A Menu for the Ages
You will likely find a bottle of green Chartreuse in any establishment dedicated to cocktails; this much we know to be true. With a high proof, a strong licorice taste, and a brilliant green hue, the liqueur is one of the most recognizable spirits on the bar. French Carthusian monks crafted the first bottle of Chartreuse during the 1700s, and the recipe remains a closely guarded mix of about 130 herbs and spices.
Given the spirit’s long history, many rare and old bottles still exist. Until recently, finding one of those bottles in New York required advanced networking skills contact list or, at the very least, a map of the city’s high-end liquor stores. Today, however, those seeking out rare distillations of Chartreuse need only to pull up a barstool at Pouring Ribbons in the East Village.
Sure, the bartenders there can mix up a balanced daiquiri or Sazerac, but many people make the trip to Pouring Ribbons for the Chartreuse menu—a selection of about 20 bottles of the liqueur, from the modern-day green and yellow examples to some rare offerings that peak at $200 per ounce. “I have studied Chartreuse for about eight years now,” says Troy Sidle, a partner in the operation who works with U.S. importers and dates old bottles. “I’ve sampled yellows from the 1940s, greens from the 1970s, and I’ve met the monks who make it currently. I’ve been to the distillery and have walked through the aging caves. You’d think I'd know a thing or two about the product, but of the 130 herbs and spices involved, I can’t tell you one. It’s delicious, and I don’t even know why.
“The product itself is still niche,” he continues. “That affords us the opportunity to gently introduce the high-proof liqueur in a ‘get ready to have your socks knocked off’ kind of way. Every night we offer basic information to guests who are curious about the list. Also, because we sell it in half ounces, aficionados are able to afford the otherwise prohibitively expensive options.”
But it’s not all serious, neat sipping at Pouring Ribbons. The specialists behind the bar typically bring a dose of creativity to Chartreuse. Most recently, Sidle had a bartender who came in and ordered a Last Word cocktail made with one of the selections from the 1980s. “It was incredible,” he laughs. “But I made it on request for a bartender who makes and tastes Last Words every day, so he understood the nuanced difference.
“We include Chartreuse in a cocktail or two on just about every menu,” Sidle continues. “One of our favorite ways to use it is in whipped cream. Currently, we have a boozy hot-chocolate recipe topped with cold Chartreuse cream. It’s called the Fever Dream and it drinks like a warm hug.”