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Homemade Chartreuse Style Liqueur

Submitted by Tim Brice on June 26, 2011 – 9:27 pmNo Comment

 


 

 

As my booze journeys have evolved it has become apparent that I have become a fan of the liqueur known as Chartreuse and specifically, Green Chartreuse.  It occupies a position of bombast at the bar with an assertive flavor of unforgiving herbal bitterness cloyingly married to the sweet labor of Carthusain bees.  I am a big fan.

 

 

chartruese 768x1024 Homemade Chartreuse Style Liqueur

My Homemade Chartreuse Style Liqueur

I first became acquainted to this noble nectar as part of a Bijou Cocktail made with Hendricks Gin, Carpano Formula Antica, Green Chartreuse and a twist of lemon peel.  It was a revelation of what a true top shelf cocktail could taste like.  From there, I began playing around with the stuff and have found it works in a number of applications and with nearly all the kids in the main bar playground.  It is great with gin and vodka,  excels with tequila, mezcal and various whiskeys but a little less so with rum and other sugar spirits.  My simple favorite, however, is a simple green Chartreuse and homemade tonic with a bit of fresh lime juice and a ton of ice.  It is also great neat when well chilled.

 

 

Chartreuse is also held in high esteem by some of the world’s best mixologists because of its versatility and character.  You can find Green and Yellow Chartreuse on some of the more clever cocktail menus and, again, will be paired with virtually all of the main colors in the mixologists palette.

 

 

The only drawback to Chartreuse is the price.  For all it’s 110 proof green medicinal goodness you can expect to layout around $60 USD.  Yes, it is quality and yes, one does get what one pays for but I am thirsty for my bitter herbal tonic and times are tough.  Having the bent of cook my instinct nearly is always to find a way to make something myself.  A few quick laps around the virtual tubes gave me enough information to instill the requisite bravado necessary to undertake such a task.

 

 

The main problem with trying to re-create Chartreuse at home lay in the fact that outside of two Carthusian monks sworn to secrecy no one really knows the recipe for the stuff.  Legend has it that Chartreuse is distilled from a base of 134 botanicals.  Unlike gin, for example, where juniper is the clear jumping off flavor point, few agree on which of the 134 botanicals are the main players in Chartreuse.

 

 

Not finding a definitive detailed blueprint online, I decided a trip to the local library might be in order.  I remember this type of place as I used to frequent them as a child and before my hip to hip relationship with the Internet began.  It turns out these places can be very helpful to someone doing research.  They had this person who acted like a human Google called a Research Librarian.  She took my query and directed me to the places she thought would be the most helpful.  Deep in the stacks she uncovered for me a tome title “Homemade Liqueurs” by Dona and Mel Meilach (© 1979 Contemporary Books, Inc.).  It also did not have a direct recipe for green Chartreuse but was an effective resource throughout the process.

 

 

I decided to look for common ground in the recipes and then for notable outliers.  I made a handful of lists of herbs, seeds and stems in different combinations and amounts.  Since making a liqueur can take a few weeks to be complete, I decided to test my herbal combinations by infusing them as teas.  This, I reasoned, would give me a baseline idea of what the character of the final liqueur would be.  After numerous attempts ranging from intriguing to offensively odorous I came upon a combination that had the familiar base tones and smell I was familiar with.  The players in this band were dried tansy, fresh sage, fresh lemon peel, dried orange peel, dried lemon balm leaves, dried lemon verbena leaves and dried Angelica root.  I believe that last ingredient, the Angelica root, is the star player in this ensemble.  Every concoction made without it held no resemblance to the original article.  One ingredient I chose not to use was chlorophyll.  The green liquid can easily be rendered from spinach and is virtually tasteless but I chose not to use it.  It is virtually tasteless, but not totally so and I, at least this time around, wanted to get the flavor right more than I wanted to end up with something green.  Color would come next time around.  Now that I had my herbal blend I needed only the hooch to infuse it in.

 

 

Knowing that real Chartreuse is 110 proof and that once I diluted my impostor with water and honey I would be dropping my total alcohol volume I decided to not start with a base of 80 or 90 proof vodka.  That would leave my final version around 60 proof which would be too low.  No, this is one of those rare situations where I have ever uttered the phrase, “I really need some Everclear 151.”  Great stuff Everclear is.  Pure flame with the strong sent of sweet white corn.  Sipped straight, it is much sweeter than I remembered or imagined.  The sweetness of the corn it was distilled from is very present and even pleasant early in the sip.  From there, it becomes pure burn but as one would expect.

 

 

Having done the math, I knew I didn’t want my liqueur built just on EC 151 and would have to cut it a little in order to bring the final alcohol by volume down to a reasonable level.  For this task, I turned to Tito’s Vodka which has become one of my favorite implements in my vodka tool shed.  Mixing the two gave me an alcohol base of about 116 proof.  I figured the final would get me to a final alcohol by volume of 45% or 90 proof.

