Chartreuse and citrus sparkle in this little-known charmer
We’re transitioning to autumn in our part of the world. And looking for a predinner drink, of course.
Hence, The Cloister Cocktail – a gin-based palate cleanser with bright citrus and sharp Chartreuse.
Never heard of it? Most people haven’t. But we need to change that.
Because a drink this good shouldn’t be, well, cloistered away.
Recipe: The Cloister Cocktail
The Cloister is reminiscent of the Alaska Cocktail or maybe the Last Word Cocktail. Which makes sense, because all of them are gin-based and feature Chartreuse. But the Cloister has stronger citrus notes, making its flavor a bit softer.
We learned about this drink from reading Robert Hess, and this is his recipe.
This recipe makes one drink. It takes about 5 minutes to prepare.
- 1½ ounces dry gin
- ½ ounce yellow Chartreuse (can substitute green; see Notes)
- ½ ounce unsweetened white grapefruit juice (see Notes)
- ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ ounce simple syrup
- lemon twist for garnish (optional)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake until the contents are well chilled (about 20 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that has been chilled. Add garnish, if desired, and serve.
- If you prefer, you can serve this drink over ice in a rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass. But we like the way it looks when served straight up.
- Chartreuse liqueur comes in both green and yellow versions. Green Chartreuse (which lends its name to the color chartreuse) has a more assertive flavor than the yellow iteration.
- Most people don’t have both green and yellow Chartreuse on hand (though we’re cocktail crazed, so of course we do). If you have only green – and if you don’t want to buy a bottle of yellow just to make this drink – go ahead and substitute green. Use about half as much Chartreuse as the recipe calls for (maybe a touch more). The flavor of the cocktail will be somewhat different, but still good.
- Chartreuse is a bit on the sweet side, with a strong herbal flavor. It’s extremely pungent, so a little goes a long way in cocktails.
- Chartreuse was developed by Carthusian monks during the 1730s in Voiron (southeastern France, close to Grenoble and the French Alps).
- Any good-quality London-style dry gin works in this drink (almost every gin you’re likely to see is London-style dry gin). If in doubt, ask your friendly liquor store personnel for a recommendation.
- Always use unsweetened white grapefruit juice in this drink. The pink stuff is too sweet (and the wrong color). Fresh-squeezed juice is always best, but canned or bottled works perfectly well.
- Remember that grapefruit can react negatively with some prescription medications (such as statins). So check with your doctor or pharmacist if in doubt.
- What’s the history of this cocktail? No one really knows. Robert Hess discovered it when reading the 2005 edition of Stewart Walton’s The Bartender’s Guide to Cocktails & Mixed Drinks. Hess managed to trace the drink back to a reference in the 1975 edition of Playboy’s Host & Bar Book by Thomas Mario. But anything earlier than that? No joy.
Welcome to the Club
“Refreshing,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Not to mention delish.”
“Hard to believe this drink isn’t better known,” I said. “Maybe we should start a Cloister Club to sing its praises.”
“Yup,” said Mrs K R. “Our motto could be ‘The World is our Cloister.’”
Or maybe we’re just not clubbable.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Last Word Cocktail
Champs Élysées Cocktail
Or check out the index for more
I love Charteuse , so this would be my kind of cocktail. Prost!
Hi Gerlinde, Chartreuse adds such nice flavor to this. You'll love it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh fun drink and great name! I am a gin fan and like chartreuse. I do no the last Word but who gets that in a cloister ;-)
Hi Evelyne, :-) This drink really has lovely flavor -- bet you'd like it. Thanks for the comment.
This is new to me and I have never had Chartreuse...now I am really intrigued!
Hi Angie, Chartreuse is wonderful stuff! In a cocktail, that is -- not too fond of it by itself. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yum. It looks and sounds delicious.
Hi Pam, it is. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I bet this has a nice tang. It sounds delicious and is so pretty. Send some cooler weather our way please ;)
Hi Tricia, this really does have nice tang. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I don't know what chartreuse is other than a color. But I love the name of this cocktail. --Rocquie
Hi Mimi, tasty, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rocquie, Chartreuse is worth getting to know. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This sounds like the prefect drink for a hot, humid August night. Luckily I still have a couple left to try it out on!
Hi Anne, this is a nice refreshing drink for warm/hot weather. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I think of my Aunt Jane when I hear the word cloister...she's served our Sisters of Mercy as a nun in St. Louis and will be 100 years old in January! If I were there; I would make her this...she has been known to enjoy a tipple or too and this one sounds great!
LOVE gin and LOVE grapefruit juice. Count us in!
