When you hear Chartreuse, you automatically think: Dang, that sounds fancy!
In a way, it is fancy with such a vast history, as Chartreuse is a popular liqueur that’s been around since the old days. Until now, it uses a 400-year-old recipe and is sold around the world.
You can drink Chartreuse on its own, alongside your favorite desserts, or mix it with cocktails for a unique flavor. But wait – What if you just found out there isn’t any Chartreuse in your liqueur cabinet?
It’s no travesty!
You can always use a Chartreuse substitute to get the herbal flavors you’re after.
- What’s Chartreuse?
- The 10 Best Substitutes For Chartreuse
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping It Up
Continue reading for our Chartreuse substitute list.
Chartreuse is an herbal liqueur that gets its name from its creators, Chartreuse monks (or Carthusian monks) from the French Alps. With about four centuries of history, this liqueur is one of the oldest spirits available, and also one of the more mysterious ones.
This Old World liqueur continues to stay true to tradition, with the distillation process handled by monks from the Chartreuse Monastery in Vauvert and their distillery in Voiron.
If you’re wondering about the kinds of herbs Chartreuse is made of, they are either fresh or drained fennel, thyme, lemon, sage, lemongrass, and bay, among others. There is also a myriad of spices infused in the liqueur, like cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, star anise, cloves, and saffron!
Fun fact: Only two monks from the order know Chartreuse’s secret herbal recipe. This recipe was created and laid out in manuscripts back in 1605!
Chartreuse is a bit strong with high-calorie content, containing 103-122 calories per shot. It has an ABV of 40-55%! If you’re missing the nice flavors Chartreuse offers, whether in a cocktail or straight up, here are the substitutes you can use:
The 10 Best Substitutes For Chartreuse
Genepy is the closest Chartreuse substitute you can go for, as it’s also an herbal liqueur. It isn’t as sweet as Chartreuse but is a good addition to cocktails.
Genepy was created in the French Alps with a light olive color, which is very similar to Chartreuse. Thus, you can use it in any cocktail or recipe that calls for Chartreuse.
Sambuca is an Italian liqueur that works so well as a Chartreuse substitute. This liqueur is sweetened with sugar, then mixed with a combination of spices and herbs. Thanks to its taste and color, you can use it in various recipes that need Chartreuse, particularly the sweeter Yellow Chartreuse.
Pro-tip: Serve Sambuca neat, mixed in cocktails or coffee, and even infused in desserts! We highly recommend using white sambuca, a colorless and anise-flavored Italian liqueur, in exchange for Green Chartreuse. This type of sambuca will work well in creamy cocktails, fruit-based drinks, and boozy coffee!
Strega is an Italian liqueur that we love using as a Yellow Chartreuse substitute. It has a nice bitterness to it with a mint finish, yet there are sweet traces for balance. Plus, Strega is a more affordable Chartreuse substitute if you want a cocktail with minty flavors.
Strega contains various herbal ingredients that give the liqueur its special flavor, working excellently in cocktails and recipes that require Chartreuse.
Fun fact: Did you know that Strega was once referred to as the “witch’s liqueur?” We’re unsure why, but it might be due to the touch of bitterness and minty finish, and because it’s made of 70 botanicals! That’s quite a long list!
Jagermeister is a famous drink made of herbs, and you can already see it by its color! People always stereotype this drink as the official frat party drink, but we now see it in more refined cocktails.
It’s also an excellent Green Chartreuse substitute, whether added into cocktails, consumed straight, the choice is yours! You can also try using it as a Yellow Chartreuse substitute as well, as it does taste refreshing with a hint of sweetness.
Fun fact: Jagermeister was created in 1934, using a top-secret recipe, with 56 ingredients. Think of it as a modern-day Chartreuse, which has a secret recipe we can’t get a hand of.
This liqueur offers a lovely citrus taste with notes of saffron, spices, and some sweetness. You can also use Jagermeister for cooking, especially when grilling meats.
Absinthe is another green liqueur with a high ABV. It has up to 74% ABV, to be exact! Absinthe and Chartreuse share similar colors and flavors, making the former an excellent alternative. You can also use them interchangeably whenever needed.
Absinthe is made of herbs like anise, fennel, and grand wormwood, among other culinary herbs. Its grand mix of herbs and spices gives it a bright green coloring similar to Chartreuse.
But since absinthe has a high ABV, it’s important to be wary of how much you’ll add to cocktails. It’s so strong, so it can be hallucinogenic, especially when you take too much of it. We recommend diluting it before using it, whether you’re trying to drink it straight up or in cocktails
Drambuie is a green-colored herbaceous liqueur made of Scotch, spices, honey, and of course, a nice combination of herbs. This combination results in sweet flavors and tones, along with the herbal finish you want from Chartreuse.
Not only can you use Drambuie in cocktails, but when cooking as well. They are great to serve neat or on the rocks if you crave Chartreuse. We recommend this Chartreuse substitute if you crave something smoother and less spicy.
Pro-tip: Since Drambuie tastes sweet, we recommend adding it to desserts for the tastiness and beautiful aroma.
