$$$ — 55% ABV — Herbal
If you're iffy on what Chartreuse green looks like, simply pick up a bottle of this 400-year-old French cordial. No, that green doesn't come from the Chartreuse Mountains; the liqueur does! A vibrant quaff, its color is naturally derived from a blend of 130-some-odd herbs and flowers. The only folks who know the blend are a couple monks from the Order of Saint Bruno, better known as the Carthusian Order.
A favorite of Quentin Tarantino, Tom Waits, and even Hunter S. Thompson, this monastic drink has endured quite a lot of history, chiefly when the French Revolution called for the exile of all religious orders. The Carthusian monks fled in 1793, and this is likely why many similar products are found in neighboring countries, including Strega, Galliano and Jägermeister. By 1810, the recipe was considered "well-known" by Napoleonic France.
Yet after reclaiming (and rebuilding) their home, the Carthusian monks continue to make a superior cordial that's garnered several medals at liquor competitions. Sweet, hot, earthy, bitter, pungent, the flavor is hard to describe — and that's what makes Chartreuse so good. It's the linchpin ingredient in one of the all-time best cocktails, the Last Word, and balanced enough to drink neat, just like they did back in 16-whatever. Though, as one of the priciest liqueurs on the market, it damn well better be!
Green Chartreuse is the original (-ish) formula, however Yellow Chartreuse, which adds honey and saffron, has been made since 1838. It's a sweeter, milder and less alcoholic drink, but is otherwise similar to the green. Both also have a $100+ luxury version called Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé (V.E.P.), meaning: 'exceptionally prolonged aging.' It's a yearly limited release that's far more robust, oaky, viscous and a crime to mix with. Though it's absolutely a must-try, finding a bottle of V.E.P. may require vigilance bordering on the religious.
Grande Chartreuse is located in Voiron, Rhône-Alpes in southeastern France. Established in 1605 by the Carthusian Order, it remains an independent distiller.