The Best Creme de Menthe Roundup – Green and White
As liqueurs go, creme de menthe doesn’t have the most sterling of reputations. Many drinkers are understandably put off by the pungent mint aroma and the technicolor green hue, which is invariably due to a whole lot of artificial color. Of course, creme de menthe comes in two varieties, and in fact, most higher-end creme de menthe is available only in the “white” (transparent) expression because there’s no reliable way to create a stable green color at lower abvs without using artificial color.
Creme de menthe primarily shows up in cocktails around the holidays, primarily in some combination with chocolate and cream. The most iconic of creme de menthe cocktails is the grasshopper, a New Orleans invention that combines 1 part green creme de menthe, 1 part white creme de cacao, and 2 parts cream. It’s a low-abv — but high-calorie — drink that, when served ice cold, is actually quite refreshing. You can of course make the drink with white creme de menthe, but you naturally lose the color.
To put 7 cremes de menthe to the test — 4 white, 3 green — I sampled all of the spirits both straight and in a grasshopper cocktail. I’ve separated the reviews based on color; a properly stocked bar arguably needs to have a bottle of each. Which is best? Let’s crack open that carton of cream and find out. Reviews are ranked from top to bottom.
White Creme de Menthe
Giffard Menthe-Pastille – There’s something a bit odd on the nose here, vaguely earthy to start things off. This blows off in time, revealing a luxurious palate of peppermint and some citrus, with a mild chocolate-vanilla note emerging on the finish. Surprisingly complex, and it holds its own in a grasshopper. 48 proof. A- / $30 (1 liter)
Tempus Fugit Creme de Menthe – This pot-distilled liqueur has that immediate funk of pot distillate, giving it a nose of white whiskey rather than mint. There’s also tons of citrus fruit flavors on the palate, which masks the mint further and gives it a more cleansing — but less overtly minty — finish. It’s much better in a cocktail, where that hogo note adds a layer of savory complexity rarely found in the drink. 56 proof. B+ / $35
Bols White Creme de Menthe – Somewhat anonymous, with a mild, easygoing character that offers a hint of vanilla against a peppermint background. In a grasshopper, that vanilla screams even louder. 60 proof. B / $14 (1 liter)
Arrow White Creme de Menthe – Slightly fruitier than Bols version, with a hint of applesauce, but again it’s quite harmless and innocuous on the whole. This one made the least compelling (white) grasshopper. 30 proof. B / $11 (1 liter)
Green Creme de Menthe
Bols Green Creme de Menthe – Deep bluish-green, and very minty on nose and tongue, with a big spearmint kick that feels like its breath-cleansing, but not quite mouthwash level. The body isn’t bad, warming but rounded, thanks to the considerably higher proof than the rest of the field. Of the green cremes de menthe, this was my favorite because of the clearer mint component (which shined through in a grasshopper); the other two had more of a chocolate overtone, particularly on the finish. To wit… 60 proof. A- / $14 (1 liter)
Gaetano Green Creme de Menthe – Somewhat brighter in color than Bols, and more transparent. There’s a hint of chocolate and vanilla here that give Gaetano’s expression more a dessert-like quality, and with the sweeter elements lingering on the finish (above and beyond the mint) give it a specific, cocoa-infused bent. 30 proof. B+ / $9 (1 liter)
Arrow Green Creme de Menthe – Virtually indistinguishable from Gaetano, with the same chocolate/vanilla note, though Arrow’s version feels slightly thicker in consistency and more in line, color-wise, with the deeper-green Bols. These two could be the exact same spirit, otherwise. 30 proof. B+ / $10 (1 liter)