The “Green Fairy” & Absinthe Cocktails
Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit that was originally 136 proof and made with grande wormwood. Absinthe is a key ingredient in several absinthe cocktails including the Tequila Sazerac, Death in the Afternoon and the Green Vesper. The legendary spirit is made by distilling neutral grain spirits with herbs, predominately anise, florence fennel and wormwood. Other herbs such as angelica root, coriander, dittany leaves, hyssop, juniper, nutmeg, melissa, star anise, sweet flag, and veronica are also used and help give absinthe cocktails a very unique flavour. The spirit can also be drank on its own and there are several ways how to drink absinthe.
The color of the distillate is clear and is often bottled this way in a style known as Blanche or la Bleue or as a bright green. The coloring is added, either through the chlorophyll from steeping herbs like hyssop, melissa and petite wormwood in the liquor or adding artificial coloring. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as “la fée verte” (the green fairy).
This potent liqueur was outlawed in many countries for years following multiple instances of harmful effects and even deaths of its drinkers, most of which were due to over indulgence of the green spirit. Since the 95 year absinthe ban was lifted in the United States in 2007, many brands have been released with lower thujone levels. During the bans homemade absinthe kits became popular, however this can be dangerous. For instance too much wormwood or the use of wormwood extract can be poisonous.
There have been a number of famous absinthe drinkers throughout time, most notably among artists and other creatives in the 19th century.
Vincent Van Gough
How to Drink Absinthe
Originally, the absinthe drink was intended as an aperitif. The bars and cafes of fin de siecle Paris celebrated the “Green Hour“, a late-afternoon period when Parisians downed their pre-dinner glass (or three) of the green liquor.
In the age of the original absinthe fever, the drink was always diluted with water and sweetened with sugar before consumption. First, a cube of sugar was placed on a perforated spoon resting on the top of a glass of neat absinthe. Then, chilled water was slowly poured over the sugar until it dissolved and the required level of dilution was achieved. Special absinthe fountains — decorated containers that dispensed iced water — had their firm place in most drinking establishments of that time.
A few variations on the traditional drinking ritual have popped up since. One recent method how to drink absinthe involves pouring absinthe itself — rather than water — over the cube of sugar, then setting fire to the absinthe-soaked cube. Purists and absinthe snobs condemn this method and resolutely declare that one should never drink absinthe like that. But that hasn’t stopped some drinkers taking the “fire ritual” further still: the sugar cube goes out of the metaphorical window, and the emerald liquor itself is set on fire.
Although involving absinthe with fire may have the desired visual effect in a hip cocktail lounge or on the movie screen, it does deny the drinker the full experience of the more noteworthy mind-opening, perception-enhancing absinthe effects.The traditional ritual of 1890’s Paris had a purpose: as cool water drips into a glass of the chartreuse green liquor, it liberates the all-important essential herbal oils that make absinthe the special drink it is.
For the same reason, absinthe is seldom drunk straight-up like scotch or brandy. Newcomers to absinthe often drink absinthe neat, but this is rarely for the taste, but simply because they do not know another way how to drink absinthe. Even modern-day bartenders sometimes produce a whisky glass with a shot of the green liquid when asked for “absinthe”. If this happens to you, at least request a wine glass and a bottle of chilled water — then pour the shot of absinthe into the wine glass and slowly dilute with water.
There are several great Absinthe cocktails and we have chosen four of our favourites for your persuasion.
One of our favourite absinthe cocktails. Sweet, bitter and tart notes combines for a unique and fantastic concoction.
25 ml Absinthe, Seedless Green Grapes, 1 dash Angostura Bitters, 37 1/2 ml Gin, 20 ml Ginger Syrup,Juice of 1/2 Lime, Soda Water, Candied Ginger
A strong tasting Champagne cocktail with a powerful kick.
Champagne glass of Champagne, 1 measure Absinthe
Of all absinthe cocktails, this is certainly not one for the faint-hearted.
75 ml Gin, 25 ml Vodka, 12 1/2 ml Absinthe, 1/8 teaspoon of Quinnine Powder
The Tequila Sazerac has a nice strong citrus smell, with a rounded mouth feel. The tequila really plays well with the citrus, and for us is a modern classic.
45 ml Tequila, 15 ml Rye Whiskey, 15 ml Absinthe, 2 drops Angostura Bitters, 3 drops Orange Bitters, Grapefruit Peel