When you walk into Canard, you have to let your eyes adjust to the low lighting. As the scene unfolds before you, you'll scan the lounge’s jewel tones, the sea of spirits behind the bar. Finally, they will land on a shrine to Chartreuse. Similarly, and without coincidence, any chat with the bartenders about their craft is bound to lead to the famous green spirit.
“We appreciate not only the versatility of Chartreuse but also the tradition and the history,” says Rebecca Burkart, head bartender at the polished Heights establishment, which the Treadsack group opened last spring with the help of former bar director Leslie Ross. “Our green walls echo our love for Chartreuse.”
At La Grande Chartreuse, the millennium-old monastery tucked in the French Alps near Grenoble, hermetic Carthusian monks have dutifully concocted the bright-green elixir vegetal—known as the Elixir of Long Life—since 1737, to keep themselves in good health and to raise funds for their order. Clocking in at 138 proof, the liqueur, made from 130 beneficial herbs, flowers and roots, isn’t available in the U.S.
What is available here is a less potent version (still 110 proof, mind you), which was introduced by the monks in 1764, when it became clear that the elixir was being enjoyed beyond its medicinal application. To this day, the secret recipe is heavily guarded; all but two monks know only a portion and learn preparations by rote, with nothing written down.
On- or off-menu, Canard’s cocktails dedicated to the festive spirit are a welcome addition around the holidays. “It’s warm in the same way that a good whiskey can be warm when you drink it,” says Burkart, adding that it “can take on many different personalities when paired with other flavors,” with chocolate, honey, fennel and berries among her favorite complements.
If you’ve never tried the liqueur before, Burkart recommends a classic—the Last Word, which pairs it with gin, lime and maraschino. “It satisfies both the Chartreuse expert as well as a novice,” she says. “I use the Last Word to introduce people to Chartreuse often before moving them into other classics like the Bijou or our house cocktails.” The bar is also offering a green-and-red Christmas shot of Chartreuse and Campari.
“There’s nothing like turning someone on to a spirit they thought they didn’t like,” says Burkart, “because you showed it to them in a new light.” Put yourself in Canard’s able hands and prepare your mind—and your palate—for enlightenment.