in cocktails (frankly, we have seen exceptions). But we decided to cross out ground beef, sausage, chicken thighs, picanha steaks, etc., as well as any modern commercial product that would not have made sense two hundred years ago (sorry, Sweet Baby Ray). When we were done, we had a bit more than a hundred items left on our list, so we got to work.

What followed was like an assembly line blur of preparation for a massive infusion. We fell into an almost meditative state and began to appreciate the monastic lifestyle of the Carthusian monks. We snapped out of it just long enough to take a photo of some spices on their way from the drawer, into a big jar, then back into the drawer, but those details are not that interesting. The main point is that we were essentially sampling everything in the house that could be infused into alcohol. We intentionally avoided messy proportions and forgot to pull out our scale, but we chose reasonable quantities of everything: spices slowly piled up, one heavy pinch at a time. We threw in one or two whole specimens of smaller items like blueberries, or as much as a slice or two of bigger fruit like apples or citrus, not forgetting a few scrapes of zest. Then, a spoonful of rice, a handful of lentils, a clove of garlic, and so on, and so on. Was there an exact recipe? We honestly don’t think we need one. Just add a little bit of everything and it will all make sense in the end.

All of this went into a big jar of Everclear for about a week. In truth, it was only a few days at which point we strained it through clean towels and eventually paper coffee filters. If you have ever done an infusion, you know how this works. It’s probably the easiest DIY project you can take on, with most of the effort spent waiting, then waiting again on filtration. In the end, we measured the resulting strained liquid and mixed up some simple syrup in the same amount. Combined, this gave us about a 50% ABV which is close enough to the real stuff, and by the time we were done, we could’t believe our eyes! It was surprisingly close in color to real Chartreuse. It’s why complex smoothies always come out this color. It was so close in fact that after refilling an empty Chartreuse bottle with what me made, we could scarcely tell the difference. The proof (no pun intended) would be in the flavor—and DIY Chartreuse delivers.

Maybe mountain elevation, candlelight and chanting makes it more authentic. Maybe it is supposed to come from France. Could the bottle you use make all the difference? Real or not, this is something everyone with a well-stocked pantry should try. You can definitely make your own Chartreuse liqueur at home. We proved that much for sure. Your results may vary slightly from ours depending on your freezer items, but we believe maybe only 30 or so ingredients have any real effect on flavor and the rest have a cancelling effect. That’s good because it means success with this technique is less a function of having exactly the right ingredients but rather having enough ingredients to reach a certain level of complexity so that the average of the rest just evens things out.

16 Comments
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Julie
Julie
1 year ago

“we mixed a bunch of stuff but won’t tell you what. And that’s diy Chartreuse!” Great article. Super informative. Just empty out the freezer!

Joe C
Joe C
1 year ago

So the whole story is “mix a bunch of stuff and it will be like Chartreuse.” It’s not a good April Fools gag. It’s a waste of time and words. Fail.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joe C
Cdbtree
Cdbtree
1 year ago

So what’s the recipe?

Louis
Louis
1 year ago

I hope you get reprimanded by French monks.

Last edited 1 year ago by Randy Hanson
Deborah
Deborah
1 year ago

Nice article, but I was hoping for a recipe.

Deej
Deej
Reply to  Randy Hanson
1 year ago

Stupid article wasting everyone’s time

Last edited 1 year ago by Deej
BigEric
BigEric
Reply to  Randy Hanson
11 months ago

Too bad you didn’t forget to write the article.

Doc Li
Doc Li
1 year ago

i don’t really see how this is at all useful but noting the date of the article maybe it’s not supposed to be. april fools!

Aaron
Aaron
1 year ago

Total waste of reading

BigEric
BigEric
Reply to  Randy Hanson
11 months ago

Congrats! You just put summit sips on my “blocked — pointless clickbait” list.