Green Chartreuse vs Yellow Chartreuse: What’s the Difference?

 Chartreuse is a famous French liqueur with a fascinating back story. Made according to a secret recipe by monks in the French Alps, this herbal liqueur has two varieties: green chartreuse and yellow chartreuse.

What are the differences between the two in terms of their taste, alcohol content, and how they’re used? That’s what we’ll explore in this article.

Green Chartreuse bottle next to a glass of Chartreuse green liqueur with an ice cube in it, on a black background

How Chartreuse is Made

Chartreuse is a liqueur unlike any other. I’m not talking about the taste, but about how it’s made. Its origins can be traced all the way back to 1605 when a group of Carthusian monks living in the French Alps received an ancient manuscript outlining the “elixir of life”. They deciphered this manuscript and began producing the liqueur now beloved by cocktail enthusiasts the world over.

Even today the recipe is closely guarded and only two monks at a time know it. It’s even still produced in the monastery of Grande Chartreuse near Grenoble. Monks are a group not known for innovating, so it’s likely the recipe used today is very close to the original. This gives Chartreuse a historical pedigree and authenticity which is rare amongst liqueurs.

Whilst the exact recipe remains unknown, it’s believed to contain a blend of 130 herbs, plants, and flowers. The ingredients are entirely natural with no artificial flavors or chemicals - as you’d expect from such an ancient recipe. It’s made through a process of maceration, distillation and aging in oak barrels which gives it its distinctive flavors.

What is Green Chartreuse?

Three green Green Chartreuse bottles on a shop shelf

Green Chartreuse is the original form of the liqueur, dating all the way back to the 17th Century. As far as liqueurs go it’s one of the most potent with an ABV of 55%, so be careful not to over pour this one!

Green chartreuse has a natural green hue which comes from the chlorophyll in the plants and herbs used to make it. It has a strong and complex flavor which blends together herbal, floral and spicy notes with earthy undertones.

What is Yellow Chartreuse?

Yellow Chartreuse is a sweeter and milder version of the original green recipe. It was developed in the 19th Century to accommodate changing tastes, as drinkers began to favor lighter spirits. Yellow Chartreuse has an ABV of 40% which is still higher than a lot of liqueurs but it’s certainly more manageable than the high alcohol content of Green Chartreuse.

Yellow Chartreuse still has all of the herbal flavors but it’s overall more subtle and less intense than Chartreuse green liqueur.

A glass of yellow Chartreuse on a white dinner table

What is Chartreuse VEP?

The “VEP” stands for “Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé”, which is a very French way of saying “exceptionally prolonged aging”. Chartreuse VEP is made using exactly the same process as normal Chartreuse, but it’s aged for a long time - at least eight years - inside oak casks.

Both green and yellow Chartreuse have a VEP version. They command a premium in price as they are more of a luxury liqueur, and they’re prized by drinkers and collectors alike.

Green Chartreuse vs Yellow Chartreuse: Use in Cocktails

Green chartreuse, with its bold and complex flavor is a favorite amongst mixologists for adding depth and intensity to cocktails.

Yellow chartreuse is equally popular as a cocktail ingredient but as it’s milder and sweeter it brings a different character entirely to the drinks it’s in. Let’s dive into some specific Chartreuse cocktail recipes.

Green Chartreuse Cocktails

The Last Word

A prohibition-era classic, this cocktail combines equal parts Green Chartreuse, gin, maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice. The Green Chartreuse gives it a complex herbal character which is nicely complemented by the gin’s botanicals. Try to choose a juniper forward gin such as Tanqueray or Beefeater to bring out the best of this recipe.

The Maraschino liqueur adds a subtle sweetness, whilst the fresh lime juice provides a crisp, tart finish. Make sure to shake it with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


  • 3/4 ounce green Chartreuse
  • 3/4 ounce gin
  • 3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Chartreuse Swizzle

For a more tropical take on a Chartreuse cocktail, try the Chartreuse Swizzle.

The green Chartreuse again provides the herbal base to this cocktail (a common theme with all the drinks on this list) whilst the addition of pineapple and lime juice brings a tropical fruity twist. Falernum, a sweet syrup flavored with almonds, ginger and lime adds an extra dimension of sweetness and spice.

Swizzle the ingredients in a highball glass filled with crushed ice until your drink is nice and frosty, then garnish it with a mint sprig.


  • 1 1/2 ounces green Chartreuse:
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice:
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce falernum
  • Crushed ice
  • Mint sprig (for garnish)


The aptly named “Bijou” - which means “gem” in French - is indeed a gem of a cocktail. It features green Chartreuse with gin, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters.

Imagine a Negroni - but instead of the Campari you have the even more complex herbal flavors of Green Chartreuse, with a hint of citrus from the orange bitters. Okay, it tastes nothing like a Negroni but it’s definitely worth a try!

Stir the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, strain it into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish it with a cherry or a twist of lemon peel.


  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1-2 dashes orange bitters

Bijou green chartreuse cocktail in a glass, with a jigger and a strainer next to it, on a concrete table


As the name suggests, the Tipperary is an Irish-inspired cocktail. It combines green Chartreuse with Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. It’s a smooth, herbal, and slightly sweet drink - perfect for whiskey lovers.


  • 2 ounces Irish whiskey
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Yellow Chartreuse Cocktails

Naked and Famous

The Naked and Famous is a modern Yellow Chartreuse cocktail with a taste as bold as its name. It’s made from equal parts mezcal, Aperol, lime and, of course, yellow Chartreuse.

The smokiness of the mezcal pairs beautifully with the sweet and herbal Chartreuse yellow liqueur. Aperol brings a touch of bitterness whilst the whole drink is balanced out by the citrus sour of the lime. Shake it with ice and strain it over a chilled coupe glass.


  • 3/4 ounce mezcal
  • 3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 3/4 ounce Aperol
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

Naked and Famous yellow chartreuse cocktail in a glass, on a wooden table with a jigger sitting next to it


A simple yet elegant cocktail, the Alaska is made with yellow Chartreuse, gin, and orange bitters. It's known for its smooth and slightly floral flavor profile. Stir it in a mixing glass with ice, then strain it into a chilled martini glass.


  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 1-2 dashes orange bitters

Widow's Kiss

A sophisticated and complex drink, the Widow's Kiss is one of the more interesting Chartreuse cocktails. It combines yellow Chartreuse with apple brandy, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. The apple brandy gives this drink a fruity, slightly woody base which overall makes for a more autumnal flavor.
Stir it with ice and strain it into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of apple or a cherry.


  • 1 1/2 ounces apple brandy (such as Calvados)
  • 3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters


Named after the famous Parisian avenue, this cocktail is a blend of yellow Chartreuse, Cognac, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. It’s a classic French cocktail which dates back to the early 20th century.

Shake this drink with ice and strain it into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish it with a twist of lemon peel.


  • 1 1/2 ounces cognac
  • 1/2 ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 - 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Enjoying Chartreuse on its Own

Sure, Chartreuse is an important component in many cocktails and that’s how most people are introduced to it. It’s also how you’ll probably drink it most of the time. To really appreciate this traditional liqueur, though, everyone should try it on its own at least once.

Both yellow and green Chartreuse can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks. Go for Chartreuse green liqueur if you want a more intense tasting experience, whilst yellow Chartreuse is great as more of a slow sipper.

chartreuse green liqueur on the rocks, in a rocks glass with ice and sitting on a dark table

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