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What is Chartreuse?

Chartreuse is a French herbal liqueur with a unique taste and smell. For several hundred years the monks of the Grande Chartreuse monastery, located in the montainous area near Grenoble, have been acting as the liqueur´s midwives. The formula is said to call for 130 herbs and flowers combined in a wine alcohol base. After several days of maceration, the substance is distilled before more herbal extracts are added. The Chartreuse is then slowly aging for five years in oak casks. It is a pure natural product with no artificial additives.

The recipe with all its ingredients is a well guarded secret, allegedly known to only two monks of the ascetic Carthusian order.

Chartreuse is habitually classified as a digestive. It has a pungent spicy and sweet taste. It is served very cold either straight or on ice, alternatively in coctails.

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There are two types of Chartreuse: the green Chartreuse Verte (55%), produced according to a recipe from 1605, and the yellow Chartreuse Jaune (40%), sweeter than its stronger sibling and first produced in 1838.

Did you know that…

...the word 'liqueur' comes from the Latin lique-facio, which means to dissolve, as well as purify, clarify. The way the word 'liqueur' is used today comes from the usage coined by Carthusian monks.


…the Grande Chartreuse monastery (1084), the very first Carthusian monastery, as well as the whole of the semi-hermitic Carthusian order, derive their name from the 'Massif de la Chartreuse' montains which are part of the French Alps. During the French Revolution many monasteries were abolished and the tough living conditions which the monks volutarily took upon themselves made these monasteries into ideal prisons. Hence the word 'Chartreuse' is often used as a synonym to prison (ie The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal)

…each bottle of Chartreuse displays the coat of arms of the Carthusian order (a cross and the orb with seven stars). The official name of the order is Ordo Cartusiensis, abbreviated as O.Cart. The motto of the Carthusian monks is: „STAT CRUX, DUM VOLVITUR ORBIS“ (The Cross is steady while the world is turning).

…the Chartreuse liqueur is sometimes called 'the green fire', thanks to its high alcohol content (55%) which makes Chartreuse unique among liqueurs.

…with their 164 m, the cellars storing the oak casks with the ageing liqueur are the longest liqueur cellars in the world. They are located in the town of Voiron, close to the Grande Chartreuse monastery. Chartreuse is one of the longest ageing liquers in the world.

…originally, the liqueur was invented by an unknown alchemyst as an 'elixir of long life'. The monks received the original encrypted recipe from Francois Hannibal d'Estrées, marshal of artillery to French king Henry IV, in 1605. It took them a further 150 years to decipher and master the recipe.

…Chartreuse gives its name to the colour chartreuse (since 1884). In the list of web page colours, you fill find chartreuse or the Chartreuse green, derived from the Chartresuse Verte liqueur, right in the middle between yellow and green. The Chartreuese yellow has been defined since 1892 (previously known as Chartreuse traditional) based on the Chartreuse Jaune liqueur. Its yellow colour comes mostly from saffron.

…Chartreuse Verte was at its most famous in the 19th century when it was the most sold liqueur in the world. Queen Victoria, enchanted by the taste and history of Chartreuse, is said to have visited the Grand Chartreuse monastery to see with her own eyes where this unique liqueur enters this world.

…historically, the liqueur was quite well known in the Czech Republic, especially between 1918 and 1939. Adapted to Czech pronunciation, it was called 'šártréska' [schaar - trees – kha]. It featured in František Vláčil's movie Stín kapradin (Shade of a Fern).