The Chartreuse Toddy (good for what ails!)

A conversation on twitter the other night, combined with the dip in ambient temperatures has got me thinking about those spirits that we consider "medicinal" and why we don't consider drinking them in hot form.   We all recongize the magical herbal powers of Fernet Branca, and talk in hushed tones about the mystical maceration of 130 herbs and spices in Green Chartreuse, but the default is to down a shot glass of it, much like medicine.  In fact, until recently, both Fernet Branca and Unicum (and for that matter even Jaegermeister) were available behind the counter at many pharmacies!

But to swig a shot is akin to taking the superhighway to one's destination, and missing the beauty of the scenic route!  Albeit it takes longer, but the surprises along the way more than make up for it.  I began to wonder why an ancient spirit such as Chartreuse has never been turned into a toddy — possibly one of the first "cocktail" incarnations ever invented.  Basic: spirit + sweet + warm non-alchohol base.  I've seen some combinations with hot chocolate, but that doesn't hold much appeal for me personally – I like Chartreuse, and feel the chocolate would overpower the herbal notes.

In the spirit of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" I'm keeping things simple here.  I love the herbal flavour of Chartreuse, and had just picked up a Tropical Lagoon (a white tea blend from Silk Road Tea) that I thought would be a perfect pairing.  A little lemon, a little honey or agave, and a knob of ginger, and you have a pretty tasty hot toddy!

Chartreuse Toddy

(Janice Mansfield, 2011)

  • 1 1/2 oz. Green Chartreuse
  • 1 tsp. honey or agave syrup
  • 2 quarter sized coins of ginger
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • 5-6 oz. hot tea (I used Silk Road Tropical Lagoon, but you can pick a nice green or white tea with citrus notes)

In a heatproof mixing glass, bruise the ginger, and add the honey or agave syrup.  Add the Green Chartreuse, and lemon juice, and then the hot tea, stirring briefly to mix. Let stand 1 minute, and strain into a warmed mug,  Float a lemon slice on top.


Caveat: recently, the ever-talented Bradford Knudson from Swing Wine Bar in Olympia, created the Hot Buttered Fernet — a hot bevvie of epic proportions!  A pot was regularly at the simmer through the cold days of last winter over at Clives Classic Lounge, and I may have enjoyed a few 😉 .

Disclaimer: I am considering going on a 30 days and nights of Chartreuse challenge in the new year, to see if the healing properties will be beneficial as a tonic, as some claim.  In this vein, I am determined to also come up with as many ways of consiming Chartreuse as possible.  Personally, I'm hoping for a more luxurious head of hair at the end of the month, but if it can help me feel as good as fussing about with an assortment of herbal tinctures, I say huzzah!!! 

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

As many of you know, I spent the better part of last weekend at Art of the Cocktail — a cocktail festival that supports our local Film Festival.  Its been growing by leaps and bounds since it was first conceived three years ago, and this year, they added a Home Bartenders competition to the mix.  Due in part to peer pressure, I submitted an entry, and thus on Saturday, found myself in front of an audience and three judges (Simon Ogden from Veneto Lounge, Darcy O'Neil of, and Peter Hunt from Victoria Spirits).  Five brave souls entered the competition, and more than a couple had some pretty spectacular looking ingredients and barkit!  There were flames, hand-carved ice, foams, and what looked like some serious deliberations by the judges.  In the end, my cocktail, Healthy Wealthy and Wise was deemed the winning concoction! (the recipe is at the end of the post).


The theme for this competition was herbs — a pretty broad category with a lot of possibilities.  I decided to go a bit balls to the wall on the herbal front for this one, and make herbs present in pretty much every element of the drink (save 1!).  I figured it would either work really well, or people would shake their heads in pity.   I also opted to work with sage as the primary herb — something that I find is underused in both food and drink.  (the sage you see in the picture is a variegated sage from my garden, and in addition to looking beautiful, has a slight citrus note.

As I began looking up the health associations of various herbs in the herbal manuals, the drink began to fall together on its own:  Sage for wisdom and longevity; ginger for money and success; and green tea for riches and strength.   The Beefeater 24 provides a great canvas to work with as a base spirit in this drink — its soft, has the addition of green tea and soft citrus notes, and took the sage infusion wonderfully.

To create the drink, I began playing around with punch formulations — being limited to 6 ingredients, meant some of the traditional prep (i.e. macerating citrus in sugar) had to be done in shortcut form with the addition of a ginger-sage syrup.  I also opted to scale back on the citrus by using a 10% citric acid solution — this gives you the sour, without the citrus notes, letting the herbal notes shine through everything.  All in all, I think its a very pleasant drink, with some depth to it.  Despite being a punch, it does have a bit of a kick to it, with the Green Chartreuse providing complexity and depth, and the Fernet Branca giving just the right note of bitter on the finish.  (It also batches very well!)

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

(created by Janice Mansfield, 2011)

  • 15 ml citric acid – 10% solution (you can find the crystals at most health food stores)
  • 30 ml ginger-sage syrup*
  • 45 ml sage infused Beefeater 24 gin (about 12-15 large sage leaves per 750 ml for 2-3 days)
  • 20 ml Green Chartreuse
  • 5 ml Fernet Branca
  • 45 ml strongly brewed Japanese Sencha tea

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a small sprig of sage.

*ginger-sage syrup — cut 220 grams (1/2 lb) ginger root into 1" pieces.  Chop fairly fine in a food processor.  Dissolve 3 cups sugar into 2 cups water, bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.  Put all the ginger into the hot syrup with about 12 large sage leaves.  Let sit overnight to fully infuse.  The next morning, strain.  Keep refrigerated.