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Chartreuse Liqueur

Chartreuse Liqueur Recipes and Information

Chartreuse Liqueur is flavored with herbs and spices. The Order of Chartreuse was more than 500 years old when, in 1605, at a Chartreuse monastery in Vauvert, a small suburb of Paris, the monks there received a gift from the marshal of artillery for King Henri IV.   Francois Hannibal d' Estrees gave them an already ancient manuscript titled "An Elixir of Long Life".
     In the opening years of the 17th century, only a few monks and even fewer apothecaries understood the use of herbs and plants in the treatment of illness.
     The manuscript's recipe was so complex that only bits and pieces of it were understood and used at Vauvert.
Recipes using Chartreuse liqueur
1919 Flip
Belvedere Autumn Nectar
Cat's Eye recipe
Chalet Cider Cocktail
Daisy de Santiago
Endeavour Cocktail
Everybodys Irish
Gold Digging Dead Nazi Recipe
Golden Slipper recipe
Golden Martini recipe
Green Lizard
Harry Denton Martini recipe
La Florida Rum Daisy
La Salvacion
Massey Recipe
Mid Summer Martini
Sacred Silence Cocktail
St..Patricks Day Cocktail
The Last Word
Yellow Parrot recipe
Witch's Brew

The distribution and sales of this new medicine were limited. One of the monks of La Grande Chartreuse, Frere Charles, would load his mule with small bottles and lead it to Grenoble and other villages in the area. Today, this "Elixir of Long Life" is still made only by Chartreuse monks following that ancient recipe, and is called Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse.

This "liqueur of health" is all natural plants, herbs and other botanicals suspended in wine alcohol - 71 per cent alcohol by volume, 142 proof.  So tasty was this elixir that it was often used as a beverage rather than a medicine. Recognizing this, the monks, in 1764, adapted the elixir recipe to make a milder beverage which we know today as "Green Chartreuse" liqueur - 55 per cent alcohol, 110 proof. The success of this liqueur was immediate and its fame was no longer restricted to the area around La Grande Chartreuse. The French Revolution erupted in 1789.  Members of all religious orders were ordered out of the country. The Chartreuse monks fled in 1793 and, as a measure of prudence, made a copy of the precious manuscript. One monk was allowed to remain in the monastery and he was charged with preserving the copy. The original was given to the charge of another monk. 

This monk, the one with the original manuscript, was arrested by the Revolutionary forces and sent to prison in Bordeaux. Fortunately, he was not searched and was able to secretly pass the original manuscript to some unknown savior who smuggled it back to the area of La Grande Chartreuse where he was able to get into the hands of a Chartreuse monk who was hiding near the monastery.

This monk had no idea of how to use the manuscript and, being certain that the Chartreuse Order had been effectively closed down forever by the Revolution, sold the manuscript to a Monsieur Liotard, a pharmacist in Grenoble. Even this pharmacist could not understand the complex recipe and, in 1810, when the Emperor Napoleon ordered all secret recipes of medicines to be sent to the Ministry of the Interior, Monsieur Liotard duly followed the law and submitted the manuscript.  It was returned to him marked "Refused".

 When Monsieur Liotard died, his heirs returned the manuscript to the Chartreuse monks who had returned to their monastery in 1816. In 1838, the Chartreuse distillers developed a sweeter and milder form of that original recipe.  Since it was no longer a vivid green, this new liqueur was identified as, and is known today as, "Yellow Chartreuse" (40 percent alcohol by volume, 80 proof).
In 1903, the French government nationalized the Chartreuse distillery. The monks were expelled and fled to Spain, taking with them the manuscript. They built a new distillery in Tarragona where they continued to produce the now world-famous liqueurs. They also built a distillery in Marseille which they operated between 1921 and 1929. Liqueurs from each of these two distilleries were identified as "Tarragone" Chartreuse.

 Early in the years following the nationalization of the distillery and monastery, the French government sold the trademark "Chartreuse" to a group of liqueur distillers who formed a company - "Compagnie Fermiere de la Grande Chartreuse".  The liqueur made by this company had no semblance of the liqueur made from the manuscript.  Compagnie Fermiere de la Grande Chartreuse failed and went bankrupt in 1929.  The company's stock became valueless and the shares were bought up by friends of the monks and were presented to the monks as a gift.  Thus, the monks regained possession of the Chartreuse trademark. They returned to their distillery, which had been constructed in 1860 at Fourvoirie, not far from the monastery, and resumed production of the true Chartreuse liqueurs.

 In 1935, an avalanche roared down the mountainside and destroyed the Fourvoirie distillery.   A new distillery was built in Voiron where the railroad aided in the world-wide distribution of the liqueurs.   While the distillery is in Voiron, the selection and mixing of the secret herbs, plants and other botanicals used in producing the liqueurs is done in the monastery by two monks.

Since 1970, a company named Chartreuse Diffusion has been responsible for the bottling, packaging and marketing of the liqueurs plus a few other products selected by the monks for their high quality. Only two monks have been entrusted by the Order with the secret of producing the liqueurs. Only these two know the ingredients. Only these two know how these ingredients are prepared for incorporation into the base of wine alcohol. What little is known is that some 130 herbs, plants, roots, leaves, and other natural bits of vegetation are soaked in alcohol for an unknown length of time, then distilled and mixed with distilled honey and sugar syrup before being put into large oaken casks and placed into the world's longest liqueur cellar for maturation.

A small portion of the liqueur is selected for special treatment. This bit of liqueur is aged for an extra length of time and, after the chief distiller declares it ready for bottling, it is packaged and marketed as V.E.P. Chartreuse ("Viellissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé").  This special liqueur is packaged in 50 cl and 1 liter bottles which are reproductions of the bottles used in 1840, Each bottle of V.E.P. is individually numbered, is sealed with wax and is presented in its own carefilly-fitted wooden box.

Chartreuse yellow liqueurBy 1737, the manuscript was in the mother house of the order - La Grande Chartreuse - in the mountains not far from Grenoble. Here an exhaustive study of the manuscript was undertaken.
     The monastery's apothecary, Frère Jerome Maubec, was in charge of the study which finally succeeded in unraveling the complexities of the Chartreuse Liqueur recipe.
       Chartreuse Elixir was first made!
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