In Honor of National Chartreuse Day—A Few Secrets
There are only two people alive who know the identity of all 130 herbs and aromatic plants used to make Chartreuse, the world-famous, emerald-green liqueur from east-central France. They are monks of the Chartreuse Order (the Carthusians), which was founded in 1084, in the Chartreuse Mountain Range near the Alpine vineyards of Savoie. The Order received the original recipe for an “Elixir of Long Life” in 1605 as a gift in the form of a cryptic manuscript believed to have been written by a sixteenth-century alchemist. A hundred and fifty-nine years later, the Order’s monks finally decoded the mysterious instructions and began to produce “Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse,” a medicinal tonic. The tonic’s descendent—today’s Green Chartreuse liqueur—still calls for a dizzying cornucopia of botanicals (including rosemary, green bell pepper, licorice, and lavender) to be macerated in alcohol, distilled to 55 percent alcohol by volume (110 proof), and aged for several years in oak casks. Made at the Monastery in Voiron, it’s the only liqueur in the world with a completely natural green color.