Hi Barb, this one is good -- Aunt Jane would approve. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, grapefruit juice is a really nice cocktail ingredient. As is gin, of course. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks pretty cool and refreshing for the last rays in Summer...
Hi Amira, very cool, very refreshing. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a nice early fall cocktail. Nice simple ingredients. Have a wonderful holiday weekend!
Hi MJ, it's a delightful drink. :-) Thanks for the comment, and have a great weekend!
Love chartreuse. We only use the green and I'm not sure but I think it is also higher proof. Have never tried it in combo with grapefruit juice but I'm willing to try. And no need to twist my arm!
La Grand Chartreuse is (I think) still a monastery, but I think the drink is made elsewhere these days. That part of the Alps (which have their own name) is incredibly beautiful. We used to drink Chartreuse sometimes because of the memory of the scenery.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
So clever with the puns! I have been in love with Chartreuse since I stayed a while with friends in Grenoble, although have never had the yellow. Maybe it’s time to get out of the cloister and get a bottle!
Hi Abbe, the green is much higher proof than the yellow. And glad I won't have to twist your arm to try this! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, production of Chartreuse moved to Spain I believe twice over the years, but I think it's back in Voiron these days (would have to check up on that, though; could well be wrong). We haven't been to that part of France -- would love to visit! Thanks for the comment.
Hi David, if you enjoy Chartreuse and playing with cocktails, I'd get a bottle of yellow for sure. It will last you almost forever, though -- you only use a little at a time. Thanks for the comment.
Chartreuse is my favorite spirit and I am excited to try this. The last word has become my go to cocktail but the citrus in this sounds fab!
Hi Laura, the Last Word is terrific, isn't it? You'll like this -- loads of nice flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I think it's high time I add a bottle of chartreuse to my liquor cabinet! Lovely, John!
Hi Liz, it definitely is high time! It's such a neat ingredient in cocktails. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Such a sexy drink!
Hi Denise, nice, huh? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Cheers to a refreshing long weekend here in the states!! :) If only I could knock a couple of these refreshers back too - hahaha!
Hi GiGi, Landon will just have to drink for you. Tough duty. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Count me as one who didn't know there were two kinds of Chartreuse! Thank you for sharing John!
Hi Deb, now you'll just have to try both of them, right? :-) Thanks for the comment.
gin is so popular here these days. i have a lovely one in my cupboard which changes colour from blue to pink when you add the tonic. it's the butterfly pea flower that does the trick. love the photos here. cheers sherry
Hi Sherry, I don't think I've ever seen a gin that changes color when you add tonic. Neat! I'll have to look into that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I have never tasted Chartreuse...but it sounds fantastic...gin and all the citrus in it...so refreshing and yes...elegant!
Have a wonderful weekend John!
Hi Juliana, gin plays so well with many ingredients, particularly with vermouth and liqueurs. This is a dynamite combo of flavors, particularly with the citrus. Elegant indeed! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Anything with Chartreuse and gin in it is a winner in my book. We usually have green on hand so will try that version. We love an occasional Last Word and I'm a fan Chartreuse Swizzle on a warm day.
Nope, never heard of it before, but it sounds good! And, as always, you cover all my questions in your "Notes." Such as, What does Chartreuse taste like? Can it be overdone? … Good job!
Hi Ron, never had a Chartreuse Swizzle! Gotta give that a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jean, you can definitely overdo Chartreuse! Well, at least in my opinion. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I can never resist a good gin cocktail, especially one with the lovely bitter edge of grapefruit. Bottoms up! ;)
I've got plenty of freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice on hand, as a result of one of my neighborhood 'scavenger hunts' (thanks to a grapefruit tree growing next to my local train station). I made a 'Lobster Chartreuse' recipe once- must now try the drink version!
Hi Carolyn, gin cocktails are lovely, aren't they? Cheers! :-) And thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, lucky you with all that fresh grapefruit! The gin in this drink will help preserve it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
When is the meeting of the next Cloister Club?
Hi Debra, :-) This afternoon! Thanks for the comment.
Perfect cocktail to celebrate the change of season! I love citrus flavor in everything edible!
Hi Katerina, citrus flavors are terrific, aren't they? So good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
LOVE the color of this beautiful drink, John! It sounds both sweet and fresh all at once! I admit I haven't yet tried Chartreuse. But this lovely cocktail will change that! :)
Hi Anne, Chartreuse is a delightful ingredient in cocktails! Such good flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Looks really refreshing.
Hi Frank, it's a delish drink! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I would absolutley adore one of these!
Hi Emma, it's good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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