Holy Spirits

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Ecclesiastical Elixir

Christ in the Desert monastery employs a layperson brewer, Brad Kraus, and of course Giampiero Bea is no nun, but one of the world’s best liqueurs is actually produced by real, live monks. Green Chartreuse, made in Voiron, France, about a half hour north of Grenoble, has roots that extend back to 1605, when a monastery outside of Paris received the gift of a manuscript that included a recipe for an “elixir.” It wasn’t until the beginning of the 18th century that the recipe was unraveled and a medicine called “Elixir of Long Life” began to be sold by the monks. Since then, only two Carthusian brothers at a time are ever entrusted with the recipe for Green Chartreuse, which contains some 130 plants and flowers.

You can buy the Carthusians’ Elixir Végétal de la Grande-Chartreuse, but you’ll probably prefer the adapted recipe that resulted in today’s Green Chartreuse. It’s lower proof—110 rather than 138—which is still plenty potent, and plays nicely with other spirits. It’s sweet, powerful, spicy, herbal, and will definitely cure what ails you. We’ve found no evidence to suggest you won’t live longer if you have the occasional nip, and a good place to start is with a cocktail that makes a perfect capper to this spirited discussion. We present for your approval a bibulous, if not biblical, take on a classic drink, The Last Word:

The Word

Adapted from Gourmet: The Last Word


3/4 ounce Plymouth gin (because it’s made in a Black Friars monastery building, in Plymouth, England)
3/4 ounce Green Chartreuse (see above)
3/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino liqueur (first made in a Dominican monastery in Zadar, Croatia)
3/4 ounce lime juice (no specific religious affiliation here, but you do need it to make the drink work)


  • Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Reflect, breathe deeply, contemplate, and appreciate this beatifically balanced holy union. You’ll hear the angels singing.

James Rodewald started tending bar in college, never had a hangover until he was a reporter at Sports Illustrated, and always chose quality over quantity during his time as drinks editor at Gourmet magazine. His last piece for Gourmet Live was Reviving Old Spirits.

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