Introduction: How to Make a Green Chartreuse Clone

No single beverage is surrounded by as much mystery as the famous 'Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse' - Green Chartreuse . Originally invented by anarchic alchemists nearly 1,000 years ago and shrouded by the utmost secrecy, indeed so much secrecy that the French Monks who currently produce it have abstained from speaking any words at all - just in case they talk about the recipe by mistake.

To any home brewer, unravelling the great mystery of the 'Elixir of Long Life' must surely be the 'Holy Grail' of the brewing world, with, upon success, the possibility of Immortality itself.

The task is surely worthy of Dan Brown's 'Robert Langdon' himself (The Da Vinci Code), venturing into the dangerous, dark world of strange back street pubs, pointing lustfully at the dusty bottles on the top shelves and then attempting to calculate how much of the Elixir we could drink before the process of immortality started to reverse itself.

Obviously, a great deal of 'sampling' needed to be undertaken, but as soon as I became a little older and a little bit wiser, I set myself the task of decoding the famous green chartreuse recipe. The journey has been long and arduous and during it's course I have many times come up against the proverbial 'Brick Wall', completely unable to make any progress at all for months/years at a time.

Just for the record - I did not cheat by disguising myself as a donkey or infiltrating the monastic order as a spy - It has been four years of careful investigation by sheer stealth, disentangling myth from legend and discovering many little gems of information along the way.

At the end of the journey (if indeed there is such a thing) the discoveries that I made were not at all what I expected.

Step 1: The Recipe

One of the most important conclusions that I came to was that making the Elixir was more of an art than just a case of weighing and mixing of ingredients. The 'Art of Brewing' opens up the possibility of creating something BETTER than green chartreuse. If you think this is a sacrilege, then please read on as I explain further.

One of the first things to realise is that the Monks of Chartreuse are just human beings like ourselves and live in a modern world of trade and marketing. One of the terrible questions I had to ask myself was: How much of the whole 'Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse' is just 'sales wash' and not actual proper fact? If we read the chartreuse 'marketing blurb' and just imagine that we were buying washing powder instead, we might realise that these monks are actually incredibly clever, or they employ incredible good, marketing experts. There are a few key elements that don't make a lot of sense, for example, why use 138 different ingredients? Surely 10 or so ingredients is more realistic? Also, what happens if the flavours of the ingredients change due to a bad harvest or whatever? I don't want to destroy all our illusions about green chartreuse ...... But ....... Realistically ..... They almost certainly do not use the original recipe.

The way I think about it is that making green chartreuse or green dragon or whatever, is much more of an art that blindly following a recipe. The two monks in charge of the process almost certainly do not operate the machinery - so what are they there for? Also, they're probably not doing the accounts or other admin jobs. I'm almost 100% sure that these two guys are professional 'Tasters', responsible for making sure that the brew tastes good. This job is bound to be subjective as it's ultimately down to an individuals set of taste buds. For example, to one person it might taste too sweet, but to another it's just right. By the way, to me it tastes far too sweet and I would never add sugar or honey to the brew as it tastes much better without it - IMHO.

Step 2: Ingredients

The ingredients are added or used in four main stages of the process. The first is the main distillation and source of the bulk alcohol, the second is an infusion which is then redistilled to produce a clear liquid and the third is more infusions after which there is no further distillation. I've given the ingredients that I have tried ratings from 1 to 5:

1.Primary:

  • Barley .................................. 5 .................... Excellent flavour and sugar content
  • Apples ................................. 5 ..................... Excellent flavour and sugar content
  • Pears ................................... 5 .................... Excellent flavour and sugar content
  • Wheat .................................. 3
  • Potatoes .............................. 2 .................... Flavour like pears
  • Sugar beet ........................... 3 .................... Very good sugar content

2.Secondary:

  • Mint ..................................... 5 ..................... Extremely volatile strong and excellent flavour
  • Juniper berries .................... 5 ..................... Very strong and excellent flavour
  • Blueberries .......................... 3 ..................... Tastes like cough medicine

3.Tertiary:

  • Angelica ............................... 5 .................... Exotic flavour and good colour
  • Liquorice .............................. 5 .................... Smooth and sweet and good colour
  • Star anise ............................. 5 .................... Aniseed
  • Bay tree leaves .................... 5 .................... Excellent flavour
  • Cacao .................................. 2 .................... Not good
  • Cardamom ........................... 1 ................... Terrible flavour
  • Basil ..................................... 1 ..................... Tastes like grass
  • Oregano ............................... 1 .................... Tastes like grass
  • Tarragon ............................... 1 ................... Tastes like grass
  • Indigo Carmine ..................... 5 ................... Excellent colour
  • Ginger .................................. 1 ..................... Reactants with Indigo carmine
  • Saffron .................................. 5 ................... Excellent colour and strong lingering after taste
  • Vanilla ................................... 5 ................... Exotic flavour
  • Caramel ................................ 5 ................... Tastes like chocolate
  • Honey ................................... 5 ................... Extremely variable and potentially excellent flavour
  • White sugar .......................... 0 .................... Never use this

