Chartreuse Swizzle

 Swizzle featuring the vegetal elixir Chartreuse, the Chartreuse Swizzle makes a fantastic long drink.

More of a summer sipper, the drink is not something that makes a lot of sense as we move into the fall.  However, living in Houston, and previously in California, seasons are more a sense of the year than a change in climate.   As such, the best thing about Houston is that I can enjoy a Chartreuse Swizzle, and many other drinks, year round without feeling too terribly out of season.  Still at some point, you want to switch to a different flavor profile, because of the psychology and perception about what comprises the seasonal palate.  Yet, I’ll wait until it gets closer to the holidays to do just that.
Created by Marcovaldo Dionysos, the drink is a contemporary version of the, what was and still is, popular libation trend known as swizzles.  The swizzle, as a drink category, is something that most would assume originates in the middle of the 20th century, coming out of the Rum movement with the Rum swizzle specifically, which just so happens to be the national drink of Bermuda.  However, it probably originates earlier than that: for the forefather of the modern swizzle, you have the Queen’s Park Swizzle showing up in the 1920s, being a libation from Trinidad.  Even earlier than that, you can find swizzles in literature in the 18th century, as a drink made with rum, spruce beer, sugar and water, and doesn’t necessarily look a lot like the contemporary swizzles of today, which in many cases are heavy in citrus and juices.

While some might call swizzles effeminate or more dainty in terms of the flavor, at least in the sense that the drinks are usually called “light and refreshing,” when you look at the concoction from an aesthetic perspective the concoction takes on a truly classic and strong cocktail-lover persona as soon as you look at the ingredients which go into most swizzles.  In addition to the ingredients, the complex and fascinating flavors which come out of the swizzle genre of drinks reminds the imbiber that these can be serious libations in terms of palate distinction.  Drinks it seems, just like cuisine, take on a sort of gendered connotation depending on the aesthetics and palate, but also in the ways in which someone is supposed to engage with the drink.

No one can argue that a Zombie has an inherently masculine bent, just like a Sazerac.  But look at the composition of those drinks: strong, alcoholic monstrosities (very good monstrosities befitting of origins of the word monster, id est monstrum) which through nomenclature, taste or form scream booze, something that is still in many cases linked to spheres of masculinity.  Since the swizzle, at least form the perspective of form, resembles a julep, it borders on a somewhat liminal zone, leaning in many cases towards the masculine, in terms of gender.  Yet, regardless of the gender dimensions of an object, the distinctions of taste matter more, especially since libations are something to be imbibed, consumed and enjoyed.  In other words, the decision over what is a good or bad drink comes down to the palate and the distinctions of taste that someone might exhibit.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to determine what is a good or bad drink, especially if you use abstract measures informed from conceptions of cultural capital, but when effort and technique is put into a cocktail like a swizzle, it is harder to say it is a bad drink, since the majority of people making one, especially in this country, would be well informed about cocktails as a whole.

This drink, originating in San Francisco, is like Fernet and Pisco Punch, in that it is pretty notable in that area, and is quite commonly consumed and popular during the summer months.  Marco, as the creator, is a well-known proprietor and cocktail aficionado in the area, helping to establish the cocktail movement within the bay area.  Marco was working at Clock Bar, creating the beverage program for the hotel bar, and was also one of the founders for the San Francisco Chapter of the USBG.  He launched in 2009 a cocktail catering service with Scott Beattie and Joseph Ehrmann, also greatly appreciated bartenders of the area.  Currently he works as a bartender at Smuggler’s Cove, one of the best bars in the country, especially for rum drinks. 

The Chartreuse plays fantastically with the acidity of the lime and the pineapple, and I cannot recommend enough using freshly made pineapple juice. However, unsweetened works fairly well, since you don’t want to overpower the character of the liqueur.  To increase the sweetness makes the cocktail one which would require increased spirit or acidity to balance it out, and then you just keep adding on to the overall volume of the drink.  There are some variations on the Chartreuse Swizzle that you can find online using yellow instead of green, but the drinks use other spirits in addition to the rum, which changes the entire style of the libation. 

Chartreuse, being one of my favorite ingredients, makes this just a great, all-around drink.  However, there has been one interesting variation on the drink I have seen, which was done by Frederic of Cocktail Slut.  Adding in some bitters and J. Wray and Nephew Rum, the drink takes on more spice and winter-spice notes, which is definitely something I can do to give myself the illusion of a winter cocktail during the summer-winter that is encroaching in Houston.

Chartreuse Swizzle:
1 1/2 ounces green Chartreuse
1/2 ounce falernum
1 ounce pineapple juice

3/4 ounce lime juice

Combine the ingredients over shaved/crushed ice in a highball glass.  Using a swizzle stick, or a bar spoon, swizzle the liquid to get the glass nice and frosty.  Garnish with fresh mint and freshly grated nutmeg.
Berry, Jeff.  2010.  Beachbum Berry Remixed: A Gallery of Tiki Drinks.  San Jose: SLG Publishing.
Grose, Francis. 1788.  A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.  Printed for S. Hooper. (accessed August 31, 2010).
Morphy, J.  1863.  Recollections of a Visit to Great Britain and Ireland in the Summer of 1862.  Publisher: W. Palmer. (accessed August 31, 2010).

Robold, Matt.  2010.  “Cocktail Recipe: Queen’s Park Swizzle.”  Originally published April 14, 2010. (accessed August 31, 2010).  

Wondrich, David. 2007. Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. New York: Penguin Group.  

 –.  2010.  Esquire Magazine.  “Queen’s Park Swizzle.” (accessed August 31, 2010) .