The Cheeky Monkey

Cheeky Monkey 2

A million years ago Last year, I did some damage to a bottle of yellow Chartreuse. Actually, it was only half a bottle; a Francophone friend up here in Montreal asked me to bootleg him back from the States a 375ml-sized bottle of the stuff, and as I could only find the 750ml size, I shared it with him.

Anyway, I've had some yellow Chartreuse on hand, is what I'm saying, and it's one of those liqueurs (like ouzo) where a little goes a long way. Especially since it's got a peculiar flavor that doesn't go with every Old Tom, Dick and Harry. Even more especially because yellow Chartreuse, unlike its green cousin, is super 'spensive, so you want that shizz to last.

So if you're someone who's got a bottle of yellow Chartreuse on hand -- perhaps even because I suggested you go buy it -- here's an easy way to get some money's worth from that purchase. The Cheeky Monkey is an easy-breezy-peasy kinda cocktail. It's a cinch to whip up and goes down trouble-free -- yet thanks to the yellow Chartreuse, it's different enough not to put you to sleep.

(I mean, if you're a new mother* *obligatory plug for my new Martinis for Moms book it very well may put you to sleep, but that's just the general exhaustion talking.)

The Cheeky Monkey

(From The Big Book of Martinis for Moms)

1 ounce citrus-flavored vodka, like Absolut Citron or Ketel One Citroen)

1 ounce yellow Chartreuse

2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice

1 dash Peychaud's Bitters (or a similar, orange-y bitters)

Orange twist, to garnish

Pour liquid ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add garnish.

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The Alaska

Spring has come to Montreal one day ahead of schedule, and man, has it come correct. It's a splendiferous afternoon up here, one I've happily wasted flitting around like a little butterfly, gazing through my office window as neighbors garden their front yards and stray cats strut about the sidewalk, repeatedly checking to see if the snow in our backyard has completely melted (it has not) and just generally jumpy as a junebug and grinning like an idiot. Seasonal affective disorder -- what a real thing that is!

An hour or so ago I convinced the PhoBlograpHusband to take a stroll down Avenue Mont-Royal with me, just because, and also because I was hoping to find some sort of sidewalk-proffered gelato or sorbet. This weather's got citrus refreshment on my brain. We wound up settling for a carton of Five Alive -- pardonez-moi, Cinq Alive (actually, they call it Deli-Cinq, "deli " being short for delicious, not delicatessen) -- which I've dispensed into our Tovolo ice-pop molds.

While waiting for those to freeze, let's unironically enjoy a most ironically named cocktail, the Alaska. What a light and yummy cocktail perfect for in-the-sixties-and-sunny weather, with a sunny hue to boot. If you bought in on my yellow Chartreuse pitch from several weeks back, you'll be doubly pleased, because here's a recipe that makes good use of the liqueur.

I literally just saw two dudes walk past my window, one of them holding a bottle of limoncello. Spriiiiing!!!

The Alaska

(which I got from the Ultimate A-to-Z Bar Guide)

1 1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounces yellow Chartreuse

2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Lemon wheel, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass and mix swiftly. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish.

Tasting Notes

The recipe as I read it called for a lemon twist. As you can see, I could not resist a full wheel given my giddiness for all things zesty today.

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The Bicerin (send it over the Alps)

A regular of mine at The Royale (one of the ones I had a crush on) came in one night many years ago and ordered "a Manhattan, put it up on skates." I shot him one of my perplexed Charlie Brown faces; he unfurled a devilish Cheshire grin (catnip to a female bartender who was fed up with her boyfriend at that point). He'd just heard this phrase, probably earlier that night during his own shift, and couldn't wait to test it out on me. My demurely flirtatious reply: "What the fuck does 'put it up on skates' mean?"

It meant, shake the shit out of a Manhattan so hard that when you strain it, perfect, adorable little ice floes, teensy shards small enough to scoot through the coils of your Hawthorne strainer, dot the surface of your cocktail. To this day I know of nobody else who's ever heard of or used this expression, but it's always stuck with me as quite a cool thing to say... although yes, nowadays we know that all-alcohol cocktails like the Manhattan ought to be stirred, not shaken, lest you "bruise" their precious molecules. (See: "Don't ever shake that drink, or you'll kill it.") Someday I'll side-by-side taste-test that theory, but for now what can I say except that it was the 00's; we were the young and the reckless, and I was really hoping to kiss this guy soon.

Non-narrative jump to today: I read Afar Magazine. Their July/August 2011 issue has a story on bicerin (bee-chay-reen), an Italian beverage with secret-recipe roots stretching back to 17th century Turin along the foothills of the Italian Alps. Its main ingredients are milk, melted chocolate, espresso and whipped cream. Cafe Al Bicerin, a Turin institution that takes its name from the drink, is where locals head after Sunday Mass to break the fast. God bless the Italians, with their Roman Catholic guilt and their natural disregard for calorie counts!