In the olden days, Glavya was the best Chartreuse substitute. It’s a combination of Scotch and spices, originating from Edinburgh. When drinking this liqueur, you’ll get the warm flavors of cinnamon, honey, and almond, which are perfect for sweet cocktails and desserts. We love using this in baked goods for added aroma and tastefulness.
Fun fact: Glayva translates to “very good,” coming from the Gaelic phrase, “Glè Mhath.” And this Scotch whisky liqueur does taste really good, though it’s often mistaken for Drambuie!
Amaro is a group of Italian liqueurs, which is popularly consumed as an after-dinner digestif. Like Green Chartreuse, this herbal liqueur has a bittersweet flavor, as it’s made by infusing wine or other spirits with botanicals.
Pro-tip: Amaro means “bitter” in Italian! It can be infused with any herbs, like bitter orange, cardamom, cloves, saffron, Chinese rhubarb, and even wormwood!
9. Fernet Branca
Fernet Branca is an Italian liqueur you can use as a Chartreuse substitute as it’s made from herbs and aged for a long time. As a result, you’ll get a nice and bittersweet taste for cocktails, with traces of bitterness and orange flavors.
It won’t give off the exact herbal finish you want out of Chartreuse, but if you want a more citrus note, then you can try Fernet Branca. It’s also great for cooking to enhance your dish’s aroma.
Fun fact: Fernet Branca is bitter and filled with black licorice, so watch out! It might be an acquired taste for some, though it’s extremely popular in Argentina, where they stir this liqueur with their favorite cola. (*)
10. Grand Marnier
Grand Marnier is an orange-flavored liqueur with hints of vanilla. Given its ingredients and citrus, vanilla notes, they aren’t the same as Chartreuse. But it’s worth trying because it offers a nice aroma and flavor to cocktails or dishes. Furthermore, it may be more readily accessible that Chartreuse in liqueur stores.
You can use Grand Marnier when roasting duck, meat, and poultry dishes. While you can add Grand Marnier in cocktails instead of Yellow Chartreuse, be wary about the changes of color and flavor.
Pro-tip: Drizzle a bit of Grand Marnier over ice cream for a rich, boozy dessert! It also works amazingly when mixed with cranberry juice.
Frequently Asked Questions
For those left with questions about Chartreuse, we answer them below:
1. What kinds of Chartreuse are there?
The original Chartreuse is Green Chartreuse, which is what was made as herbal medicine. It was reformulated to become more drinkable rather than used as an “elixir.”
Napoleon’s reign and the French Revolution almost ended Chartreuse, with its secrets almost revealed. However, the 1605 manuscript was returned to the Carthusian monks in 1816. In 1838, they made Yellow Chartreuse.
Fun fact: Chartreuse was originally made as a medicine, the elixir for long life. Its formula was perfected throughout the years, the released to the world in 1737. Since the elixir was so delicious, people started consuming it as a drink rather than for its medicinal benefits. As such, the monks reformulated it in 1764 to make it more drinkable.
2. What’s the difference between Green and Yellow Chartreuse?
Green Chartreuse is called Chartreuse Verte, the original formula that’s more commonly used. This liqueur is bottled at 55% ABV, having more floral and herbal flavor the higher ABV it has. It will also have hints of cinnamon, clove, citrus, thyme, and rosemary.
On the other hand, there’s the Yellow Chartreuse, called the Chartreuse Jaune. It only has 40% ABV and tasted a bit sweeter with a softer herbal flavor. You’ll taste citrus, honey, and violet notes with hints of anise, saffron, and licorice.
Fun fact: Chartreuse V.E.P. refers to Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolonge, which means "Exceptionally Prolonged Aging." These bottles are aged for longer, which mellows the spirit while creating exceptional flavors.
While you can interchange Yellow for Green Chartreuse (and vice versa), note that your recipe’s texture may alter.
Green Chartreuse is bolder and has a sharper, more herbal tone with a minty finish.
Yellow Chartreuse is milder and sweeter, and it’s important to keep those differences in mind when selecting a suitable Chartreuse substitute.
3. How do you consume Chartreuse?
You can enjoy Chartreuse straight up, chilled, or on the rocks. We recommend enjoying it after a meal, as it’s a nice digestif. We often use Green Chartreuse in cocktails, pairing well with whiskey and other spirits like rum, gin, or brandy.
Yellow Chartreuse is great in cocktails too, as it has a lovely herbal blend and lighter profile suitable with lighter distilled spirits. Here are a few cocktails you can use the Chartreuse in:
- Brandy Daisy
- Lady Liberty
- Last Word
- Chartreuse Martini
- Massey Cocktail
Fun fact: You can also use Chartreuse in cooking! You can use it in vegetable dishes or with meat. Green Chartreuse is great with meat as the slight mintiness can balance the gamey flavors.
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully, our Chartreuse substitute list gave you an idea of what to use the next time you want Chartreuse as a digestif or in your cocktail. Let us know what worked best for you in the comments section below!
Chartreuse is a very unique liqueur with smooth, spicy, and sweet tones, along with that admirable herbal finish. Just because you have none at home doesn’t mean you can’t use a Chartreuse substitute to achieve the herbal flavor you need.