The Last Word

Last Word
It’s a cocktail, not a final pronouncement.
John Deragon, mixologist extraordinaire, at PDT introduced me to this cocktail, and it’s ethereal, you can’t quite put your finger on its complex flavors, its like gazing at a young girl who has knowing eyes.

Simple enough recipe: equal parts gin, Green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino and fresh lime juice. Shake hard. Rest. Shake hard again and serve.

I’ve resisted buying Chartreuse because a) its expensive and I’m not even talking about the superior quality VEP  b) my cabinet has no more room  c) what else can you do with it?  But, it was on sale, so what the heck.

Turns out Chartreuse is made by the Carthusian Chartreuse
monks; the same ones that are featured in the elegant film “Into Great Silence”.  The original formula for this ‘long life elixir’ was given to the French monks in 1605 and allegedly contains 130 herbs, flowers and secret ingredients. Eventually the recipe makes its way to the Grande Chartreuse monastery in Voirion, France where it takes a little over 100 years to tweak the recipe into something palatable. The monks get into trouble and are kicked out of France in 1793. They are allowed to return, and in 1838 they develop a yellow, sweeter version of the original Green Chartreuse. In 1903 the French government seizes the distillery and kicks the monks out and into Spain. Local townspeople from Voiron buy up shares of the distillery and  send the shares to the exiled monks so they can come back into France. It seems the monks are living illegaly in France when in 1935 a mudslide destroys the distillery. The French government sends an army corps of engineers in to restore the distillery and lifts the ban on the monks who are still happily involved in making Chartreuse.

What a story! Why do the French keep kicking out the Carthusians? They seem to be pretty quiet, as in very, very quiet, so why the expulsions? Mystery and history in a bottle, a perfect combination to contemplate while sipping this long life elixir.

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1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth on April 21, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Hey–say hello to Italy for me! And while you’re at it, get me some pits or seeds for white-flesh peaches w chartreuse skin and fuchsia around the pits, please! (For Winn & Freddie of Quaker Valley Farm.) I will owe you big, but I am good for it.

    Now, back to this particular Chartreuse. The lovely, lovely film has a counterpart in culinary literature.

    Get your hands on *The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth* by Roy Andries de Groot (NY: Ecco Press, 1973). First reference for me was in a biography (sort of) about Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, though there is also a glowing comment from Julia Child on the backcover of the library copy I am reading. Exquisite writing: not precious, just real good. VERY old fashioned, time-consuming recipes, but that is part of the charm, too.

    In any respect, the author stumbled upon his subject when planning to research the monks’s liqueur and ended up falling in love w the part of France they occupy, especially the food and way of life offered by the owners of the titular inn.

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