Of course, I took one look at the Afar story and said, "Dude, I should totally incorporate that into a cocktail." And what I did was, I sent it over the Alps. What the fuck does "send it over the Alps" mean? It means (says me) to douse peaks of whipped cream ("the Alps") with a shot of yellow Chartreuse, that suave, milder-than-green-Chartreuse liqueur made by monks in the village of Voiron, along the foothills of the French Alps ("send it over").

My recipe was kismet: The thought of adding yellow Chartreuse to the bicerin stuck in my head for a few days, then I discussed it with Sean and found out he'd had the very same notion, then I Googled a map and saw that, indeed, the mother lands of Chartreuse and bicerin are a mere three hours apart, the Alps stuck in between. Something about bicerin made me less wary than usual about doing a dessert cocktail, and while my end result technically isn't a cocktail but a spiked coffee beverage, it reads on the palate like a cocktail to me: You can detect all the parts that are in there but the impression on your senses is that of a fully integrated taste, more than the sum of its parts. (Spiked coffee beverages, on the other hand, often taste to me as just that: Coffee with a high-spirited intruder who somehow found his way in.)

We contemplated a second liquor, but it just doesn't need it.

P.S. I like this one so much, I'm contributing the recipe to the first-ever gojee Virtual Potluck, an online smorgasbord of eats and drinks put together by yours truly and many of gojee's other fine blogging contributors. Starting on Thursday, January 26, check out other potluck dishes fellow gojee contributors shared. Go to and enter "gojeepotluck" into I Crave. You can also follow #gojeepotluck on Twitter.

The Bicerin (send it over the Alps)

(Adapted from Afar Magazine; its recipe for the original bicerin is an educated approximation, as Cafe Al Bicerin's recipe is "closely guarded")

2 ounces yellow Chartreuse

1/2 cup 2% milk

1 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 shots very strong coffee

1/4 cup freshly whipped cream, sweetened to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and chocolate until boiling, whisking vigorously all the while. Remove from heat, then pour mixture into a clear cappuccino mug, goblet, etc. Slowly pour in coffee. Top with whipped cream. Slowly pour Chartreuse over whipped cream. Serve with a sundae spoon (optional).

Tasting Notes

Afar's printed recipe calls for whole milk, dark chocolate and espresso. I went with what I went with (2%, semi-sweet, "strong coffee") because I already had them in the house. Having said that, this drink was diabetic coma-inducing enough the way I made it. Proceed with whole/dark/espresso at your own risk. (Seriously, garnish with insulin injectable or something if you must go all the way.)

If you don't have yellow Chartreuse, try making this with a shot of Benedictine instead. Their smell and taste profiles are quite similar, although of course you won't get the same, sunny brightness shining down on your Alps. Don't use green Chartreuse; it's too herbal in taste, and everyone will assume it's creme de menthe and that you made some sort of caffeinated Grasshopper.

I was afraid of melting chocolate in a saucepan rather than a double boiler, but with the milk this was actually not an issue at all. (I did use a nonstick saucepan, for what that's worth.)

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The Apropos

What Santa didn't bring me for Christmas this last year, I got for myself at The Wine Library back in the States, including two key ingredients for The Apropos: 1) the Italian aperitif Aperol, Campari's genteel cousin: lighter in color and alcohol content, but produced by the same parent company (nowadays, not originally); 2) yellow Chartreuse -- likewise, not as strong as the better-known green Chartreuse -- which was actually on the wish list of a bartending friend back in Canadia. (By the way, remind me never to tell you about the time the PhoBlograpHusband and I managed to transport a double-digit number of booze bottles across the border by being completely honest with the customs guard. I don't know who reads this blog.)

The Apropos' recipe is another one I spied at and held onto because I liked the sound of it, being a twist on the Negroni and similarly elegant in its simplicity. Its dry sweetness makes it a perfect aperitif for just about anyone, while its coral hue means it'd be a good tipple to try on that friend of yours whom you've resolved to turn into a real cocktail drinker in 2012 -- you know, the one who still orders Cosmoplitans. (Yeah, like it's still the mid-90s. Gorsh, how about voting for Newt Gingrich too while you're at it, you Monica/Rachel/Pheebs?!)

The Apropos

(Taken pretty much straight-up from SeriousEats, which in turn got the recipe from Gramercy Tavern)

1 1/2 ounces Bombay London Dry Gin

1 ounce Aperol

1/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Orange twist, to garnish

Combine all liquidingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.

Tasting Notes

The Gramercy recipe calls for the drink to be strained into an ice-filled higball glass, but since I like my Negronis up, I did the same here.

You probably did not hear it here first, but Italian liqueurs were huge in 2011 and are gonna be huger in '12. We'll talk more about that later, but getting yourself a bottle of Aperol (only $20 and the label is so classic and lovely to look at!) is a good start.

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