 

 

I acquired a 2 liter (8 cup) wide mouth canning jar from the fine folks of my local hardware store.  Into this I placed my citrus zest and my fresh and dried herbs.  I then poured both the Everclear 151 and the Tito’s Vodka over the herb mixture.  Then I closed the lid tightly, shook the whole thing up somewhat vigorously, sat it down on the kitchen counter and watched it as if something was going to happen.  Nothing did.  Not a usually patient person I realized that time was also an ingredient here, which of course I already knew.  It is also not that exciting to watch.

 

 

Over the next four weeks, I tasted the maturation of the infusing liquor, at first daily, then every few days when it became clear that this was going to take a while.  According to one of the few consistent directions I had uncovered, I turned my jar over once a day until it was time to strain off the solids.  Every now and then I would pour a half ounce into a small glass and add a touch of filtered water and a tiny bit of honey to asses our progress.  At the end of the four weeks I tested my concoction with the water and honey again.  Boom, kid!  I had it.  It wasn’t Chartreuse exactly, but it was homemade and awfully close.

 

 

I poured the resulting liquid through a mesh strainer into a large bowl and discarded most of the solids.  Some small bits of sediment made their way through the strainer and into the bowl and would have to be strained off as well.  I once again poured my creation into another large bowl through a much smaller strainer stopping periodically to knock the contents of the strainer into the sink.  I then outfitted my Melitta pour over coffee maker with a new paper cone coffee filter and poured the infused liquor into it a little at a time.  This took nearly an hour to pass the resulting liquid through it.

 

 

At this point I had something that smelled mostly of green Chartreuse but was still a bit harsh and not sweet enough.  Back in the now washed and rinsed canning jar, I added filtered water and orange blossom honey and stirred gently.  The whole thing turned very cloudy, which I had read might happen.  A quick taste, a bit more honey, and Boom again kid!  To be honest, I was completely geeked out.

 

 

I knew that with a few hours the sediments in the liqueur would fall to the bottom allowing me to siphon off the clear stuff I wanted leaving the cloudy stuff in the bottom on the jar.   However, I did not care about cloudy so much at that moment and added 1.5 ounces to 2 ounces of homemade tonic with a bunch of ice and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.  Boom, yet once more kid!  All silliness aside, the siphoning really does work to result in a much clearer but still not see through liquid.  I highly recommend it.  As mentioned above, without the chlorophyll, my final liqueur was not the characteristic dark green of green Chartreuse but instead was a cross between olive green and orange.  This was expected.

 

 

In the end, I ended up with 1.5 liters of an herbal infused booze of roughly 116% by volume.  By adding 237 milliliters (one cup) of cold distilled and filtered water plus 308 milliliters (1.3 cups) of orange blossom honey I ended up with 2,044 milliliters (2.7 bottles) worth of Chartreuse like liqueur of roughly 80% alcohol by volume.  The total cost of the booze, citrus and herbs was $45 USD and I ended up with 2.7 bottles of the stuff for a final cost of under $17 USD.  Again, it is not actual green Chartreuse, but it is homemade and it is tasty.  Like its inspiration, my homemade Chartreuse style liqueur is great in a Bijou, with tonic and lime or sipped neat cold from the fridge.  It excels in a homemade version of the Jackson County Democratic Cocktail from Beau Williams and friends at Manifesto in Kansas City.

 

Definitely let me know if you give this one a go.  Happy infusing.  Cheers!

 

Homemade Chartreuse Style Liqueur

Ingredients

Lemon peel from 5 lemons

Dried peel from 1 orange (or fresh from 2 oranges)

1 oz dried Tansy leaves

1 oz dried Lemon Balm leaves

2 oz fresh Sage leaves

1 oz dried Lemon Verbena leaves

1 oz dried Angelica Root

1 bottle Everclear 151

1 bottle Tito’s Handmade Vodka

8 ounces filtered distilled water

11 ounces orange blossom honey

Method

Place all botanical ingredients in a large canning jar and pour both the Everclear and the Vodka over them.  Close the lid tightly and rotate the jar a few times to fully incorporate all the dry ingredients.  Once a day, rotate the jar resting it on its top and then its bottom, and so forth.  After four full weeks, remove the lid and strain the liquid through a mesh strainer into a bowl or container large enough to hold all of the liquid.  Repeat this process with a fine mesh strainer and then again with a paper coffee filter or cheesecloth lined chinois.  Add the honey and the water adding more honey to taste.  Pour the liqueur back into the now washed and dried original canning jar and leave alone for a few hours up to a day to allow any sediment to fall to the bottom, if necessary.  Then, use a siphon hose to siphon off everything but the sediment at the bottom of the jar, again, if necessary.  You may also carefully pour off the clearer liquid on top into another container if you do not posses a plastic hose for a funnel.

 

Resource

A great explanation of how proof is and can be figured can be found at this page of the homedistller.org web site.  It is a great site run by the very knowledgeable Tony Ackland out of Australia.  In just a few hours there you can learn all you need to know to begin distilling your own booze at home regardless of the fact that it is illegal in nearly every corner of the world save New Zealand.

 


 

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