We know it’s not likely you’re going to sit down with a hefty glass of absinthe to sip straight. For one, the spirit is typically ripe with licorice flavors, which can easily be overwhelming on their own. On top of that, most absinthes are bottled at a whopping 130 proof or more, which makes them a lot harder to take down with a straight face than a glass of whiskey. But, if you had to drink an absinthe straight, you would want it to be good one. Here, we find the best absinthes to drink, regardless of whether you want to sip them straight or prefer to mix them in a Frappe.
Pernod’s Absinthe Superieure was one of the most popular absinthe brands in France prior to the 1915 ban. This bottling is a modern recreation of the original recipe from the 1800s. Made from a brandy base, this absinthe uses grand wormwood from Pontarlier, France—the original home to the Pernod distillery—and nettles, which naturally turn the spirit a vivacious green hue. Slightly vegetal on the palate, the spirit has a ethereal silkiness and notes of anise, lemon zest and black licorice. This is one of the highest quality commercial absinthes you can buy, and thankfully it’s widely available.
Hailing from Alameda, CA, this absinthe was the first American absinthe produced after the ban was lifted in 2007. Made from a brandy base, the absinthe is infused with local botanicals and herbs, including wormwood, fennel, star anise, tarragon and stinging nettles. Verdant and vegetal, the spirit has a rich depth from the brandy and is more savory than others we’ve tried. While there are still licorice and anise notes present on the palate, this absinthe will appeal to those who aren’t big fans of either.
Produced in Denver, this absinthe is made with a base of imported Chilean pisco. Infused with anise seed, fennel, grande wormwood, lemon balm and hyssop, the spirit is naturally green and has a very vegetal flavor. While it’s leafy green and savory tasting on its own, adding water and sugar gives it a more candied flavor and brings out notes of cinnamon, lime and licorice.
Imported from Pontarlier, France—an area hailed as the capital of absinthe and home to the best terroir for wormwood to grow—this absinthe is an extraordinary spirit. Using only local herbs for the infusion and a 100-year-old alembic pot still for distillation, the spirit is complex, layered and incredibly delicious. In the glass, the absinthe reveals notes of alpine herbs, wildflowers, white chocolate and fennel. This is a quintessential bottling that any self-proclaimed absinthe lover needs to try.
Made by the Honeoye Falls Distillery in upstate New York, this small batch absinthe is one of the best local absinthes that we’ve had the pleasure of drinking. Using neutral spirits produced at the distillery, the absinthe gets its unique flavor from a combination of petite wormwood, fennel, anise, hyssop, spearmint and lemon balm. Bracingly minty upfront, the absinthe opens up to become leafy green, vibrantly herbal and subtly bitter on the palate. If you spot this absinthe in a liquor store (or even online) don’t hesitate in buying it.