Elixir Vegetal

Chartreuse in it’s two normal forms, Yellow & Green, usually doesn’t make the list of favourite drinks for much of the drinking public. Content with their Cosmopolitans, their Vodka tonics and their shaker shots of Kamikaze madness.

Luckily for the privileged few, those who have formed a deep affection with this wonderfully herbal tonic, the Carthustian monks don’t care too much for the general public. Content instead, wandering the halls of monastic tradition in a delightful haze, turning out God’s nectar. For those of you who’ve suckled at the Master’s cup, drunk deeply of his Last Word or skipped joyfully through the Dasies filled with the warmth of her yellow Sun, the third arm of the glorious Trinity is slowly become more available here in Australia.

History states that the monks recieved a gift from the Marshall of Artillery in King Henri VI’s army. A man by the really rather grand name, Francois Hannibal d’ Estrees, gave the monks a manuscript entitled “An Elixir of Long Life.”

Stories from that time suggest the recipe was very complex, and in any case, it took them 122 years to perfect the method and start selling Elixir Vegetal, a herbal and floral tonic suspended in alcohol at 71%. The taste, then as now, developed a fast following and 27 years after the Elixir hit the streets, The mighty Green came into existence. Then came Napoleon, and the expulsion of the religious orders, the collection of the secret recipes and many other tidbits of history. I’ll be happy to share them over a Chartreuse based drink…

The rarest of rare is a production of the V.E.P. (Viellissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé or Exceptionally Extended Aging), it commenced in 1963. It is the distillate of Green Chartreuse, held back from dilution & bottling to be further aged.

The small bottle above harks back to elixir vegetal, but few believe all items to be the same though its packaging is extraordinary and shared by the VEP.  It is quite simply intense, almost like a bitters.

Bar, Melbourne

On Tour: The Black Pearl

Last week I jumped a plane to Melbourne for a weekend of shopping, eating and drinking. You know, the things Sydney’s southern sister does so well. Top of my list was a trip to the charmingly disheveled suburb of Fitzroy and Australia’s award winningly best bar, The Black Pearl, to catch up with Australia’s award winningly best bartender, Chris Hysted and the other members of Australia’s award winningly best bar team.

Sometimes when a place wins a slew of awards, things start to fall apart. The foot comes of the accelerator and the drive that propelled them to such giddy heights falls away leaving a sad, lame duck. Painfully mixed metaphors aside, this is most certainly not the case with the Pearl. Perhaps because there has seemingly never been a foot on the accelerator, but more likely that the bar is stocked with fine spirits, both in the bottles on the back bar and inside all the staff, the Pearl delivers a level of comfort that’s hard to come by and pretty much impossible to fake.

This then, is place to feel at home.

The bar itself is a tardis of soft seats and couches, but if you’ve come as a one or a two, take a seat at the bar, hang your coat and bag on the hooks under the counter. The bar team are all tremendous fun, the patrons a close second and if there is a tiny moment you’re not fully engaged, the cycling CCTV screen can prove to be entertaining.

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Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #31: The Last Word

Wow, March has sure flown by. A trip to New Zealand, some of the finest drinks I’ve laid lips on, the delivery of, if not a library of cocktail books, at least a start. Embury, Thomas, Wondrich, Calabrese, DeGroff & Ted Haigh all arrived to learn me some good mixing. Jerry Thomas even friended me on facebook! Not bad for a man who’s been dead 125 years.

I’ve managed well more than a post a day for the month of March, picked up some new readers and even a few who make a comment or two. It’s time for me now to get back out into the bars of Sydney (plus a little jaunt to Melbourne at the end of April)

I was trying to think of an appropriate cocktail with which to conclude MixMarch, and one stood out above all others. The Last Word is another of those fine cocktails to balance perfectly at equal measures, and this Carthustian elixir delivers a chewy, full and ultimately delightful finish.

The Last Word.

