Originally written in August 2015.
The Magic Wand of Well-Being Will Touch You
While I love absinthe, it is Chartreuse that fulfills all its promises.
Absinthe with all its rituals and folklore lures people with visions of green fairies and 19th century artists going mad. There are fancy glass fountains that drip water gradually over sugar cubes into your your absinthe. You even have a video of hipsters giggling and somehow tripping to the green fairy. Whatever made artists go crazy and hallucinate had more to do with the contemporary contaminates and colorants that were essentially poisonous.
What will say is that there is something that happens you combine high alcoholic content and various herbs. It is a different buzz than normal alcohol, but no green fairies or pink elephants.
I like absinthe because I like herbal liqueurs. After I receive a couple of bottles of absinthe that are reminiscent of the old ways of making Absinthe (Absinthe Jade Terminus Oxygenee and Absinthe Angelique Verte Suisse), and get another bottle of La Clandestine, that will be the extent of my Absinthe kick.
Chartreuse has a deep history involving monks, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Waits, and Hunter S. Thompson. According to E. Jean Carroll’s biography, Thompson would include Green Chartreuse in his late night activities:
Yesterday, I received a liter of Chartreuse Verte V.E.P. which is the aged version of Chartreuse Verte. This isn’t the Verte you use in cocktails. This Chartreuse is meant to be chilled, in a chilled cocktail glass with whiskey stones. It is the Chartreuse who sip slowly letting your tongue absorb all 250 herbs that do an elaborate waltz on your tongue. It is not just a spice bomb going off. The intensity is sophisticated blending végétals, spices, light citruses, hint of menthol, and there is a floral component there. No one note dominates.
On top of the flavor, there is this deep warmth that expands out from your chest. Last night when sipped this I was trying to recuperate from a very stressful and upsetting week. Before my first sip, my entire face was stuck in grump mode. Each sip of this Chartreuse, I felt my face involuntarily opening up into a contented smile. My body started to feel relaxed and there was a general sense of well-being.
Whiskey stones are essential to keeping the liqueur chilled without diluting the flavors. I got so addicted to the flavor and whatever spirit was in the liquid, I was sucking on the whiskey stones to get every molecule of goodness.
In looking for what to pair this with, I found a pairing with a dessert with steamed baby plums and cardamom ice cream. It pairs well with chocolate and people add it to hot chocolate. You can steam mussels with it. Of course, you wouldn’t cook or mix with the V.E.P version. You can get a cheaper Chartreuse (green or yellow) for that.
The V.E.P. Chartreuse Jaune is in the mail to me. This is the yellow version of the Chartreuse Verte V.E.P. that is sweeter, mellower, and less alcholic (80 vs. 110). When I crack open the Jaune, I will let you know what I think.
V.E.P. is your special after dinner apertif when you want something different than your single malt scotch whiskey. If you are having a difficult week and you find yourself being grumpy, settle down wearing something comfy, and slowly sip a chilled glass of chilled V.E.P Chartreuse Verte.
Hands down, Chartreuse wins over Absinthe.