Absinthe, the first time I had ever heard of this mystical liquid was culinary school. A friend had told me he recently got a kit and was going to make some at home, eager to experience it’s forbidden hallucinogenic properties. For a long time I accepted that as truth, it was illegal anyway and I never expected to taste it.
Sadly for my friend he didn’t hallucinate, unless he did something else that night. Also what he drank that night was not absinthe so much as wormwood infused vodka. Luckily for all of us Absinthe is now legal, and thats great for a number of reasons, but lets start with dispelling a few myths.
- As I said Absinthe will not make you hallucinate, it’s delicious and high proof (110 to 140 proof at that). But the only trip you’ll take on it is if you drunkenly slip on the rug.
- Absinthe cannot be made in a kit. Unless you have a still and some good knowledge you can’t make absinthe.
- Absinthe comes in two colors; Green and White. If you see other colors those are made with dye. Dye is an indicator of an inferior product especially in the absinthe game.
- The best Absinthe’s are Swiss and French with some exceptions. Whenever buying an absinthe do lots of research and read reviews, Beware of Eastern European products and products with odd spellings of “Absinthe”.
- Absinthe is no more harmful than any other overproof alcohol.
- It is a Liquor and not a Liqueur by any means.
- Though legal in the US we still have ridiculous laws limiting thujone content to 10mg when the EU allows up to 35 mg. Call your representatives to complain with my blessing.
- There is no reason or tradition to flame the sugar cube. It’s pointless, kinda dangerous since absinthe is quite flammable, and might harm the taste.
Alright I told you what it isn’t, so what is it? It’s a high proof spirit that’s very similar to Gin in many ways. Instead of gin’s juniper absinthe’s base botanicals are Green Anise, Wormwood, and Florence Fennel. Like gin a horde of other botanicals are often added and experimented with. This means that one of absinthe’s core flavors is generally anise, if you don’t like anise you may not like most absinthe’s.
To make absinthe a high proof neutral spirit is infused with botanicals and then redistilled in a pot still, usually copper. After that the key traditional step is a second time consuming infusion before bottling. The second infusion is very important as it add’s flavor and the traditional color. Sadly some producers will skip it, and add dye making a product we’d suggest passing on in favor of more traditional bottles.
Just a few drops in a mixture, or a glass rinsing of absinthe can add a floral/herbal note to your favorite cocktail. It’s Essential in the Sazerac and Corpse Reviver #2, and in the supposed Hemingway creation “Death in the Afternoon”. A Fantastic cocktail that doubles as a potent paint remover.
The most classic way to enjoy it however is the absinthe drip. In short a shot of absinthe is placed in a glass with a slotted spoon then placed atop the glass. On top of that a sugar cube is placed and dissolved by very slow drips of water usually from a fountain or other device. This will make the absinthe cloudy and produce what’s known as a louche.
The above picture is my own first original absinthe cocktail the Ectoplasm. I figured the spooky reputation of this misunderstood liquor was perfect to create a potent cocktail for the season. Abit of Midori not only aids it’s slimeresque color but adds some much needed sweetness to balance out things.
The pear nectar surprised me as I hadn’t worked with it before. I didn’t expect much but drank a can all on it’s own. So there’s your something for the kiddies. Abit of Soda water can lighten up the party if you find the flavors to concentrated.
1 ½ oz Absinthe
½ oz Midori
2 oz Pear Nectar
1 oz Lime Juice
Garnish: Lime Wheel
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir vigorously and strain into a tall glass with ice. Top with 1 oz club soda if desired or garnish and serve.
Also Check out La Fee Verte, the Web’s home for all things absinthe. These guys are awesome!
Hope this inspires you to seek out a good bottle of absinthe yourself and experiment. Until next time, You get Hammered America!