July 3rd, 2007

Ever since I really got in to cocktails and started trying to find the more exotic ingredients, I’ve been incredibly frustrated with what local off-licenses and supermarkets stock. If you’re after Absolut vodka or more famous liqueurs like Cointreau, then there isn’t a problem, but try finding Maraschino or Chambord and you’ll almost certainly be out of luck. My only options have been the rather overpriced Selfridges, who stock a reasonable selection of stuff but at well inflated prices, or Drinkon, an online alcohol store.

Until now that is. Last weekend whilst driving through an area of town I rarely visit, I spotted a small shop by the name of The Worcester Wine Company. I thought I would pop in just to see what their spirit selection was like, and was amazed to find a fantastic array of goodies, from various Bourbons to obscure vermouths like Carpano Punt e Mes and even Peychaud’s bitters – something I never thought I’d find in a local off-license.

What’s more, the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, eager to talk about wine and spirits and help you find anything you’re after. In the unlikely event anyone reading this is ever in the Worcester area, I highly recommend checking out The Worcester Wine Company – I know I’ll be visiting again soon. It’s a cruel twist of fate that I have discovered the place just a month before I relocate to London. Still, at least I’ll have somewhere to indulge my spirit obsession when I am back here visiting. Keep up the good work Nick!

Anyway, back to cocktails. Chartreuse is a distilled wine liqueur, produced at the Grande Chartreuse monastery in France, which gets it’s rather unusual flavour from over 130 herbal extracts. It dates back to 1605, though the current Green Chartreuse was created in 1764. The exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, which despite many attempts has never been repoduced. Today there are two varieties of Chartreuse available – the aforementioned Green Chartreuse, which is a heady 110 proof, and Yellow Chartreuse which is sweeter and weaker, at 80 proof.

Last Word cocktail with Plymouth gin, Luxardo Maraschino and Green Chartreuse bottles in background

Last Word

To road-test Chartreuse I could find no better cocktail than the Last Word, a 1920’s cocktail which Gabriel heartily recommended recently. On paper the Last Word doesn’t seem like it should work. Adding Chartreuse, a very potent, strongly flavoured liqueur, to Maraschino, which is similarly strong in taste though in a different way, might seem like a recipe for disaster. Combined with lime and gin, all in equal measures, it seems like nothing short of madness. Despite all the positive things I’ve read about it, I really didn’t expect much…

However, amazingly it all somehow works! The Chartreuse and Maraschino seem to almost cancel each other out, while still allowing the essence of their flavours to show through, with the lime and gin lifting the drink to a more palatable balance. Despite so many flavours battling for your taste buds every ingredient can be detected, without any one overpowering or clashing with another. I don’t know what Frank Fogarty, the creator of the Last Word, was thinking when he combined these four ingredients, but we are very lucky he did.

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Posted in Chartreuse, Gin, Lime, Maraschino, Recipes

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17 responses to “Chartreuse”

  1. Gabriel Gabriel says:

    Yay! Good for you! Glad you sprung for the bottle of Chartreuse, glad you tried the Last Word, and glad you liked it. It really is amazing that it comes together so well and I’ve yet to find a better cocktail to feature Chartreuse. Let us know if you find anything else that compares.

  2. Marleigh Marleigh says:

    I talk about the Tiki-Ti constantly on my blog, but I recently had a drink there that really blew my mind. My sister ordered the Swamp Water on a lark, mostly because I had said I liked the name. The bartender warned her that it’s made of Chartreuse and pineapple juice, but she ordered anyway having no idea what Chartreuse is. I wound up stealing her drink and downing it. I have no idea what it is about the pineapple juice mixed with the green Chartreuse, but it’s delightful!

    As near as I could tell, it was 8-10 oz of pineapple floated with 1-1.5 oz of green Chartreuse, over ice. Simple and delicious.

  3. Rick Rick says:

    There was a magical featured potion at Forbidden Island that contained Chartreuse, lime juice, rum, and probably many other things.

    Chartreuse is wonderful freezer-chilled by itself around Christmas time.

  4. Jay Jay says:

    Gosh Chartreuse and pineapple, another set of flavours that don’t exactly sound like a match made in heaven! I shall have to give it a try.

  5. Mick Mick says:

    Hi Jay!

