How to Make a Greenpoint, One of the Best Twists on the Manhattan You’ll Find
Some cocktails feel inevitable.
There is, I suppose, a way in which all cocktails are inevitable with the global population of mixologists as the proverbial million monkeys clattering away on our million typewriters. But still, I’d contend that the Greenpoint stands apart. Not only is it one of the best drinks of our neo-classic pantheon, but I assert it was destined to exist. Yellow Chartreuse is the chocolate sauce to the Manhattan’s ice cream, the pepperoni to its pizza. Things that good don’t stay hidden for long.
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To explain: Manhattan (the place) may be inimitable, but Manhattan (the cocktail) gets imitated all the time. It’s a particularly malleable drink and its variations are legion. Picture a Manhattan—a couple ounces of rye whiskey, one of sweet vermouth, and a dash or two of bitters. Now take away half the vermouth and replace it with between 0.25 oz. and 0.5 oz. of literally any herbal liqueur you like, and the result will be between pretty and extremely good. With Cynar it’s called a Little Italy, with Cognac and Benedictine it’s called a Vieux Carre, and with Yellow Chartreuse—the astounding liqueur from the Carthusian Monks of France, itself among the greatest liquids ever produced—it’s called a Greenpoint.
I don’t want to overstate it. Invention is hard. “Man proceeds in a fog,” wrote Milan Kundera, “but when he looks back to judge people of the past… he sees the path, he sees the people proceeding, he sees their mistakes, but not the fog.” In our case, that fog was the general ignorance of the early 2000s, when there were only a handful of people doing proper cocktails at all, and the only guiding lights were cocktail books that were a hundred years out of print and whatever could be gleaned from microfiche. So while it was in 2003 at the bar Milk & Honey that Vincenzo Errico tweaked a Brooklyn (itself a Manhattan variation) with Punt e Mes and bit of Maraschino and called it the Red Hook (after a neighborhood in Brooklyn), it would be another three years before Michael McIllroy did the same thing at the same bar, this time with Yellow Chartreuse, and like his colleague, named it after another Brooklyn neighborhood, Greenpoint.
If anything, it’s surprising it took until this century. Yellow Chartreuse is one of the world’s great liqueurs, and the Manhattan one of the world’s great drinks. Pre-prohibition bartenders had all that stuff at their disposal, yet apparently no one thought to put them together… and if they had we’d know about it, because the inventor would’ve taken one sip, turned around, grabbed someone by the shoulders, and told them about it.
Nevertheless, so it is: The Greenpoint is rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Yellow Chartreuse, with a dash of Angostura and dash of orange bitters. Yellow Chartreuse is much more seductive than its big Green sibling—less intense but still infinitely complex, all honey and saffron and anise and chamomile and citrus and vanilla and on and on. And what’s so wonderful about the Greenpoint is that it adds this Carthusian magic while sacrificing exactly none of the Manhattan’s inherent charms. Where a standard Manhattan is bold and resonant, the Greenpoint is all of those things and also playful and fascinating—the Manhattan’s clarity and power is almost totally conserved but now, each sip offers something new, the liqueur’s full battery of gifts echoing into a long, ambrosial finish.
Shed a tear for those previous generations who missed out on it, but at least the Greenpoint is here now. This is me, grabbing you by the shoulders and telling you about it. Try one out and see.
2 oz. rye whiskey
0.5 oz. sweet vermouth
0.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for about 10 to 15 seconds (if using small ice) or about 20 to 30 seconds (if using big ice). Take heed: This drink benefits from a slight bit more dilution than a standard Manhattan. Once perfect, strain off the ice into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon peel.
NOTES ON INGREDIENTS
Rye Whiskey: Part of this cocktail’s magic necessitates a big, punchy, Kentucky-style rye. Go 100 proof. Wild Turkey 101, Rittenhouse Rye, and Old Overholt Bonded are all good examples.
Sweet Vermouth: This is less prescriptive. I believe McIlroy’s original called for Punt e Mes, the same bittersweet vermouth used in the Red Hook. This is good, but most modern recipes just call for standard sweet vermouth, which I prefer. If you want a leaner, less sweet drink that allows the Chartreuse to shine, use a lighter vermouth like Dolin or Cinzano. If you want it a little richer with more vanilla, grab your Cocchi Vermouth di Torino.
Yellow Chartreuse: I’ve already reached the per-article limit on using the word “inimitable,” but suffice to say Chartreuse is singular. It is also, frustratingly, difficult to come by these days, and therefore subject to less-than-scrupulous scarcity pricing in corner liquor stores across our great country. If you can get it, I can’t think of a better cocktail to make with it than the Greenpoint. If you can’t get it, you can always take its cousin Benedictine out for a ride—Benedictine is also a high proof, honeyed, french herbal liqueur, and also goes wonderfully with whiskey in general and with the Manhattan specifically. With Benedictine this cocktail is called a Fort Point, not a Greenpoint, but it’s still worth your time.
Angostura Bitters: Absolutely necessary. Accept no substitutes.
Orange Bitters: Regrettably necessary. It’s surprising how much a single dash of orange bitters helps this drink become its best self. Fortunately, there’s so many big flavors here, the particular brand of orange bitters isn’t as important as it might be, so my blanket advice is to use whatever you can find. That being said, if I had my pick of brands I’d use the Miracle Mile, which is juicy with a big spice profile.
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