Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

I like my ladies the way I like my cocktails: strong, cool, and complex.

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

I’ve been trying to make this cocktail since 2007 when I first tried it at Alembic in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Amelia and I used to frequent Alembic when it first opened, before there was a line out the door every night and you had to elbow-fight pretty hipsters to get a drink. Back then, we would meet after work, which for us was around midnight. I worked a plating shift at a schmancy restaurant where I juggled 8 different desserts every night, then scoured the kitchen from top to bottom, all for what basically amounted to minimum wage. Amelia worked odd hours as a counselor at a house for folks who had fallen on hard times. We would both emerge from work when most of the city was tucked into bed, both in need of a stiff drink. We’d belly up to the near-empty bar, chat with the bartenders about the relative merits of gin vs. whiskey, and snack on deviled duck eggs and the most delicious cocktails either of us had ever tasted.

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

The Mediterranean Homesick Blues was my usual, a light and fizzy gin concoction kissed with cardamom, rose, and lemon, which I adapted here (and really deserves some better, non-smart-phone photos). One night, a lady bartender was serving us and I asked her for something similar but different. She shook me up a creation of her own, strained it into a coupe, and garnished it with a mint leaf. I took a sip: icy bits kissed my lips, fresh mint wafted cool and clean, and a bouquet of herbs and spices punched me in the kisser. It was the classiest cocktail I’d ever met.

I asked the name of the drink, to which she replied, “Femme Fatale.” Fitting. Thinking I could simply look up the recipe online, I tumbled into a taxi and headed home. But the interwebs told a different story. There was no gin and chartreuse-based Femme Fatale to be found, only something sweet and fruity made with SoCo that was the antithesis of the drink I sought.

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

Luckily, we tracked down the bartender a second time, and again she shook up the most ambrosial liquid I’d ever tasted. And this time, I made her write down the formula on a coaster. I put the coaster on my refrigerator and made a concerted effort to procure Green Chartreuse, a bright green herbal liquor made by Carthusian monks in the Grenoble region of France since the 1700’s. The spirit usually comes in wine bottle-sized containers and costs a fair sum. Yet the price is reasonable when you consider that 130 different types of herbs, spices, and botanicals go into making the naturally-colored libation. It tastes a little bit like old-school medicine, in a good way. Monk medicine. It has bittersweet notes of star anise, spices, and green herbs such as basil, mint, and tarragon. It tastes fresh and green, but warming and hearty at the same time, like a liqueur and bitters all rolled into one. Yellow chartreuse has a similar flavor profile, but it gets sweetness and dilution from honey and saffron, which give it its warm hue. Both types of Chartreuse are often sipped on their own as a digestif, either chilled or at room temperature. But the green stuff, as I had learned, also pairs perfectly with gin, which ups the botanical ante, allowing the flavors to blossom. (If you’re Chartreuse-curious, read this great article from Serious Eats, which will make you seriously thirsty.)

But in San Francisco, space was at a premium, even back in 2007. I was loath to shell out 60 bucks for a giant bottle of a strong spirit that I wasn’t sure I could get through in the next 20 years and that would take up precious real estate in the liquor cabinet. So the coaster with the Femme Fatale recipe sat unused for years.

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

Then last week, my friend Shelley told me about a cocktail she’d had at Smokestack, a local eatery that puts the “bar” in “bar-b-que” and is also under the same parent company as Alembic – Magnolia Brewing. Shelley’s favorite drink, the Islais Lady, is a gin-based cocktail shaken up with a bunch of herbaceous spirits and strained into a coupe. I took a sip of hers one night and BAM – memories of the Femme Fatale flooded my senses. I had to have it again.

This time, my Chartreuse hunt turned up a half-sized bottle, which I found at the unlikeliest of places: a local market with a petite selection of spirits. I did a happy dance, paid, and rushed home. (Of course, I could have ordered it online, but I didn’t think of that.) I fished the coaster out from an old recipe binder, mixed up a batch of simple syrup, juiced a lime, shook, strained, and sipped, and…

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

…it wasn’t as good as I remembered. Too strong, too sweet, too much anise from the Chartreuse, and not enough mint. Tinkering was in order. I took down the simple syrup and Chartreuse and threw in a handful of fresh mint leaves, which broke into tiny shards in the shaker. This time it was perfect: ice cold but with warming flavors from spicy chartreuse, refreshingly minty, with a complex one-two punch from the gin, and enough acidity from lime juice to balance the sweet liqueur. I dubbed it The Verdant Lady, cousin to the Femme Fatale, soft and delicate like Smokestack’s Islais Lady.

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

The Verdant Lady works well in any weather, hot or cold; though if you’re after something more light and refreshing, simply stir the drink with ice, then strain into ice-filled tumblers and top with fizzy water for something akin to a delicate gin and tonic.

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

Now that I’ve got me a bottle of chartreuse, I’m dying to finally try it in ice cream, truffles, and Verte Chaude: chartreuse hot chocolate, popular with the French après-ski crowd. I nibbled a piece of chocolate today with my Verdant Lady and the combination was surprisingly spot-on. And I’m also looking forward to trying the Last Word Cocktail, another ginny Chartreuse number with Luxardo in the mix. Because a lady always needs to have the last word.

