1.5 oz Apple Brandy (Calvados is traditional, but Applejack is a suitable American substitute)
¾ oz Yellow Chartreuse
¾ oz Benedictine Liqueur
Several Dashes of Aromatic Bitters (we, of course, like to use our Embitterment Aromatic Bitters)
Combine these ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir for about 15-20 seconds until the mixture is well chilled and properly diluted, then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with a brandied cherry.
The Widow’s Kiss cocktail showcases three prototypically French spirits: Calvados, Yellow Chartreuse, and Benedictine (which is another herbal liqueur produced by an order of Catholic monks). This is an excellent formulation to pull out if you prefer sweet, but balanced cocktails. It’s definitely on the sweet and boozy size, but we would hazard to say that it’s not for everybody and that you really need to nail the dilution on this one. You just can’t get away with under-diluting it because it will be both too hot and too sweet on the palate if you do.
This cocktail, along with the Diamondback cocktail, are really the only places you’re going to see Yellow Chartreuse used in a cocktail format, so if you’re an aficionado of esoteric liqueurs, we really do think you owe it to yourself to try these things with other ingredients instead of solely sipping them neat or on the rocks.
The bottles we tasted through in this episode were (in order): Yellow Chartreuse, Green Chartreuse, and the Chartreuse 9th Centenary Liqueur. Below, we offer some history and context, as well as our tasting notes from this experience.
History of Chartreuse
In 1084, the Order of Carthusians (also known as the Order of St. Bruno) was founded near city of Grenoble in east-central France close to the borders of present-day Switzerland and Italy. This is Catholic sect of monks who live an ascetic life that is largely silent (with the exception of prayer and weekly check-ins).
In 1605, the order was given a recipe for an “elixir” by General François Annibal d’Estrées, and that recipe was the basis for Green Chartreuse, which was officially sold for the first time in 1764. The yellow variant was launched about 75 years later in 1838.
During this interview, Eric indicated that there was a significant (and potentially causal) relationship between the Phyloxera Plague and the distillate bases of Green (sugar beet) and Yellow (grape) Chartreuse. Upon reviewing the history, this doesn’t seem to hold up, and Eric is very sorry that he got it wrong.
Chartreuse Tasting Notes
Yellow Chartreuse – (40% ABV) On the nose, saffron and angelica root are readily apparent, with hints of raisin, fennel, and honey. On the palate, it’s sweet and grapey with notes of tarragon and chamomile.
Green Chartreuse – (55% ABV) The aroma is reminiscent of “forest floor” (or the scent of an alpine forest after a rain), with clover, mint, and lemon balm coming through. On the palate, the spices jump out, with cinnamon, clove, and mace all making an appearance to support a heavy hit of genepy.
9th Centenary Liqueur – (47% ABV) Ethan pulled out notes of latex paint and old tweed on the nose, while Eric was more in the cedar universe. It has a generally “darker” and “funkier” aromatic profile than the Green Chartreuse. On the palate, it has a great deal of spearmint (rather than peppermint), mustard seed, and tea notes, and perhaps some lemon thyme. Finally, we should point out that this product does contain sesame seeds, which certainly contribute to the savory flavor of this expression.
This episode was made possible with editing and sound design by Samantha Reed, production and stream management by Eric Holtzman, a great bottle of rare Chartreuse courtesy of Ethan Hall and Domestique Wine here in DC, and a little bit of tasting magic by yours truly. This has been a Modern Bar Cart Production, copyright 2020.