Last week, bindlenix and I went out for a drink and dinner at the Townhouse in Emeryville, an unprepossessing venue perhaps best known as the place where Paul Harrington, Consulting Alchemist to Wired Magazine, developed many of his signature drinks during the 1990s. Although I held no hope of actually finding the His Eminence behind the bar (rumor places Him in the Pacific Northwest these days), I did hope against hope that some of His arcane knowledge had been passed down from bartender to bartender as a kind of guild secret.
We arrived about 45 minutes prior to our dinner reservation and took seats at the bar. The bartender made a familiar overture, to which I responded, "could you suggest something with Chartreuse?" He looked at me rather blankly, scanned the bar, affirmed that there was, in fact, a bottle of Chartreuse, and handed me a Bartenders' Bible with the injunction, "if you find something you'd like, I'll mix it." Needless to say, my heart sunk. I disinterestedly flipped through the index of Chartreuse drinks as I took a breath and prepared to call out the ingredients for an Emerald Martini. It was providence that this cocktail distracted me from my announcement.
Bijou (or Jewel)
Pour liquors over crushed ice and shake.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a maraschino cherry (traditional) or a twist of orange peel (sophisticated).
This is a good cocktail (and the simple proportions make it easy to recall). The gin supports the strong herbal flavor of the Chartreuse; the sweetness of the vermouth tempers the bitter edge of the gin. The combination of Chartreuse and sweet vermouth tends to make it a bit syrupy if not chilled properly, though (and truth be told, I withhold just a touch of the sweet vermouth, it can overpower the Chartreuse). I would recommend a balanced gin with broad flavors like Bombay Sapphire for this drink, and a quality vermouth. I am revulsed by the sticky-sweet taste of maraschino cherries, so I prefer the orange twist as a garnish.