20mls each of Green Chartreuse, Gin, Maraschino liqueur & freshly squeezed lime juice. Shake over ice and strain up. The last word requires no garnish, simply a quiet reflection on a day well spent and a drink well deserved.

Cocktail, MixMarch

MixMarch #8: Alamagoozlum

Okay, so the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and the recipe isn’t exactly what you’d call a “standard”. It comes from f Charles H. Baker, Jr.’s  The Gentleman’s Companion or Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask, published in 1939.  Baker described this cocktail as:

“J. Pierpont Morgan’s Alamagoozlum: the Personal Mix Credited to that Financier, Philanthropist & Banker of a Bygone Era.”

I’ve included this drink as in a post GFC world, JP Morgan simply has less to play with, like the man and his enduring Bank, Northen Hemisphere bartenders must also do without, as they are held on rationed stocks of Angostura Bitters, the addition of half an ounce to a Cocktail would seem indulgent to the extreme.

The drink itself is different to be sure, but I reckon it does actually work. The Genever should be the Oude variety, as it really needs the malty kick. The bitters deliver a real Christmas cake feel, backed up by the Chartreuse, Curaçao & the Rum. I think this is one I’ll have to roll out again when I track down some gum arabic and  get round to mixing up a batch of old school gomme.

The Alamagoozlum Cocktail

60mls genever gin
60mls water
45mls Jamaican rum
45mls yellow or green Chartreuse
45mls simple syrup
15mls orange curaçao
15mls Angostura bitters
½ egg white

Yield: 2 large or 3 small cocktails
Shake very hard over ice and strain into chilled cocktail glasses.

This cocktail and the wonderful photo come from the amazingly colourful, well-read & considered Sloshed.


The Falernum Friday Fix.

I made a batch of Falernum Syrup yesterday, so I thought I’d share the recipe that I intend to wind down with this evening. Rather than just make more tiki rum swizzles, I feel like a fix…


The Chartreuse Swizzle, courtesy of Sloshed!

1¼ oz green Chartreuse
½ oz falernum
1 oz pineapple juice
¾ oz lime juice

Swizzle with crushed ice (or shake with ice and strain over crushed ice) in a tall glass. Garnish with a spring of mint and fresh nutmeg

Have a good weekend! I’m going drinking.

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Green ChartreuseAnyone who has tried a Lambic Beer, or Trappist for that matter, or even as a youngster sampled the delights of the Fragelico bottle, over ice with a squeeze of lime, will be certain of one thing. When monks are involved with the production of liquor, the results are very special.

Chartreuse is named for the monastery in which it was originally produced, and while production has been standardized and moved to a factory in a nearby village, the monks are still supervizing operations, though I can’t quite shake the picture over fat, drunk monks from my head when I write this.

To say Chartreuse is an acquired taste is somewhat of an understatement, 150 herbal extracts are used in the production and chlorophyl to color  the final product. Some less friendly bartenders have poured shots for unsuspecting patrons wanting a shot of something strong. (perhaps Chartreuse is, in fact, a kinder mistress than Fernet.) 

Personally, I quite like the taste myself, herby to the extreme and packing good heat, all wrapped in a finely produced package of liqueur-y goodness. 

Cocktails that use this little gem are hard to come by, but this is my particular favourite, for any number of reasons. 

Cecil Baker (Naren Young)
50ml gin (preferably one with a stronger botanical flavour and aroma)
10ml green chartreuse
10ml pomme verte
5ml passionfruit syrup
Pulp of 1 passionfruit
Stir like an old fashioned with large cubed ice
garnish with a sprig of thyme (or rosemary)

The reason this drink is so special is that if a person receiving the drink asks – who is Cecil Baker? they are given a different answer each time the cocktail is made. He was the ass double for Brad Pitt in Troy, a genius twist on the naming and preparation of a drink. 

And to top it all off, it was invented at the Bayswater Brasserie

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