Here’s a little secret from a bartender: All those thrilling new cocktails you love at your favorite cocktail bar are merely riffs on tried-and-true classic cocktails; and even the myriad classics you know and love belong to a precious few categories of drinks that rely on certain recurring components and ratios. One way to develop new drinks then, whether you are an aspiring professional or an avid home shaker, is to incorporate underutilized spirits into bedrock formulas. I dare you to find a reputable cocktail menu that doesn’t include at least one drink containing an unfamiliar component, whether it be sherry, amaro, or a lesser known liqueur.
One such liqueur that functions beautifully as a dance partner in classic recipes is Chartreuse. Developed by Carthusian monks in the 1600s, it is one of those mysterious secret recipe potions containing 100-plus ingredients, resulting in a powerful flavor that is all but impossible to describe, but here goes: At once spicy, floral, herbaceous, astringent, fruity, and bitter, Chartreuse comes in two varieties—the classic green, and the softer yellow. See how as little as a bar spoon of this complex spirit transforms a classic into a thing of intrigue.
A mule is an already spicy cocktail from its strong ginger backbone, painted upon the clean slate of vodka with a citric bite from lime. Here, yellow Chartreuse serves to smooth out the edges a bit, while adding a floral depth. Get the recipe.
On its own, a Southside is a real grown-up mojito; a mint-spiked gin cocktail served elegantly in a martini glass. The addition of Chartreuse gives it a haunted, green glow—and a racy new moniker as Verdant Lady. The type of gorgeous cocktail that inspires onlookers to order one based on appearance alone. Get the recipe.
What’s friendlier than a margarita, what with its dual credibility both as a crowd pleaser and a bartender staple? Yellow Chartreuse and cucumber juice keep it friendly, but also enchanted with freshness and florality. Get our Cucumber Margarita recipe.
This bears no resemblance to the frozen concoctions of your teenage years. The lovely, classic daiquiri hums green in its own light. Chartreuse helps to double down on that quality, partnering with rhum agricole to bring a depth that the strawberry versions of your youth can only hope to ever achieve. Get the recipe.
The tradition with Manhattan variations is to give each a name of a different New York City neighborhood. So when you swap out a bit of the sweet vermouth with yellow Chartreuse, the Manhattan becomes the Greenpoint—a drink with just a slight quirkiness that of course must be named for a Brooklyn neighborhood. Get the recipe.
Second to drinking Chartreuse on its own as a digestif, the martini provides the blankest slate onto which the power and complexity of Chartreuse can really sing. If a Chartreuse Manhattan becomes a Greenpoint, this should really become The Green Light since it glows just as vibrantly. Get the recipe.
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Header image courtesy of Honestly Yum.