Panacea + Chartreuse Elixir Vegetal
A coronavirus lockdown is just the thing to get some cocktail inspiration. My self-set brief was to come up with an (imaginary!) Covid-19 “cure” solely using ingredients with alleged curative powers. First up is Jamaican overproof rum which long ago had a local reputation to cure all ills and at 63%ABV falls right into the sweet spot for use as a disinfectant. Indeed, Wray and Nephew have been diverting some of their production for exactly that use in the current crisis. Good on ’em. Next we turn to amari (Italian bitter/sweet liqueurs) which began their history as an attempt at stomach medicine. None of them has more medicinal credentials than Nonino Quintessentia with its serpent and chalice logo. That it weighs in at 35% – more than most other amari – allows us to use it as something between a base and a modifier which is especially useful to tame down the overproof rum. We’ll be using an unusual ratio of 4 parts rum to 3 parts amari as a result. Finally we’re going to use possibly the most nutso ingredient in the cocktail arsenal (although there’s a backup plan if you can’t get any). Now as everyone knows Green Chartreuse is a total flavour bomb packed full of 130 exotic botanicals and made by dedicated Carthusian monks since 1737 based on a recipe from 1605. And it’s 55% alcohol by volume. Insane. But not insane enough for us…
You see there exists a kind of secret mega-Chartreuse – and what would a drink like this be without a secret ingredient? – called Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse that is even more powerful. Coming in a tiny 100ml bottle lovingly encased in a sealed wooden reliquary with instructions to only use by the drop (and thus ensuring your €13 purchase is effectively a lifetime supply) this bizarre and frankly hard-to-find potion is truly the Holy Grail of cocktaildom. There is scant information on it but my suspicion is that, at 69% ABV it is the base for Green Chartreuse before it is sweetened and diluted down to 55% for bottling. The “instruction sheet” also states, “known as an «Elixir of a long life» the Elixir Vegetal is believed to have health giving properties and can be taken to ease digestion, cure tiredness, sickness and discomfort and restores and (sic) sense of wellbeing and vitality.” Bingo. It is hard to explain how powerfully flavoursome this shizzle is but, indeed, mere drops have the same intensity as the already pretty-damn-intense Green Chartreuse has in much larger quantity but with less of the sugar – although there is still enough sweetness that we can’t simply consider it to be a type of bitters. If we’re going to dispense this by the drop we’d better have a little talk about what a “drop” is in terms of cocktail measurement. A drop is considerably less than a dash and is literally the smallest possible quantity. The best method is to suck a little into a clean pipette or eye-dropper and very gently squeeze out the tiniest possible amount. The number of drops in a dash is something cocktail-heads love to argue about but I reckon it’s around 8-10. That we’re using about 4 drops in one drink that means a bottle of Elixir is good for around 200-300 Panaceas. Or is that Panaceae?
Having gathered our quite spectacular ingredients we simply stir them with ice and strain them into a sherry glass. No fanciness is required as this is simply an exercise in taking some legendary spirits with powerful flavours and combining them in a balanced way. To put it another way we’re turning the volume up to 11. The Panacea should be enjoyed in tiny sips and very slowly as even after stirring with ice it is relatively high in alcohol – although it does have a lovely buttery texture. Consumed with the appropriate respect its medicinal components imbue a feeling of well-being and, dare I say, invincibility. Now, of course, the chance that you can’t get any Elixir Vegetal is more than significant but you can get close by using a larger quantity of Green Chartreuse**. Start at just shy of 1ml but the key is that the funky taste of the Jamaican rum and the distinctive notes of the Chartreuse must be in balance – it shouldn’t taste of either but of both at once. The Nonino plays more of a supporting role in this case acting as the glue that holds the drink together. I hope you’ll forgive me for using a couple of left-field ingredients and I promise we’ll be using some more accessible ones next time.
Now just in case it wasn’t abundantly clear let me repeat that this Panacea will have no effect of defeating the coronavirus. Better simply to stay home, wash your hands and use the opportunity to have some fun with cocktails.
Stay safe cocktailistas!
1oz / 30ml Wray & Nephew overproof Jamaican rum (or similar*).
0.75oz / 22ml Amaro Nonino Quintessentia.
4 or 5 drops (see text) of Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse.
Stir with ice (a little less than usual) and strain into a sherry or Glencairn glass.
Sip slowly and enjoy the silence.
Toast Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse the Holy Grail of cocktail ingredients.
*But it must be a white Jamaican 63% rum such as Rum Bar overproof or Rum Fire.
**I feel the drink works better with the Elixir as it brings less sweetness than the Green Chartreuse but feel free to tinker further with the proportions.
By Diego 12th April 2023 - 5:35 am
Hello, I have a question regarding the grand-chartreuse elixir, and feel free to email me separately.. do you think is possible to recreate yellow chartreuse using honey syrup and a couple of drops of the elixir? I was looking for yellow chartreuse and I could only find the elixir.. so I bought it :/. I hope you can help, thanks!
By Andy 12th April 2023 - 11:36 am
Hi Diego. I’m surprised you can find the elixir and not the yellow. Normally it’s very much the other way around but things are getting pretty strange regarding Chartreuse at the moment (look it up if you’re not already aware). I strongly suspect that the elixir is the base that the green and yellow variants are made from so with a bit of trial and error you might be able to get close. Give it a go and if it works please report back here. I currently don’t have any yellow Chartreuse either so I can’t try that myself but I’ll probably be writing something Chartreuse adjacent in the coming weeks.
By Diego 12th April 2023 - 8:50 pm
I live in Chile and its very difficult to find here at all.. so I was in Austin TX a few weeks ago and tried a Naked and Famous cocktail and loved it, so I wanted to bring mezcal and chartreuse to make it at home, and strangely, they only had this one because of shortages of the yellow kind, so I took the risk and bought it… problem is I never tasted the Yellow Chartreuse on its own.. but, I’ll give it a try, I might end up with something good haha.. if you have any tips on ratios they will be appreciated..
By Andy 14th April 2023 - 11:05 am
You’ve made me curious. I’m going to give it a try too. I’ll get back to you here in a bit once I have some results. It might take a while as I’ll have to track down some yellow Chartreuse to compare to.
By Diego 30th April 2023 - 7:32 pm
Hey! I wanted to follow up, I ended up trying with Honey Syrup, but with 1 third of honey and 2 thirds of water ratio, then added a few drops of the elixir and the cocktail was great!, I’m not sure that it was identical since I’ve never tried the liqueur by itself, but I loved it in the cocktail. At first it was too sweet when I used the 50/50 ratio for the syrup but after I changed it, it became more acidic so it worked well.
By Andy 21st May 2023 - 1:44 pm
Hi Diego. Thanks for getting back to us with your findings. I’ve decided I’ll be writing an article about the Chartreuse shortage in the near-ish future including hacks like yours and some alternatives to Chartreuse. Keep an eye out for that one as I’ll definitely be giving you some credit as part of the inspiration.