In French, Bijou means Jewel, and as cocktails go, this one definitely is a little jewel. In structure it bears a lot of similarity to the Negroni, its Italian cousin, but its use of Chartreuse instead of Campari makes it a little more approachable to newcomers to these more ‘robust’ liqueurs.
- 3/4 ounce gin
- 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
- 3/4 ounce green Chartreuse
- 2 dashes orange bitters
Stir with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist and a cherry.
You will sometimes see this recipe made with dry vermouth instead of sweet, but that is an unfortunate misinterpretation of the recipe. Often recipes will simply indicate vermouth without specifying either sweet or dry. Today, it is usually safe to assume that dry vermouth is intended, but prior to prohibition it would have instead meant sweet vermouth. So it’s easy to see how a modern bartender might make this mistake.
At the heart of the Bijou is Chartreuse, an exquisite, as well as complex French liqueur, which was first manufactured in 1737. As the story goes, the manuscript that contained the original recipe was gifted to the monks of the “Order of Chartreuse” in 1605. The recipe was titled “An Elixir of Long Life”, and was already fairly old. The recipe was so complex that it was extremely difficult to decipher, and one monk spent his entire life devoted to understanding this recipe. Unfortunately he did not succeed. On his deathbed he passed on his knowledge to his apprentice, who eventually succeeded in producing this unique beverage. The original version was intended for solely medicinal purposes, and was extremely concentrated and intense in flavor, but soon caught on as a beverage flavoring. The monks then created a new formulation which would work better as a beverage, and thus the traditional (green) Chartreuse that is common today was invented (1764). In 1838, a mellower version was formulated, and it is what is now known as yellow Chartreuse.
Chartreuse is made with about 130 different herbs, as well as various roots, and leaves, but little more is known about its actual recipe then that. It is said that at any one time, only two monks at the Monastery have access to the entire recipe, whether this is in fact true, or just part of monastic marketing is hard to say.
Like many of these liqueurs that derive their flavor from a wide variety of herbs and spices, you may find Chartreuse to be a little overwhelming on your first try. I recommend however that you give your palate the necessary time to grow accustomed to its complex and slightly intense flavor, and you’ll eventually find yourself looking forward to your next sip.