It’s time to set the record straight on absinthe. Enough with the myths about green fairies and the fear about illegal swill. Absinthe is a delicious spirit with a rich history, end of story—er, make that the beginning of the story with absinthe. Here are all the answers to your questions about absinthe, so you can put aside your worries and get to drinking.
What is absinthe?
Absinthe is a spirit made with green anise and grand wormwood, infused in similar ways as gin. Distillers usually begin with a neutral grain spirit (though sometimes they experiment with other bases like grapes), before infusing it with distinct botanicals. While it’s sometimes referred to as a liqueur, absinthe is actually an unsweetened, full-proof spirit.
Why is absinthe green?
Absinthe is distilled with botanicals that happen to be green, but the resulting spirit is actually clear. It’s only after distillation that producers mix in herbs like hyssop, melissa and petite wormwood (different from the grand wormwood used during distillation), which release chlorophyll to tint the spirit green.
What’s with the wormwood in absinthe?
The word absinthe actually comes from the French term for grand wormwood, which imparts the signature bitter and herbaceous flavor in the spirit. Wormwood actually makes its way into several spirits from around the world like genepy, aquavit and some amari.
Does absinthe give you hallucinations?
Scenes of absinthe hallucinations in movies and on TV may have you believing you too can see the green fairy, but no matter how much absinthe you drink, the only thing you’ll see is the bottom of your glass. European vintners drummed up the myth that absinthe makes people go insane and hallucinate back in the 19th century to eliminate competition, leading to bans on the spirit around the world. While some chemists blamed the toxic compound thujone, which is found in wormwood but exists in extremely limited amounts in absinthe, thujone can’t actually cause hallucinations, and it’s impossible to drink enough absinthe to feel the chemical’s deadly, seizure-inducing effects. What some people reportedly experience as hallucinations is actually just the result of good old fashioned high-proof alcohol.
What does absinthe taste like?
Just like all gins don’t just taste like juniper, absinthe has long battled a reputation that it simply tastes like licorice. Yes, green anise imparts a licorice-like taste in many bottles, but decent absinthe will pack a range of herbal and floral notes like lemon balm, coriander or spearmint.
Where is absinthe made?
Born in Switzerland in the 19th-century, absinthe became extremely popular in France. Both countries still produce a lot of absinthe, but there are plenty of American brands as well.
How much alcohol is in absinthe?
Absinthe can get pretty up there in terms of ABV. It can range from 40 percent all the way up to 70 percent ABV, which combined with the strong flavor, can make it taste extremely potent.
Is absinthe legal in the U.S.?
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau finally lifted its prohibition against absinthe in 2008 when it approved thujone-free absinthes for sale in the U.S. Since absinthe contains only trace amounts of thujone anyway, it is now pretty much legal across the board.
What absinthe brands should I buy?
It can be hard to get started on a complex spirit like absinthe, but there are a few starter bottles out there that make great entry points. Licorice haters should stick to bottlings that go light on the flavor, like St. George Absinthe Verte ($60) or Delaware Phoenix Meadow of Love ($40), while serious devotees of traditional absinthe flavors should opt for a brand like Vieux Pontarlier ($60).
What are absinthe fountains, absinthe glasses and absinthe spoons?
All pieces of absinthe paraphernalia (aka, absinthiana), like ornate fountains, glasses and spoons allow elaborate preparations of the Absinthe Drip. The rounded glass holds the perfect amount of absinthe, the fountain dispenses the precise amount of ice water required, and the slotted spoon rests securely on top of the glass and allows the water to pass through to the drink below. It’s an excessively elaborate process for an exceedingly simple drink.
What are some absinthe drinks I can make?
Given absinthe’s rich history, it’s easy to go beyond the simple Drip with other absinthe-tinged classics like the Sazerac or Absinthe Frappe. The spirit also appears in tiki drinks like the Zombie. And then there are always newer creations like this inky black charcoal-infused cocktail or this Highball with LaCroix.