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

Now if only I could find a small bottle of Luxardo…

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

Thanks for reading! If you make this, I’d love to see. Take a photo and tag me on Instagram @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #BojonGourmet.

And thanks to the folks at W&P Design for gifting me the lovely mason jar cocktail shaker pictured here.

Speaking of spicy green things, I’m excited to announce the winners of the #EatGreen2016 Spice Society contest (detailed here). It was painful to pick. We loved all of your photos so much and wanted to eat each and every one. Many thanks to all who entered!

First Place:

VanillaandBean’s Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna

ABitWholesomely’s thalipeeth spiced gluten-free flatbread

CaterinaSnyder’s Mexican Cinnamon & Walnut Milk Smoothie with Bananas, Rolled Oats and Flax Seeds

ReneeDenise’s Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

GirlOnRange’s Moroccan Roasted Rainbow Carrots with creamy chickpeas, watercress, and preserved lemons

Runners Up:

CelloKesh’s Vegan, Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

ToGroak’s curried chickpea salad with hemp seeds and olive oil

ReclaimingYesterday’s Thai chicken zoodle soup

Honorable Mention:

WanderShootTaste’s Crispy sautéed mushrooms, goat cheese, savory soy glaze, and soft poached egg

laterlex_strong’s pumpkin curry cashew collard green wraps

inthiskitchen’s Honey spiced roasted carrots with a tahini-yogurt sauce

athletefood’s Baby kale, roasted mushrooms, black pepper goat cheese pasta

porkbellychestnut’s Homemade whole wheat noodle with red chili oil and greens

sweet_kabocha’s sweet potatoes + red onion + tofu + rainbow chard

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}
Yields: 1 drink
 
A strong yet refreshing cocktail shaken with gin, green Chartreuse, and lime and served up. A teaspoon of Chartreuse may not seem like enough, but a little goes a long way. For a lighter cocktail, stir the drink with the ice, strain into an ice-filled tumbler, and top with fizzy water. I like Hendrick's gin here, but any decent, relatively mild gin that you like the taste of will do the trick. Chartreuse can be found at specialty liquor stores or ordered online. Mason jar cocktail shakers are available here.
Ingredients
  • ice
  • 3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) gin (such as Hendrick's)
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh, strained lime juice
  • 1½ teaspoons (1/4 ounce) simple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (1/6 ounce) Green Chartreuse
  • 4 large mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice, combine the gin, lime juice, simple syrup, chartreuse, and mint leaves. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a coupe. Garnish with a mint sprig if you like, and serve.

Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}

27 thoughts on “Verdant Lady {Chartreuse, Gin & Mint Cocktail}”

  1. I love it when a recipe takes it’s sweet time to reveal itself, through the twists and turns of life, insight and a friend’s sharing. It all came together. And while I’m not much of a gin drinker, you’ve easily turned me into one with your luscious description of this cocktail. And I’m *always* up for trying a new cocktail. The photographs are simply etherial and I want to slurp down each one of those glasses! Yayayay for first prize! What a bonanza in that box of spices, Alanna! Totally unexpected. I’m putting them to good use directly! They are divine! Thank you my dear… totally made my day reading first place (whaaaaa?!!?!) :D (!!)

    1. Awww! Your photo stunned me and Lisa of Spice Society, who pooled our favorites. I’m SO glad you like the spices – thanks for participating, Traci! I hope we can enjoy a cocktail together soon soon soon!

  2. That’s some serious commitment, lady! A MUCH classier drink than anything else you can order up for St. Patty’s day. And the most beautiful of photos – love the mismatched glassware!

  3. Wow — 130 herbs and spices in green chartreuse! That’s amazing! Sounds like it’s worth every penny ^_^
    Beautiful post Alanna! You’re stirring up coupe envy in me all over again!
    XO

  4. I experimented and had success substituting homemade mint jelly for the simple syrup. My jelly is made without mint essence… Only with actual mint leaves (then strained). Oh boy, is this ever good! Thanks for another enjoyable post and unique recipe AND gorgeous photography. I love your blog

  5. Even though I am not a gin lover (except for the Hangar 1 Terroir) I wanted so bad to try one of these at Alembic! Sadly, they hadn’t heard of it (but this is years later). Thanks for introducing me to such delicious things!

    1. Hi Patty! I also dislike anise; I find the flavor here more similar to fresh fennel root or tarragon, both of which I do like. If you can taste a tipple of green chartreuse at a bar before committing to a whole bottle, that might be wise! ;)

  6. My boyfriend and I had this as our cooking cocktail(aka the cocktail we drink while we cook dinner) and it was so delicious and refreshing! I am a huge mint fan and the chartreuse really added some complexity without overwhelming as it has a tendency to do. We did up the chartreuse to .25 just to make it easier to measure. One word of caution: it is small but mighty drink! It hit me a bit hard (though I fully admit my tolerance is a bit low).

    1. Haha, cooking cocktail – love it! I’m so glad you liked the drink if not the effects – I’m a lightweight, too, and I feel your pain.

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