Mudslides. Persecution during the French Revolution. Trademark disputes. Few drinks have gone through the ringer the way Chartreuse has.
When I first encountered it in a cocktail called The Silver Monk, I knew vaguely of Chartreuse’s backstory; that the liqueuer was and still is made by a group of silent monks (hence the name of the cocktail). I also knew that the color Chartreuse—think Thandiwe Newton’s dress on Jimmy Kimmel Live—gets its name from the drink, and not the other way around. But as I dug into the liqueur’s history, I realized that there was much more to it than Medieval drama and lore. The amount of Test Kitchen-level R&D that went into perfecting the recipe and the forces against the monks were immense.
On this week’s episode of Proof, I dive into the fascinating backstory of Chartreuse, a drink that defies the test of time. What began as a Philosopher’s Stone-like medicinal potion is now a beloved liqueur among bartenders, and a crucial ingredient that spurred the modern craft cocktail movement. We explain why it’s a miracle that Chartreuse exists today.