Absinthe Minded – Part 1

The 19th Century marked a time of great invention and discovery. Mankind made many significant leaps forward during this short, hundred years. The discoveries of this time laid the foundation the 20th Century and the advancements in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, art, and society which we sometimes take for granted today.

It was the time of the great masters of art, the Industrial Revolution, Green Fairyand the beginning of the end for slavery. The Origin of Species shook religious belief to its foundation and a serial killer known as Jack the Ripper stalked London by night.

It was also an era of influence, indulgence, and inspiration. It was the time of la Fée Verte – The Green Fairy.

If you’re like me, what you don’t know about absinthe can probably fill a room or two; that is, unless you’re a connoisseur. I’m not, so I did quite a bit of research on the subject to educate myself and I’d like to share some of my more interesting finds with you. So, grab a spoon and a sugar cube, sit back, relax, pour yourself an ounce of vintage Pernod Fils and set up your ice water drip as we swim through the louche to uncover the facts and fiction surrounding the mysterious spirit known as absinthe.

Into the Green

Absinthe is a high alcohol spirit (ranging from 45%-80% alcohol by volume) distilled from a variety of herbs. It is classified as a spirit and not a liqueur because it is not bottled with added sugar.

The original absinthes (as opposed to modern ones) included an ingredient called Artemisia absinthium or grande wormwood which contains a chemical called thujone. (More on thujone later) Other herbs used in making absinthe were green anise, petite wormwood (Atesmisia pontica), fennel and hyssop.

Absinthe gets its green color from the chlorophyll of the macerated herbs used in its creation although, not all absinthes are green. In fact, some are clear and some are naturally rouge or rose colored because hibiscus flowers were used in its production.

The Ritual

The process of preparing an absinthe drink is referred to as “the ritual” Absinthe Glass and Absinthe Spoon– and rightly so. It is a relatively slow process that requires some patience, but as they say, “All good things come to those who wait.”

Start by pouring 1-1½ ounces of absinthe into a glass. Place a sugar cube on a specially designed, slotted or perforated spoon, which rests across the rim of the glass. Using an absinthe fountain, fresh ice water is slowly dripped over the sugar cube into the absinthe. This process sweetens the otherwise bitter absinthe and, in the process, causes the spirit to become cloudy. This is called “louching.” The cold water helps to release the oils from the herbs, giving the drink a strong herbal flavor.

Check back soon for myths and the future of absinthe, in Absinthe Minded – Part 2.


1 Comment

  • Robert Hess May 2, 2008 @ 10:49am

    Hey! Glad you guys are carrying absinthe supplies now!

    With Absinthe making a comeback here in the US, there is a lot of work necessary to “re-educate” folks on exactly what is, and is not, absinthe, as well as what is, and is not, the proper way to prepare it.

    Thanks for showing the “right” way to serve absinthe here… without a flame in sight! :->

Leave a Reply

Your name is required.
Comment field is required.