February 4, 2016 — Absinthe – literally the stuff of legends. Lots of spirits have days that PR people have named after them – but few have the right to own a day in the way that absinthe owns March 5 – the anniversary of the day that the 95-year ban on the spirit was repealed in the United States. Whether you revere it or want to stay clear of it, absinthe has a place in cocktails, so why not raise a glass this Saturday.
According to Ted Breaux, creator of Lucid Absinthe – the first authentic absinthe to be legally sold in the US following the repeal in 2007 – there are many lingering misperceptions from the 95-year ban. So in honor of its day, let’s spread some truth…
What exactly is absinthe?
Absinthe exploded in popularity in 19th century, heralded by admirers from Ernest Hemingway to Pablo Picasso. It is a collection of natural herbs and botanicals, macerated and distilled. Because it has no added sugar, absinthe is classified as a spirit rather than a liqueur – and therein lies the primary difference between authentic absinthes and the myriad of liquids which merely claim the name.
Will it make me crazy?
By background, Breaux is a chemist. He was attracted by absinthe’s mystique and was the first to conduct a complete chemical analysis of samples drawn from full, sealed antique bottles of absinthe. He found nothing that proved the rumors true. He shared his findings with the US TTB, which led to the repeal of the ban in 2007.
Can you buy real absinthes in the US?
The short answer is yes. Lucid, as well as the full portfolio of absinthes that Breaux makes for Hood River Distillers, are made according to traditional French methods from natural herbs and botanicals in 19th century copper pot stills, in a distillery designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, Eiffel tower). Nothing is automated. All are widely available in the US and all are real.
The confusion comes from the fact that there is no legal definition of absinthe. As a result, you can put pretty much anything in a bottle, add artificial dyes and colors and call it absinthe.
How can you tell if it’s real?
Read the label! Authentic absinthes never contain sugar and don’t contain artificial dyes or colors. Cheaper products typically contain sugar and are actually absinthe liqueurs.
How do I drink it?
Absinthe is too strong for most to sip neat. It needs to be mellowed with water or used in a cocktail, in fact the original “Savoy Cocktail Book’”(1930) lists more than 100 cocktails that call for absinthe. Moreover, as bartenders and mixologists look to natural ingredients and those that add complex flavors, authentic absinthe, which is distilled directly from whole botanicals, is a versatile option.
Below are some of our favorite recipes:
¼ oz. Lucid Absinthe
2 oz. rye – we like Pendleton 1910 Canadian Rye Whiskey
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
½ oz. simple syrup
Lemon peel for garnish
Add all liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Rim the glass with the lemon peel, twist over the surface and garnish.
1 oz. Lucid Absinthe
4 oz. spicy Bloody Mary mix
4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, ground pepper, garlic salt, celery salt
In a pint glass add ice, Lucid Absinthe, Bloody Mary mix, Worcestershire sauce, and other spices. Shake and serve. Garnish with an olive, pepperoncini and lime wedge.
½ oz. Lucid Absinthe Supérieure
¼ oz. Gin
¼ oz. St. Germain
1 oz. Pineapple juice
¾ oz. Grapefruit juice
½ oz. Strawberry syrup
Add all ingredients in shaker. Shake and strain into a martini or coupe glass. Top with rosé wine.