Green Chartreuse is the kind of product that is half-steeped in legend, half in reality, due to its mysterious background and production by a secretive monastic order. Products made by ancient monastic orders, like Oka Cheese and St. Bernards, have long since been corrupted by a wide consumer market and therefore bear little or no resemblance to the original product, despite the various centuries the product claims to have been in existence for.
Not so for Green Chartreuse, the only liquor (so far that I know) that is naturally green, and is the easiest sipping 55% alcohol content drink you are sure to find. Absinthe, unfortunately, became the boire du jour among the French literati in the 19th century, and so their excesses conferred upon the drink a bawdy and unwholesome reputation, leading to its prohibition in the United States of America which lasts to this day.
Green Chartreuse, however, is a liquor which contains all if not more of the...alterative properties of absinthe; no doubt Wormwood is one of the hundred and thirty or so mystery plants used to craft this fine liquor. And yet, it's attained a mysterious, compelling reputation, without benefit of prohibition, over the centuries, because of two things; one, the main consumers were the local townsfolk of Voiron, France. And two, because, the monks have seemed hell-bent on protecting this convoluted recipe for the last 400-odd years. You would imagine that, if a travelling merchant in 1605 offered you an elixir of long life, you would pinch those florins and not buy an alchemical recipe; but the monks of Chatreuse did, and in fact guarded the recipe for a century before they were actually able to mass-produce it, because of its complexity.
This suggests that something is up. Monks in early 17th c. Europe were probably among the most educated men on the continent, and they realized that this recipe, once successfully distilled, was something special indeed; not necessarily conferring long life, but an altered one, with a healthy regard for the Almighty. So they protected it with their lives in the intervening centuries, having once relocated to Spain simply so they could distill their drink in peace, knowing it was something special which had to be preserved; Alchemists shot a lot of blanks, but occasionally they came up with something truly great.
Green Chartreuse is an awesome drink; AudieMccall describes it as affecting your dreams, but I've found it to have a profound waking dream effect when you're drunk on it. The world seems delayed for a second or so, while you contemplate it; and everything except the next sip seems surreal, dissasociated somehow from reality. If you live in a place where absinthe is the devil's drink but Green Chartreuse rests dusty and ignored on the liqueur shelves, pick some up and taste for yourself a long-life elixir from 1605. I work at a liquor store, which in Nova Scotia is considered a good government job, and bought it on Christmas Eve as my holiday drink this year; and today, on Christmas Day, halfway through the bottle, I'm singing its praises. It costs the same for a mickey as the Captain costs for a quart, but believe me, it's well worth it.
YMMV, but I've found that the taste of Green Chartreuse is distinctive enough that all you need for a drink is an icecube and the same amount of water; the taste, as it travels across your tongue, goes through each of the five flavours you can possibly experience, and the extra dram of water gets rid of the alcoholic bitterness. But it's well worth it in the end, if you have a day to yourself with no obligations. Have a drink or five, and come sail with me tonight.
Note: This was originally written on Christmas night 2009 while in the depths of a Green Chartreuse drunk; hopefully this gives a visceral, aural impression of the powers of this drink.