    Your site is becoming a regular stop on my daily webbing.. this page in particular has fueled (pun, yes) several cocktail parties. This is my first post as a cocktail fan, though I’ve been one for years.. My wife gave me a (replacement) shaker for my 1st anniversary wedding present.. and something *clicked* and I’ve been old-time cocktail obsessed ever since. This after YEARS of drinking, you know, martinis and gin and tonics, even manhattans. But now I’ve gone off the deep and and my bar shows it.

    So, I want to ask a pretty obvious question, but I’m kind of blanking on it– what is a really good way (digitally? on paper? I can’t decide) to keep track of all these great drinks for quick reference? Has any one come up with some sort of cocktail database program? Probably this is so obvious that I’m going to feel dumb when people reply..

    Best wishes,


    ps: where are the most basic guidelines for participating in Mixology Mondays?

  6. Jay Jay says:

    Thanks for the kind words Mick. I’m glad you have been enjoying classic cocktails and trying new drinks.

    Personally, I tend to keep a note of recipes I come across and want to try in a notebook. I then just flip through that whenever I fancy something new. Other than that I just work from memory, which probably isn’t the best solution. However I find writing about the cocktails on here provides quite a good written record anyway.

    As for Mixology Monday, there aren’t any major rules. Just pick a drink that fits the theme, post about it, and post a link to it on the comments page of the host. You can read more about the idea, and see who is hosting the next few months, over at Paul’s site.

  7. Mark Mark says:

    Went to the liquor store today to pick up the ingredients needed for this. First of all, OUCH on the pocket book, but damn if this isn’t the best tasting cocktail I’ve had in a while. Glad I dropped the cash and gave it a spin.

  8. Jay Jay says:

    Yeah between the Maraschino and the Chartreuse it isn’t the cheapest cocktail is it? The way I look at it with expensive liqueurs like this is that you generally use quite a small measure, so overall per drink you’re probably paying no more, and perhaps less, than what you pay per drink for your gin or whisky.

    It’s a wonderful drink though isn’t it! For me it really defines what a cocktail is about… taking so many richly flavoured ingredients and creating something completely different out of them.

  9. Jeremy Brooks Jeremy Brooks says:

    This is one of my favorite cocktails. The flavor is intense and delicate at the same time. The first time I made these, I tasted the ingredients by themselves, and thought “man, I just wasted a lot of cash!”. But the result of the mix was extremely pleasant.

  10. The Last Word : Drink Dogma says:

    [...] is ironic that a drink called the Last Word has resulted in endless discussions on cocktail blogs all over the net. Attempting to knock the Aviation off the internet cocktail dork throne, this drink [...]

  11. The Last Word : Drink Dogma says:

    [...] is ironic that a drink called the Last Word has resulted in endless discussions on cocktail blogs all over the net.  Attempting to knock the Aviation off the internet cocktail dork throne, this drink [...]

  12. The Cocktail Chronicles » The Last Word, Redux says:

    [...] the Last Word sure gets around. I first posted about it way back in ought-six, and since then a good chunk of the boozy blogosphere has also hailed this excellent drink. The Last Word has its own [...]

  13. Michael Michael says:

    The last word is an excellent unique drink. I had it in Brooklyn at this old cocktail bar called Hotel Delmano. If you are in the NYC area you should stop in for a drink:

  14. madeline madeline says:

    I played a board game in the seventies that was made with Charteuse and pineapple juice called swamp water . Have you heard of it and if so what is the proper name and do you know where I might purchase it?

  15. Doctor Doctor says:

    Chartreuse… well it’s urm. It’s green!
    Really nice stuff!

    I’d like t no what the gin could be replaced with (maybe yellow chartreuse?). Don’t like gin.

  16. Doctor Doctor says:

    TO KNOW… sorry, typos!

  17. Parsnip Parsnip says:

    Sipping on one of these now. Quite a pleasant surprise. It does sound disharmonious on paper but the Maraschino really needs a strong competitor to mellow out its incredibly potent smoky aroma. It still is a central element but fades into a much more pleasant herbal aftertaste.

    For my palate I would increase the herbal measure ever so slightly and decrease the Maraschino, which is best as a supporting player to my taste.

    I MUCH prefer this to the aviation.

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