Green Chartreuse Marshmallows

Every winter we put a hot drink on the menu at the Slanted Door. The last couple of years it’s been a hot buttered rhum cider. It’s insanely good: a trademark Erik Adkins concoction, rich but perfectly balanced. I love it, but I also crave new things, and the recipe development that goes along with them.

And every winter, I think about a Tequila Hot Chocolate. I’ve written about it once already, but I really wanted to step the drink up and make it work for our cocktail list. While it is delicious on its own, I thought an indulgent yet geeky touch would be to top it with a marshmallow flavored with green Chartreuse. Chocolate and green Chartreuse have a strong affinity for one another. So much so that there has been a flurry of articles written on the subject recently, including two by a couple of my favorite booze writers, Camper English and Paul Clarke. They may argue about who thought of the combo first, but I assure you, I’ve been trying to do a tequila hot chocolate with a green Chartreuse marshmallow for years! (Ask Erik; he will totally attest to my laziness and procrastination.)

I already had the ganache worked out. The version I posted before, however, was a rich and creamy cuddle-in-front-of-the-fire style, a large mug to warm you to your bones. A cocktail list version needed some tweaking: the tequila should be more prominent, and it should be rich but not too large. It should be a satisfying end to a meal, not a replacement for one.

I’ve been a fan of the signature hot chocolate at Bittersweet for years; they use water instead of milk, yet it is incredibly rich and potent. Dairy can cloud some of the higher notes in dark chocolate; using water intensifies the nuances. As long as you use enough chocolate, that is.

So that’s what we did: up the proportion of chocolate, use water, and put it all in a smaller mug. It’s perfect: flavorful tequila wrapped in an intense hit of chocolate, with an adult marshmallow on top.

Tequila Hot Chocolate
2 tbsp Mexican Chocolate Ganache
2 oz water
1-1/4 oz reposado tequila
1/4 oz Cointreau

Heat ganache and water together, stirring until dissolved. Add to a small mug along with tequila and Cointreau. Top with green Chartreuse marshmallow.

Mexican Chocolate Ganache
4 oz dark chocolate
1 c cream
6 tbsp cocoa powder
¾ c sugar
¼ tsp cayenne
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Melt the chocolate into the cream in the top of a double-boiler. Add the cocoa powder and mix thoroughly with an immersion blender. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, heat the cream and whisk the cocoa powder into it, then melt the chocolate into that.) Add the sugar and spices and stir with a spatula until thoroughly mixed. The sugar may not dissolve; it’s okay. Keep extra ganache refrigerated.

The marshmallows are my bar geek conceit. Green Chartreuse is a bartender favorite due to its herbal intensity and cult-like recipe secrecy. Incorporating it into a marshmallow recipe proved tricky but not impossible. After several tries and some help from my friend Melissa, here is the final recipe:

Green Chartreuse Marshmallows
adapted from Gourmet, December 1998

about 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 envelopes (2 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp green Chartreuse
1/4 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla

Oil bottom and sides of a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan and dust bottom and sides with confectioners’ sugar.

Beat egg whites to stiff peaks; set aside.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer or in a large bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let stand to soften.

In a heavy saucepan cook sugar, agave, 1/2 cup Chartreuse and salt over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to moderate and boil mixture, without stirring, until a candy or digital thermometer registers 240°F., about 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour sugar mixture over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved.

With a standing or a hand-held electric mixer beat mixture on high speed until white, thick, and nearly tripled in volume, about 6 minutes if using standing mixer or about 10 minutes if using hand-held mixer. Beat egg whites, vanilla and remaining 3 tbsp Chartreuse into sugar mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into baking pan and sift 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar evenly over top. Let sit, uncovered, until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to 1 day.

Run a thin knife around edges of pan and invert pan onto a large cutting board. Lifting up 1 corner of inverted pan, with fingers loosen marshmallow and let drop onto cutting board. With a large knife trim edges of marshmallow and cut marshmallow into 1-1/2 inch squares. Sift remaining confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl and add marshmallows in batches, tossing to evenly coat.

Marshmallows keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 week.


The French 75 is one of the great classic cocktails. Spirit, citrus and sugar, the makings of a great sour, but topped with Champagne. Awesome.

There’s significant debate over the origins of this cocktail. The story I heard (and I know it’s romantic bullshit) is as follows:

Some English soldiers were holed up in a lemon orchard in the French countryside during World War I. It being France, there was plenty of cognac to be had, but alas, straight cognac was too strong for the soldiers. So they mixed it with lemon juice from the orchard and sweetened it with sugar from the pantry, then topped it with Champagne. It being France, of course, Champagne is obviously drunk like water. When the soldiers returned to England they made the same drink with their native spirit, gin.

There are some other stories out there, mostly justifying the use of gin. The truth is, I prefer the cocktail with cognac. The wood-age counteracts the high acidity of the other ingredients, and the Champagne makes a brilliant integrative turn. It both lightens the texture and rounds out the ascorbic acid of the lemon with malic and/or lactic acid, providing a greater range of acidity and hitting your mouth in more places. With gin, the drink is mostly high notes. When you substitute cognac, the charred wood the spirit is aged in adds caramel and sugar, lending a depth and rich earthiness you just don’t get with gin.

My friend and co-worker Kent shares my high esteem for the French 75. So much so, in fact, that he has embarked on a “75 French 75s” series. Spirit, sweetener, citrus and sparkling are all interchangeable in this quest. Kent is an outstanding bartender, using a restrained hand and acute sense of balance, and every iteration I have tried has been stellar. He even made one with my Orchard Syrup. (I should probably make some more of that…)

“75 French 75s” may eventually be a coffee table book. I think Kent should also start a blog (but I’m biased). But as neither of those things exists yet, in the interest of furthering awareness of delicious drinks and the folks who make them, I’m going to post his creations here. So stay tuned.

For an initial exploration, here is my basic French 75 recipe:

French 75
1 oz cognac
1 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz 1-to-1 simple syrup
Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
Stir cognac, lemon and simple over ice in a bucket glass. Top with champers and stir again. Garnish with a lemon peel.

And here is one of Kent’s versions:

Italian 75
1 1/2 oz Jacobo Poli Pinot Noir grappa
1 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz 1-to-1 simple syrup
Billecart Salmon Brut Rose Champagne
Shake grappa, lemon and simple in mixing tins. Double-strain into a flute. Top with Champagne.

orgeat… how it all began

People who know me know that I’m obsessed with orgeat.For those who don’t know me: I’m obsessed with orgeat.

Orgeat syrup is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose water or orange-flower water. It was, however, originally made with a barley-almond blend. It has a pronounced almond taste and is used to flavor many cocktails, perhaps the most famous of which is the Mai Tai.

It began as an argument between my boss and me.Any time a customer ordered a Mai Tai we made them essentially a rum and juice cocktail.It had raspberry syrup (we didn’t carry commercial grenadine) and pineapple juice.We didn’t carry orgeat or crème de noyeau or even Amaretto.And anytime I had to make one of these concoctions I would bitch about it.In a loud and complainy manner.Because what differs a Mai Tai from any other tropical rum-and-fruit beverage is the almond flavor.It’s what makes the drink as far as I’m concerned.And finally my boss tired of it and said, “Fine. You want a Mai Tai? We’re doing the original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. But commercial orgeat is crap. Why don’t you make some?”

So I did.

I’ve been making orgeat for about two years now.It became the cornerstone of my new business, Small Hand Foods, making pre-prohibition era cocktail ingredients. It’s a long story, but rather than write the novel that would be the history of it all now, I’ll relay pieces here over the next while, interspersed with other things thrown in as they happen.

I hope you enjoy it!