Song Bird

Welcome to the final post in my spring cocktail spree. I’ve waxed poetic about a simple classic, the perfect drink for a lazy afternoon, and a wild mess of my own creation. Now, it’s time to introduce another springtime favorite: Green Chartreuse. Hang in there, because I can’t do this miraculous liquid justice with a brief description. Skip to the end if you’re only here for the the recipes. Then, maybe jump back up here when you have a drink in hand.

The Miraculous Green Chartreuse

I can’t even with this liqueur. My favorite lady detective introduced me to it, and I haven’t looked back since then. I took the financial plunge on my first bottle, took one sip, and fell in love. Now, I’m on my second bottle, and every sip is still as magical as the first. Where do I start?

“Phryne loved this one. The voices chiming in exactly on time and in key made her shiver with a sensual pleasure which also belonged to scented hot bath water, a lover’s mouth, or green chartreuse.
Kerry Greenwood, Murder and Mendelssohn

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: drinking Green Chartreuse over ice is an experience akin to a botanical bomb exploding in your mouth. That’s not to say it’s an upleasant experience, because it isn’t. I only mean that it’s overwhelming and slightly disorienting at first. The initial contact leaves a pleasant, burning sensation on the tip of the tongue, accompanied by a warm, anise flavor. It numbs the lips slightly. As it rolls along the length of the tongue, cooler botanical flavors emerge. There’s an earthy, grassy kind of flavor in there somewhere, and a magical mixture of other things that’s hard to discern—floral? slightly bitter? citrusy? While you’re trying to identify just a single flavor among the 130 odd botanical infusions that purportedly make up this spirit, a sweet, powdery finish dries the mouth. It’s startlingly sudden, but a wonderfully simple complement to the complex havoc that’s just been wreaked in your mouth.

“It was not possible to gulp green chartreuse if you ever wanted to have more than one functioning taste bud again.”
Kerry Greenwood, Queen of the Flowers

Does that sound pleasant? I think it reads as a little aggressive. It definitely is. Just trust me on this one. It’s mysterious enough to warrant a taste. Find a bottle hiding in the collection of an eccentric bar, or a dusty corner in a friend’s liquor cabinet. Or just buy yourself a bottle. It’s worth it.

Wildman & Sons Specialty Cocktails

While endlessly satisfying on its own, there’s so much more to love when Green Chartreuse is introduced to cocktails. It doesn’t always play nicely with others, but Frederick Wildman & Sons, the US importers of the spirit, have made a few suggestions in an awesome little booklet called Specialty Cocktails. I picked it up at an Old City antiques shop and flea market in Philadelphia, and the purchase was certainly $2 well spent. If you can get your hands on the book somehow, grab it.

The Cocktails

Sometimes, a hard week demands something heavenly and indulgent that’ll just melt all of my troubles away. When Friday afternoon rolls around, I reach for the song bird. It’s a lovely little cocktail featuring all of my favorite ingredients. I won’t pretend it’s not hard-hitting. Just look at that violent color if you’re wondering what kind of punch it’s going to pack. (Fun fact: the color was actually named after the liqueur.) But, this drink is incredibly, unbelievably smooth for something so complex. It’s well worth the indulgence.

Song BirdGlorious Song Bird

1 1/2 oz Hendrick’s gin
3/4 oz Green Chartreuse
1 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
3/4 oz lime juice

Shake all ingredients over ice. Serve in a cocktail glass. Or actually, maybe a tumbler will be easier to hold by the time you get to the end of your drink. Garnish with a lime wedge.

I’ll also include this lighter cocktail from the same recipe booklet. It’s much more laid back, like the most deliciously-flavored soda anyone has ever dreamed up, but still makes great use of Green Chartreuse. Diluting the liqueur draws out subtle, grassy notes. They leave a pleasantly watery, ethereal impression on the palette. The anise-y burn is almost gone in this form, but the powdery, confectioners’ sugar finish remains.

The Simplified Chartreu’istoChatreu'isto

1 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1 oz lime juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
soda water

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour Green Chartreuse, lime juice, and simple syrup over ice. Top with soda water, and stir. The recipe calls for a few muddled mint leaves before adding anything else to the glass, but I just couldn’t bring myself to complicate the flavors by following through with that suggestion. Of course, it’s not really a variation on a mojito at that point, but to each his own. Give it a try if you’re intrigued, and report back in the comments!

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