The Absinthe Ritual


Ever since moving into our house a little over a year ago, I've been in the process of stocking the bar.  I feel like I've pretty much got the staples covered; Bourbon, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Scotch and enough mixers to satisfy the froo-froo drinkers.

Recently I decided I needed a bottle of absinthe to add to the supply.  If you're not familiar, absinthe is a distilled, anise-flavored spirit.  Absinthe was once believed to cause madness and for that reason was banned in the United States in 1912.  Fast-forward to 2007 when absinthe was once again allowed to be distilled and distributed in the United States.  I figured it was about time for me to give it a try.

It's not something that's available at every liquor store... I checked a few.  But, I finally found it at one of our larger upscale grocery stores with a fairly impressive alcohol selection.  They had only one brand, Lucid, so that would have to be my first experiment.  The 750ml bottle of Lucid sold for $64.99.  Definitely a bit on the pricey side, but not outrageous.

After acquiring the absinthe itself, I learned that I needed a proper glass and spoon for the "ritual" of preparing the drink.  That part was a little bit trickier.  Finally after posting a few queries to Twitter, I received a response.  Someone suggested Randall's on Jefferson.  After a quick visit to the city, I acquired a couple of absinthe grilles, they didn't have spoons or glasses, but they did have a few different varieties of absinthe for my next adventures.

I found some suitable glasses (at least to me) at a place close to home from where I usually find all my bar glassware.

At last, properly equipped, it was time to sample the green fairy.  First I opened the bottle of Lucid and gave it the "sniff test".  Fantastic.  It's a complex mix of herbal smells, but the anise is particularly noticeable.  I poured a "dose" of absinthe into the glass (about 1.5 ounces).  It's a lovely light green color, different from some of the others I've seen that are almost luminescent in their green-intensity.

A cube of sugar is added to the grille that has been balanced atop the glass.  Using a sports bottle (classy, I know) I dripped the ice-cold water across the sugar cube and into the glass.  As the water drips into the absinthe, the components of the spirit that are not soluble in water cause a clouding of the drink called the "louche".  This results in an opaque white colored liquid.  From the various sources I've read, the ratio of water to absinthe is anywhere from 3:1 to 8:1.  I opted for a conservative 3:1 mix and will experiment more in the future to see how the taste changes.

And finally, the most important part... the taste.  The flavor was far more subtle than I anticipated given the strong aromas from the absinthe.  The taste was like a mild black licorice with some floral aromas.  Personally, I'm a fan of black licorice and black jelly beans, so I found it enjoyable.  The wife?  Not so much.  She sampled the drink and was definitely not a fan.  I'll convince her to try some other brands and ratios in the future to see if there's anything she might like, but it's possible that it's just not something she'll like.

If you want to know more about absinthe, wikipedia is a good place to start for some general background.  Also be sure to checkout my newest photo gallery for larger images of the photos in this post as well as some more.

If you have any recommendations for me to try next, please leave a comment.