April Showers Cocktail: So…what is Chartreuse?

In The Imbibery and Distillery by Christine McKellar

A refreshing cocktail to serve in the garden this spring would be the April Shower brandy, Yellow Chartreuse and orange juice martini. The brandy and OJ are familiar to most yet not everybody keeps a bottle of Yellow Chartreuse on hand. One might even ask, “What exactly IS Chartreuse?” Wouldn’t you know, similar to the world’s most recognizable and celebratory adult beverage—champagne—Chartreuse is a nectar invented by French monks.

In 1605, according to legend, a marshal of artillery to King Henry IV presented monks at the Vauvert monastery near Paris with an alchemical manuscript that contained a recipe for an “elixir of long life: “Elixir Végétal de la Grande Chartreuse”. The formula, which has been slightly enhanced over time, includes 130 herbs, plants and flowers and secret ingredients combined in a wine alcohol base.

Chartreuse was originally intended for medicinal purposes but its sweet somewhat spicy and pungent flavor makes it a great aperitif over ice or as an enhancement to both coffee drinks and custom cocktails.

Kind of reminds me of the history of another herbal liquor, Fernet Branca: but that’s another story and altogether Italian—not French. – Christine McKellar




1 ounce brandy

1/4 ounce Yellow Chartreuse

1 ounce orange juice



Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.

Shake well.

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.