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THE DRINK: Génépi Americana

San Diego food scientist and Grant Grill bartender perfect barrel-aged elixir

By Troy Johnson

He was one of the first in San Diego to barrel-age Manhattans at his bar. Then he tackled sur lie cocktails in the basement of the old hotel. Now, the last time I was at the Grant Grill at the US Grant, their highly regarded drinks man Jeff Josenhans pulled me into his office to show me his current contraband—dozens of tiny glasses filled with various, multi-colored infusions, each labeled with masking tape. He was attempting to reverse engineer one of the world’s most secretive, mysterious spirit recipes: Chartreuse. It’s the alcohol world’s version of Coca Cola’s secret recipe.

It’s a product he undertook with San Diegan Wayne Geiselman—a food-science Ph.D. with a background in corporate America food product research, commercial taste profiling, etc. In the end, they ended up with something like Chartreuse, but different. They’re calling it a Génépi Americana, using local, organic botanicals and regional wildflower honey during maceration. Whereas Chartreuse has European brandy as a base, their Génépi starts with un-aged bourbon and has been aging in 100% new Allier French Oak for the last six months. They plan to release it as six-month, one-year and two-year bottlings—starting with the first batch on Oct. 15.

Did you try to reverse engineer the secret Carthusian monk recipe?

Jeff Josenhans: This whole project started with a conversation over LinkedIn. Wayne Geiselman messaged me. He’s studied alcohol infusions extensively. I told him a longtime goal of mine was to try and recreate Chartreuse—one of the most mysterious spirits in the world. He’d studied it before and had a bunch of research. People have been trying to crack that code for the last century. He sent me a whole document of people who’ve tried to reverse engineer it and what their recipe and results were. So I took a mix of all of those and kept changing and transforming and adding stuff from our garden. We kept manipulating it until I found what was a great interpretation for us.

What have you done?

We’re calling it Génépi Americana. If you look at the spirits that have gained traction with the cocktail movement—Aperol, Fernet Branca—they’re all European, bitter-based traditional spirits. So we decided to make our own American interpretation of a yellow chartreuse. In the end, we decided not to try to be Chartreuse. We ended up with a Génépi, a broader term that encompasses both Chartreuse and absinthe. But if I had to describe it to someone, I’d say it tastes like a yellow chartreuse.

How many herbs and spices?

We have 30. Stuff like wormwood, angelica, hyssop, hops, coriander seed, tansy, fresh thyme and lavender flower, allspice. Both fresh and dried herbs and spices.

How long did it take?

It took about a year from concept to releasing the first batch. You gotta commit to purchasing a lot of stuff. A whole barrel of liquor. Not to mention a $1,400 barrel from France. The barrel is a light toast—I wanted that piney scent, not vanilla you get from medium or dark-toast barrels.

Biggest challenges?

First, it was difficult just to decide what to put in there. We started out with 40 different botanicals. Then took some out. Then we realized all of them infuse at a different rate. You think an infusion is an infusion, but what we realized is that all of the botanicals infuse at a different rate. We started the wormwood infusion over 72 hours, but we had to throw it out 10 times because it was over-infused. We got it down to an hour-and-a-half infusion time.

How will you serve it?

Neat, in an antique snifter. It’s going to be pricey. $19 a drink because it’s very limited. We only have one barrel.

To try it starting Oct. 15, visit the Grant Grill, 326 Broadway, Downtown,

Genepi Americana. A Chartreuse. Kind of.

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