The Drunk Monk: Old & “improved”

A new creation with a heritage dating back to 1806. No, wait, it was 1674. Well, whatever. A long time ago.

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The Drunk Monk: An “improved” whiskey cocktail.

Others bring wine to parties.

You are a cocktailer.

And yet…sometimes you barely have 10 minutes to swing by the liquor store. No time for muddling and macerating and suchnot. But you will not stoop to bringing a $26 bottle of Merlot.

Luckily, you have in your back pocket… The Drunk Monk.

The Drunk Monk

  • 4 parts bourbon
    • Most recently I felt expansive and sprang for Basil Hayden’s
  • 1 part Green Chartreuse
  • Showy orange peel garnish

Point 1: This is easy to put together. You get yourself a bottle of good bourbon, a bottle of Chartreuse, and a handful of oranges.

Point 2: This is impossible to screw up: It’s 4:1, two ingredients and a garnish. For a party, mix 12 oz bourbon and 3 oz Chartreuse with ice in a pitcher. Stir, strain, pour into coupes, water glasses, red Solo cups, shot glasses with college logos, etc. Garnish extravagantly with orange — wheels, wedges, or fat flaps of rind skimmed with a vegetable peeler.

Point 3: While I think I invented the Drunk Monk, it’s a legit beverage, historically speaking.

The story starts back before Civil War: The ur American cocktail, first described in print in 1806, was made of a spirit, sugar, bitters, and water [aka ice]. Jerry Thomas [him again], in his first-ever book of cocktail recipes (How to Mix Drinks, 1862), called it the “Whiskey Cocktail.” You may recognize it as an Old Fashioned. More on that in a moment.

After people grew bored with the Whiskey Cocktail, some bartenders [Thomas among them] started creating various “improved” or “fancy” whiskey cocktails. They often used liqueurs instead of sugar, and added all sorts of fruits and garnishes and filigree.

Pretty soon things got out of hand, as they can do when creativity, opportunity, and booze come together.

As we know, every trend contains the seeds of its counter-trend. And so some members of the smart set soon began asking for a cocktail…wait for it…”the old fashioned way.”

Very long way to say: The Drunk Monk is essentially a very simple version of an “improved” Whiskey Cocktail, the very kind that sent conservative drinkers bolting back to the familiar. The powerfully herbalicious Chartreuse doubles as both sweetener and bitters, and turns a shot of hootch into a smooth and tasty cocktail.

Drunk Monk notes

  • The two ingredients mix together surprisingly well — in just the right proportions you taste the bourbon first, and the herbal complexity of the Chartreuse follows. I prefer stinting on the Chartreuse a little, but you’ll find your sweet-enough spot.
  • The orange peel adds a bit of citrus-y whiz — and, I confess, is here at least partly to pay tribute to the Old Fashioned.
  • Why “Drunk Monk,” you ask? There is a whole wild backstory about Chartreuse being made only by a certain order monks in France, based on a manuscript dating to 1674. It’s said that only 3 monks know the recipe at any one time, and they are sworn to silence, to protect the precious elixir from copycats.

That may be true, or not. But the point is, one half of the Drunk Monk came into being long before Jerry Thomas was a gleam in anybody’s eye. I’ll bet you if you go back far enough, the history of the cocktail starts not far from where the Tigris and Euphrates meet.

Author: Craig Stoltz

Cocktail enthusiast with no professional standing, former Time.com Top 25 blogger, and ex-Washington Post editor. I live in Bethesda, Maryland.

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