Friday Cocktail: Carthusian Sazerac

A chartreuse and rye cocktail proves to be the perfect pick-me-up

Carthusian Sazerac
Carthusian Sazerac
This variation on a Sazerac gets a boost from the complex, herbal flavor of chartreuse and a bright dash of lemon bitters.Helen Rosner

At a distressed wood and brass bar in a turreted restaurant on a tree-lined street in Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts district, I was seduced by a bewitching green lady in the form of Spice Kitchen and Bar's Carthusian Sazerac. I was in town for an old roommate's wedding, and both the small ceremony and casual reception were being held in Spice Kitchen's rambling dining rooms and on the sunny walled patio out back. I'd just driven more than 500 miles from New York City the night before, slept in my car for a few hours, and changed into semi-fancy wedding getup in a rest-stop bathroom somewhere in western Pennsylvania. My nerves were a bit frazzled, my energy levels wilted, and I wanted to be at my best for what promised to be a memorable afternoon.

Guests gathered in murmuring clusters in front of the bar, but I wasn’t quite ready to dive into conversation. In honor of the occasion, and as friends and family of the bride and groom trickled in, gingham- and denim-clad bartenders were busily shaking up a trio of specialty cocktails. I needed a serious pick-me-up, so I found a quiet corner of the bar and ordered the aforementioned Sazerac. It arrived frosty and frothy in a chilled glass, giving off a faint licorice aroma and glowing with a pale yellow-green light. A few sips in and both my mood and shyness began lifting. I felt buoyed up by the lilting, balanced marriage of what I later discovered to be rye whiskey, green chartreuse, lemon bitters, and just the barest hint of absinthe. Intoxicatingly fresh and subtly smooth, I made it my signature drink for the rest of the day.