A rich liqueur, despite the vow of poverty

Distilled and distributed by our own Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., Chingtreuse [ching-TROOZ]  is a dark-red bitter liqueur sitting at a whopping 170 proof (85 ABV). We were able to sit down with the rector-distiller and ask him some questions about his passion project.

Rover: What was your inspiration behind Chingtreuse?

Fr. Brian: Uh, yeah, I mean, I like to think that it was completely original. I think that a high-proof weirdly-colored liqueur made by a religious order is a pretty novel thing.

R: Are you concerned about the apparent similarity between your product and the liqueur Chartreuse, distilled by Carthusian monks?

B: …I don’t want to talk about that, please.

R: What does your distilling process look like?

B: Well, being vowed to poverty definitely complicates the kind of operation I can run. First off, every distinctive liqueur needs an innovative base ingredient. So usually, my routine before distilling involves rummaging through the trash of South Dining Hall until I have collected enough individual pepperoni slices off of discarded pizza to fill a 5 gallon bucket. With my base ingredient acquired, most of my work is done, but occasionally I’ll try to find new ingredients that I could mix in as a distinctive flavor for a variety. My new favorite method is to grab a Grubhub-bot and pry it open, using whatever I find in there.

Since we don’t have ordinary equipment like copper pot stills, usually I just throw the pepperoni into a Crockpot with some water, olive brine, and whatever I got from Grubhub. While that simmers, I read aloud the passage about the wedding at Cana, and by the time I read the words, “You saved the best for last,” the concoction has reached its full potency at 170 proof.

R: How would you describe the flavor profile of Chingtreuse?

B: Hang on one second, I had my PR guy write something for this…okay, I found it: “Chingtreuse introduces to the nose frothy waves of bitter esters, beset upon a shore of lychee grains and tannin sands, in which is buried a chest of tarragon and elderflower. It seduces the palate with a sultry tang evoking apricots but subsisting in rosemary, fennel, cumin, rosehip, and Sunny D. Its finish is clean, Martinique, herbaceous, and nostalgic, recalling a distant dream of camphor and curaçao.” Pretty good, right? Personally I still think it tastes like pepperoni and olives.

R: Have you run into any problems with distribution?

B: Storage has been an issue for sure. I tried storing the bottles in the sacristy until I ran into the canon law nightmare of someone trying to consecrate Chingtreuse. I’ve also tried storing the bottles inside the pipes of the Basilica organ, but one of them leaked, which attracted bugs, which attracted bats. We know how that ended. I ended up leaving them all in the Breen Phillips basement back in June. I haven’t checked in on them since, though…I probably should.

Distribution has definitely had some challenges, but also some surprising successes. Because it demands such a mature and acquired taste, most underage students have avoided it. But some other groups have purchased large quantities for their various needs. I know they used it as a corrosive agent in cleaning the Golden Dome—turns out they didn’t need to regild, since Chingtreuse is so strong that it burns away the outer level of tarnished gold. I also heard that some students, especially around Lent, were seeking firmer penances after confession. They would post-game confession with shots of Chingtreuse, and they found it so repulsive that they haven’t sinned since. 

James Whitaker is a graduate student in the Theology department. As he is now the oldest “editor” at the Rover, he has made an appeal to the precedent of primogeniture in order to insert himself as the new Editor-in-Chief. But for now, you can still reach your lowly humorist at jwhitak5@nd.edu.

Photo Credit: Matthew Rice

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