Try these bartenders-backed alternatives to keep Last Word, Alaska, and more on your playlist.
What is it that Chartreuse can’t do? We asked earlier this year with a mixture of admiration and alarm. The herbal liqueur was soon to be restricted production. One commenter wrote in response to this question: “Be reasonably-priced.” Another commenter replied, “Stay stocked.”
The bottle shortage has increased in the months since. It is felt most by the superfans. They have served the liqueur on tap and incorporated it into all cocktail templates, from the Pina Colada up to the Flip. Some even adapted the recipe based on the nightly routines of Carthusian Monks who make the liqueur. How are Chartreuse’s biggest fans dealing with the shortage?
Estelle Bossy is the beverage director at Le Rock in New York. Her L’Alaska relies heavily on Chartreuse. “Having Chartreuse-adjacent bottle was part of my plans for Le Rock’s Backbar before we opened as I knew that the monks had reached production capacity,” says Estelle. Menu “was designed to express our wild love for Chartreuse while spreading our consumption to other herbal liqueurs,” says Estelle Bossy, beverage director at Le Rock in New York.
Le Rock, while not an exact replica of Chartreuse in cocktail form, does come close. For example, Bossy will serve her Bijou blanc at a fall event with a blend consisting of equal parts Faccia Brutto Centrebe and Dolin Genepy le Chamois. The Bijou Blanc, and L’Alaska, are still made using Chartreuse at the restaurant and bar.
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Bar Muse, located a thousand miles away in Oxford, Mississippi, has also been affected by the shortage. Owner Joseph Stinchcomb says it’s difficult to “capture Chartreuse’s depth of flavor,” but that the bar has changed its menus to include at least one Chartreuse drink.
Stinchcomb suggests substituting a favorite herbal liqueur or amaro into Chartreuse cocktails, but the drinks will read more like variations of the classics. Bar Muse has a Last Word Riff currently on the menu. It is made using Benedictine as the liqueur.
Bossy says that it’s “impossible to duplicate the complexity of Chartreuse” – especially its subtle but persistent anise flavor. You can bring out the essence of a liqueur by knowing what part you want it to have in the drink. Do you want something herbaceous, alpine, or both? Genepy will do. Spiced with a subtle sweetness? Strega, and so on. Bossy says that the best alternative will depend on how you construct your cocktail.
The génépy category comprises liqueurs often made by steeping génépy—or artemisia—flowers in neutral spirit. Forthave’s domestically produced Yellow is the distillery’s take on the aperitif and is made with a natural wine instead of a higher-proof spirit. The more delicate approach is evident in its flavor, which allows the lighter floral tones to shine through. This bottling is at a lower proof and has a less-intense flavor profile, so enjoy it neat or in a spritz; in cocktails, try it in combination with higher-proof liqueurs. Other génépys, such as Dolin, which Stinchcomb uses as a direct substitute for green Chartreuse, work well, too.
According to Combier—the storied producer behind its namesake triple sec and a range of fruit liqueurs—the recipe for Élicser was discovered in the distiller’s almost two-century-old archives. Though first released in the 19th century, the bottling recently came back into production, and its unique blend of spices—including cardamom, aloe, nutmeg and saffron (which is how it gets its yellow hue)—makes for a layered liqueur not unlike Chartreuse. Use in combination with a génépy to replicate yellow Chartreuse.
Bordiga Centum Herbis
“Centum herbis” translates to “one hundred herbs” in Latin. The name is an apt description for a spirit combining gentian, herbal and floral flavors, including génépy. In online forums devoted to finding the best alternatives to Chartreuse, as well as on retailers’ websites, many have recommended this Italian liqueur as a close swap for the elusive French one.
Faccia Brutto Centerbe
With its green color and pitch as “our take on a European herbal liqueur,” Centerbe’s resemblance to green Chartreuse is evident. The producer recommends it in classics, such as the Bijou and Naked & Famous, which typically star the hard-to-find ingredient. With a higher proof than others on this list, its ABV is closer to Chartreuse’s, and it can be swapped in directly for the spirit where it typically plays a starring role, such as in a Chartreuse Swizzle . Or, as Bossy recommends, combine it in equal parts with génépy for a more nuanced flavor.
Glep Amaro di Erbe Grinta
Rhubarb, peppermint, and chamomile star in this amaro from Piedmont-based producer Glep. The only amaro on this list, Grinta’s combination of botanicals yields an almost-medicinal liqueur, whose bracing quality makes it a worthy candidate to sub in for Chartreuse. However, as with nearly every bottling on this list, some experimentation will be required to dial in the ratio for any given cocktail.
At Bar Muse, Stinchcomb uses Strega in place of the yellow Chartreuse. Compared with many aperitivo liqueurs, its flavor profile is predominately savory rather than bittersweet, combining botanicals such as mint, saffron, star anise, and white pepper. Try it in any cocktail where yellow Chartreuse stars, such as the Greenpoint or Naked & Famous.