Green Chartreuse

The Pepper Eatery and Lounge, 2005 Locust, St. Louis, 314-241-2005

Yowza, that Green Chartreuse stuff is weird, one of the strangest elixirs out there. It's the color of kryptonite, the flavor of an exquisite magic potion and the texture of overloaded honey water -- syrupy, sensual, soft.

Chartreuse. The color's named for the liqueur, not vice versa, and the liqueur has a storied history. In 1605, the Chartreuse monastery in Vauvert, France received an already ancient manuscript titled "An Elixir of Long Life." Included was a recipe, one so complex that no one entirely understood it. Finally, 132 years later, some genius (or, more likely, madman) figured it out, and in 1737, the first incarnation, Chartreuse Elixir, named after the order of Carthusian monks, was created -- not for pleasure but as a medicine.

But it tasted good -- there's gotta be some anise in it, some clove and countless Alpine nettles -- and, seizing the day, the Order of Chartreuse crafted a milder (yeah, right) blend for sipping. In addition to Green Chartreuse, they now produce Yellow Chartreuse and V.E.P. Chartreuse (Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé, an extra-fancy, extra-expensive offering). Only three French monks know these recipes.

The monks ain't talking, but here's what the official Chartreuse Web site offers: "Some 130 herbs, plants, roots, leaves and other natural bits of vegetation are soaked in wine alcohol for an unknown length of time, then distilled and mixed with distilled honey and sugar syrup before being put into large oaken casks and placed into the world's longest liqueur cellar for maturation."

The Pepper Lounge and Eatery offers Green Chartreuse in the lounge (which formerly housed the Side Door), and it's a good place to sample it. They've got this huge lava lamp, and as you sip, the red lava in the lamp and the green lava in your head start to communicate on some psychic level. Strap yourself in because the elevator is going way, way up. The dozens of art deco lamps that sit on shelves behind the bar start to glow, and the room, exquisitely decorated and very comfortable (the U-shaped booths are fantastic), suddenly looks lacquered. The Pepper has done this room up right. And when the music's playing (every Thursday, the Hot House Sessions play; other nights feature reggae, dub and house DJs), there's no more comfortable lounge in the city, something that's plain to see even to the un-Chartreused.

Word to the wise: After two -- and please don't ever drink more than two, because it's 110 proof -- shut up, really, because despite the glowing green reality inside your head, you're not gonna fool anyone. You're a mess. Words tumble out of your mouth like slobbery boulders. At one point -- don't tell anyone -- we had drool on our chin. All signs that you -- sexy, witty you -- have your shit together and are a productive member of our American society disappear, and wham, there you are, long, long gone. That said, it sure is fun -- once or maybe, twice -- and much more so with a friend, because he/she will be the only person who understands when, in the midst of the mist, you mumble in astonishment, "Whoa," and he/she replies, "I feel like an octopus at the boner buffet." You'll nod in the affirmative.

Tune out the people around you, because no matter how much you love them right now, you're in another reality here, a Chartreuse one, and it's best to acknowledge this and not try and interact with those still living in the brown world.