If you've ever wondered about booze bottles bearing those curious cask- or barrel- strength labels, then mystery revealed: It turns out that the liquor industry has quietly gone "extreme" in recent years. Special editions of whiskey, vodka, gin and other potent potables are now available in levels of 51 to 70 ABV (or 102 to 140 proof) – and a few far higher – compared with more typical 40 ABV/80 proof of garden variety distilled spirits. These high-strength brews not only pack an alcohol wallop, but many are extremely flavorful, and thus stand out better when used with mixed drinks than their more diluted siblings (yes, it's true, most spirits are cut with water). Since many are twice or more as strong as your typical tipple, they'll ring your bell though if you don't treat them with the proper respect. Pour poorly at your peril.
110-proof Green Chartreuse
Produced only by Carthusian monks tucked away in the French Alps near Grenoble, chartreuse is special. Legend has it that only two of the brothers ever know the secret recipe for Chartreuse. The story goes that each of the brothers memorizes a part of the recipe, which involves 130 herbs, plants and flowers, and since they take a vow of silence, it has remained a mystery to the outside world for over 400 years.
Chartreuse was originally produced as a digestif, consumed for its medicinal, cure-all properties. It comes in three varieties (yellow, green, and VEP elixir), but we've chosen to focus on the Green because it is the strongest (110 proof) of the syrupy trio and has the most extreme taste. In addition to its striking green color, Green Chartreuse also has a few other similarities to absinthe – there's the intense floral and herbal flavor, with hints of cloves, citrus, thyme, rosemary and cinnamon. And as it also contains a small quantity of thujone, the active chemical in wormwood, Chartreuse is said to have psychoactive qualities. So while describing the intense flavor of Chartreuse as heavenly might be a stretch, there's still a good chance that after a few sips, you might see god. [$50; chartreuse.fr]