4.Quaternary:

  • Oak (charred wood) .............5 .................... Adds a vanilla and caramel flavour and creates complex chemical reactions through activated charcoal effect.
  • Cherry (charred wood)
  • Hickory (charred wood)
  • Pecan (charred wood)

Other possibilities:

  • Cinamon
  • Cloves
  • Lemon verbena (Verveine)
  • Lemon balm
  • Fennel
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Scented geranium
  • Lemongrass
  • Chamomile
  • Nutmeg Hallucinogenic
  • Wormwood (Mugwort) Hallucinogenic
  • Gentian root
  • Hissop
  • Melissa
  • Corrianda
  • Veronica

Be very careful where the ingredients are sourced from. Some of them may not be what they are supposed to be and may even be toxic. Discard any mouldy ingredients or anything that does not look/smell/taste right.

Step 3: Procedure

So now that we have demystified the Green Chartreuse marketing blurb, we can look at the actual procedure for making the stuff. The hardest part was working out how to get the colour right. Trying to use green colouring was a complete red herring that I spent literally a whole year trying to catch. One day the proverbial penny dropped when I realised that most of the ingredients produced a natural yellow colour and then one of my more innovative brain cells did the math: yellow + blue = green ...... So stupidly simple!

My recipe is based on apple brandy as the primary constituent, so here we go:

  1. Make 30 litres of cider: https://www.instructables.com/id/Dead-Rat-Hard-App...
  2. Distil the cider: https://www.instructables.com/id/Blue-Juice-and-Gr... to 40% volume alcohol. This is now apple brandy, a clear liquid.
  3. Infuse 30g of dried bay leaves in 750ml of the distillate for 10 days ...... This creates liquid A.
  4. Infuse 25g of dried angelica root in 750ml of the distillate for 10 days ...... Liquid B.
  5. Infuse 25g of dried liquorice powder in 750ml of the distillate for 10 days ...... Liquid C.
  6. Infuse 12g of star anise in 750ml of the distillate for 10 days ........ Liquid D.
  7. Infuse 200g of fresh mint in 750ml of the distillate for 10 days and redistill to 40% alcohol ...... Liquid E .... A clear liquid.
  8. Strain each of the liquids through a herbal tea net bag into separate jars or bottles.
  9. Add 1 unit of A, 4 units of B, 2 units of C, 2 units of D and 1 unit of E to a clean glass jar.
  10. Add 6 stamens of saffron for every 750ml of alcohol in the jar.
  11. Add one pod of dried grade A vanilla for every 750ml.
  12. Add approx. 0.1g of indigo carmine powder for every 750ml of alcohol (great care is required to get the colour right).
  13. Add 10g of activated carbon per 750ml alcohol.
  14. Leave to stand for at least another 30 days.
  15. Rack off the clear green liquid and bottle.

Notice I have not used burnt oak as I've included a vanilla pod and activated carbon instead. Experiment with different ratios of A,B,C,D and E until it tastes just right.

Step 4: Labelling

Create a swanky label for your booze and stick it onto the bottle.

Step 5: Tasting

Now is the hardest part of all.

Sip no more than 10ml of the end product in any hour and try and identify any flavour that is dominant over any other. Is there too much vanilla? Is there too much lingering taste of saffron? Can the mint or anise be detected or is the combination of flavours melded together in such a way that a completely new and original flavour has been produced?

If the answer to the last question is 'yes', then you have just created a masterpiece!

The new flavour will be one that will be most appealing to your own taste buds so check that at least some of your friends like it as well - not everybody will like it - guaranteed! At the very least it's a great excuse to invite some friends over for a bit of a laugh even if they end up drinking all your precious brew.

Step 6: Other Liqueurs Similar to Green Chartreuse

Comments

author
canoerick (author)2016-06-17

How would it turn out if you laced some vodka or grain alcohol with these herbs? Starting a distillery operation seems to be a big project.

author
Tecwyn Twmffat (author)canoerick2016-06-17

Yes vodka or even apple brandy would do a great job

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Bio: Ugly pirate roaming the seas in search of Treasure.
More by Tecwyn Twmffat:Arduino Cell Phone 4G Signal Booster / RepeaterSimple Manual Arduino 4 Axis Stepper Motor / 16 Channel LED Power ControllerFull English Breakfast
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