What can’t Chartreuse do? we asked with a mix of admiration and alarm earlier this year. We had just learned that the herbal liqueur would soon be under limited production. “Be reasonably priced,” wrote one commenter in response to the question. “Stay in stock,” answered another.
In the ensuing months, finding a bottle has only gotten more difficult, its absence felt especially hard by superfans, of which there are many: those who have served it on tap, ushered it into every cocktail template from the Piña Colada to the flip, and even taken recipe inspiration from the night routines of the Carthusian monks who produce the liqueur. How are its biggest fans handling the Chartreuse shortage?
For Estelle Bossy, the New York–based beverage director whose signature L’Alaska hinges on the liqueur, “having Chartreuse-adjacent bottles was a part of my plan for Le Rock’s backbar before we even opened, as I knew the monks were at production capacity,” she says. The menu “was designed to both express our wild infatuation with Chartreuse and balance our consumption by spreading that love to other herbal liqueurs.” That means featuring a range of options under the “Herbals & Elixirs” section of Le Rock’s menu, including everything from other historic expressions, like Combier Élicser and Bordiga Centum Herbis, to more obscure options, like Glep Amaro di Erbe Grinta, and contemporary bottlings such as Forthave Yellow, a domestic take on génépy.
While there’s no exact replica for Chartreuse, Le Rock does approximate its flavor in cocktails: For an upcoming event this fall, for example, Bossy plans to serve her Bijou Blanc with a house blend of equal parts Faccia Brutto Centerbe and Dolin Génépy le Chamois standing in its place. (At the restaurant and bar, though, both the Bijou Blanc and L’Alaska are still made with Chartreuse.)
A thousand miles away in Oxford, Mississippi, Bar Muse likewise has been impacted by the shortages. According to owner Joseph Stinchcomb, it can be difficult to “capture the depth of flavor that Chartreuse has,” but the bar, which has at least one Chartreuse cocktail on each of its revolving menus, has made some pivots.
Replacements inherently change the makeup of a drink, and while Stinchcomb recommends subbing a favorite amaro or herbal liqueur into cocktails made with Chartreuse, expect the resulting drinks to read more like variations on the classics. Bar Muse currently has a Last Word riff on the menu, for example, made with Bénédictine for the liqueur portion.
Ultimately, “it’s impossible to replicate the complexity of Chartreuse, especially that subtle, but persistent, anise note,” says Bossy. But by identifying what aspect of the liqueur you want to introduce into the drink, you can channel its essence. Going for herbaceous and alpine? Génépy is a good bet. Spiced, with subtle sweetness? Turn to Strega—and so on. “The best alternative,” Bossy notes, “will depend on the cocktail’s construction itself.”
Here’s how to get started.
The génépy category comprises liqueurs often made by steeping génépy—or artemisia—flowers in neutral spirit. Forthave’s domestically produced Yellow is the distillery’s take on the aperitif, and is made with a natural wine instead of a higher-proof spirit. The more delicate approach is evident in its flavor, which allows the lighter floral tones to shine through. This bottling is at a lower proof and has a less-intense flavor profile, so enjoy it neat or in a spritz; in cocktails, try it in combination with higher-proof liqueurs. Other génépys, such as Dolin, which Stinchcomb uses as a direct substitute for green Chartreuse, work well, too.
- Price: $41
- ABV: 24%
According to Combier—the storied producer behind its namesake triple sec and a range of fruit liqueurs—the recipe for Élicser was discovered in the distiller’s almost-two-century-old archives. Though first released in the 19th century, the bottling recently came back into production, and its unique blend of spices—including cardamom, aloe, nutmeg and saffron (which is how it gets its yellow hue)—makes for a layered liqueur not unlike Chartreuse. Use in combination with a génépy to replicate yellow Chartreuse.
- Price: $28
- ABV: 38%
Bordiga Centum Herbis
“Centum herbis” translates to “one hundred herbs” in Latin. The name is an apt description for a spirit combining gentian, herbal and floral flavors, including génépy. In online forums devoted to finding the best alternatives to Chartreuse, as well as on retailers’ websites, many have recommended this Italian liqueur as a close swap for the elusive French one.
- Price: $52
- ABV: 28%
Faccia Brutto Centerbe
With its green color and pitch as “our take on a European herbal liqueur,” Centerbe’s resemblance to green Chartreuse is evident. The producer recommends it in classics, such as the Bijou and Naked & Famous, that typically star the hard-to-find ingredient. With a higher proof than others on this list, its ABV is closer to Chartreuse’s, and it can be swapped in directly for the spirit where it typically plays a starring role, such as in a Chartreuse Swizzle. Or, as Bossy recommends, combine it in equal parts with génépy for more nuanced flavor.
- Price: $50
- ABV: 45%
Glep Amaro di Erbe Grinta
Rhubarb, peppermint and chamomile star in this amaro from Piedmont-based producer Glep. The only amaro on this list, Grinta’s combination of botanicals yields an almost-medicinal liqueur, whose bracing quality makes it a worthy candidate to sub in for Chartreuse. As with nearly every bottling on this list, however, some experimentation will be required to dial in the ratio for any given cocktail.
- Price: $40
- ABV: 28%
At Bar Muse, Stinchcomb uses Strega in place of yellow Chartreuse. Compared with many aperitivo liqueurs, its flavor profile is predominately savory, rather than bittersweet, combining botanicals such as mint, saffron, star anise and white pepper. Try it in any cocktail where yellow Chartreuse stars, such as the Greenpoint or Naked & Famous.
- Price: $37
- ABV: 40%