For those looking for Chartreuse these days, the struggle is very real. The Carthusian monks who have made Chartreuse for centuries have decided not to up production of the beverage to meet growing demand. So even though the monks are producing more Green and Yellow Chartreuse than they have in 100-plus years, both Chartreuse variants are much harder to find for home bartenders and professionals alike.
For those searching for Chartreuse alternatives for famous cocktails such as the Last Word, Alaska, Final Word and the Naked and Famous, the bad news is no other beverages quite compare to Chartreuse. The good news is there are many Chartreuse alternatives that have their own merits and can get close enough to Chartreuse to create a similar cocktail-tasting experience.
“Nothing compares to Green or Yellow chartreuse,” said Daniel Grajewski, senior director of wine and beverage for José Andrés Group. “That being said, we still have to make things that fit a style of ingredient that is very unique. So there are things that are out there that I think are very interesting.”
For this story, I spoke with Grajewski and other cocktail experts about their favorite Chartreuse alternatives and conducted my own taste tests. I’m happy to report all is not lost for those Chartreuse lovers among us. Here are some of the best Chartreuse alternatives. Do remember, however, tat because Green Chartreuse has such a high alcohol content — a whopping 55 percent ABV — most of these liqueurs can’t be used as a one-to-one alternative and some experimentation may be necessary to make your favorite Chartreuse cocktails shine with these substitutes.
1) Dolan Génépy
Dolin Génépy would never be mistaken for Chartreuse in a blind taste test, but it has a tantalizing flavor in its own right. This drink is herb-forward enough that it can serve as a worthy Green Chartreuse substitute though for a taste more reminiscent of Chartreuse some recommend a mix of Genepy and Bénédictine. Génépi or génépy is a type of Alpine liqueur that works well as a replacement for Chartreuse in general, Grajewski said. “It definitely has that herbaceousness that I think that really you look for,” he said. “
Izarra means “star” in Basque, and this herbal drink has a long and storied history in the Basque Country and was even featured in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises. Available in green and yellow variants, Izarra was recommended to me for this story by cocktail author and pioneering bartender Dale DeGroff. Both Green and Yellow Izarra varieties are similar in appearance to their Chartreuse counterparts. The flavor is also similar though Chartreuse is more herbal and boozer thanks to a higher alcohol content, particularly when it comes to the green versions of both drinks. Currently, Izarra is only available in limited quantities, but the number of bottles imported state side is being ramped up to help meet the demand for Chartreuse alternatives, Izarra’s importer told me.
3) Boomsma Cloosterbiter
Stephen Olbrys Gencarella, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who teaches a course on the global folklore of alcohol recommended this relatively rare liqueur, which is his favorite replacement for Green Chartreuse. Made with 17 botanicals, Boomsma Cloosterbiter was developed according to a recipe developed in the 16th century for medicinal use by a monk, so it shares Chartreuses’ medicinal and holy background. While it doesn’t work as a one-to-one replacement , its herbal and anise-heavy flavors can give a cocktail a similar backbone to Chartreuse. To recreate Yellow Chartreuse, Gencarella uses a mixture of Cloosterbiter and Strega.
4) Faccia Brutto Centerbe
Faccia Brutto is a New York City-based producer of amaro and aperitivo created by Chef Patrick Miller. The brand’s Centerbe has emerged as a popular substitute for both Green and Yellow Chartreuse and one that Grajewski has found effective. “What was wonderful with talking to them is their desire was never to be a replacement for Chartreuse,” he said. “It just so happens that Chartreuse is having limitations and they are benefiting from it. I think what Brutto does is really, really fantastic.”
5) The Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse
Sometimes the best way to replace Chartreuse is with another type of Chartreuse. Produced by the same monks who make the Chartreuse most are more familiar with, the Elixir Vegetal de la Grande-Chartreuse, is “a highly concentrated version” of Chartreuse, Grajewski said. But because it’s not as well known as its less concentrated-sister offerings, vegetal Chartreuse is more readily available. Of course, it can’t be used as a one-to-one replacement but it does, for obvious reasons, contain the flavors you are looking for in a Chartreuse replacement, Grajewski said. It’s also a good example of how, with a little creativity and forethought, you can continue to enjoy Chartreuse cocktails even when you can’t find traditional Green or Yellow Chartreuse.