While green Chartreuse has been around for nearly four hundred years, Yellow Chartreuse is a relative newcomer, introduced in 1840. Because it’s such an iconic French spirit, Chartreuse is featured prominently in my book, Drinking French. Yellow Chartreuse is lower in alcohol than green Chartreuse, and both come by their color naturally. The yellow a touch sweeter and milder in taste than green Chartreuse, so it works well in cocktails where a little sweetness would be called for. Rumor has it the yellow color is because saffron is added, as well as honey, but no one will reveal or confirm any of the ingredients in Chartreuse. Where Chartreuse jaune shines brightly in the Alaska cocktail, this bracing mix of gin, orange bitters, and yellow Chartreuse.
Because Chartreuse is one of the few liqueurs that evolves in the bottle, whether it’s been open or not, the monks starting putting the year of bottling on the back label. (Some say the yellow evolves more elegantly than the green, which a friend who is a Chartreuse expert told me becomes “angrier” as it ages.) One recent change was that they upped the alcohol percentage from 40% back up to 43%, it’s original strength, as part of their return to their traditional roots.
I figured it was likely a nod to people using it more in cocktails these days, rather than as a little nip after dinner. But I like it either way!
The Alaska Cocktail
- 2 ounces gin, (preferably Old Tom gin)
- 3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
- 3 dashes orange bitters
- Add the gin, Chartreuse, and orange bitters to a cocktail mixing glass. Fill two-thirds full with ice and stir briskly until well-chilled, about 15 seconds.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass.