Chartreuse is a liquor I’ve looked at many times and shied away from buying because it’s a little pricey and it doesn’t appear in many cocktail recipes. Recently, though, I gave in to my craving for something exotic to drink and bought a bottle.

And the first cocktail I tried the Chartreuse on was the….

Pago Pago
1 1/2 oz golden rum
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp green Chartreuse
1/2 tsp crème de cacao
1/2 oz pineapple juice
Shake well with ice. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.

Wow. What a disappointment. The Pago Pagos I mixed up were unpleasant in the extreme. And not in a, “Man up, it’ll put hair on your chest,” sort of way. More in a, “Hope you’re not using that esophagus for the next few hours because I’m afraid we accidentally stripped the lining right off it” way.

I’m not entirely sure what’s wrong here. I’ve made two attempts at the Pago Pago. Once as prepared above and once using another recipe which calls for a quarter ounce (one and a half teaspoons) each of the crème de cacao and the Chartreuse.

Both versions are pretty vile. Sharp and acrid. Like a mouthful of knives.

The herbal flavours from the Chartreuse — which I’ve tried solo and is very fun — disappear completely leaving only the bitterness behind. The bitterness of a failed author. And while the chocolate notes from the cacao come through faintly, they seem as tortured and plaintive as the Easter Bunny would be if he were slowly dissolved in acid.

As for the pineapple juice, it’s a complete nonentity. And the rum… well, I was using the tail end of that bottle of Cruzan, a rum I enjoy, and yet once it has passed through the crucible of the Pago Pago, even a liquor this good comes out tasting like pirate perspiration.

In the end, I’m inclined to blame the citrus for this cocktail fail. It seems the most likely source of all the sourness and acid. I’ve often found that many drink recipes are improved when you cut back on the amount of lime or lemon demanded. It almost makes me think that the citrus we grow today is less sweet than what was available back in the early part of the last century when many of these cocktails were devised.

Of course, maybe I’m being too hard on that poor half ounce of lime. Maybe it isn’t the fault of a single ingredient. Maybe this particular combination of elements is simply unsound. Chemistry gone wrong.

Anyway, in short: I did not like this cocktail. Not one bit. As far as I can tell, the Pago Pago is best avoided.