How to drink Absinthe
How to Drink Absinthe
Absinthe is a formerly banned spirit drink that is made with Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) and other herbs. Also known as la fée verte (the green fairy), absinthe was originally formulated during the 18th century by the French-born Dr. Pierre Ordinaire in Switzerland as a digestive tonic. During the 19th century absinthe became a very popular drink in France. Often associated with artists and writers, absinthe was consumed by such figures as Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Ernest Hemingway. After being illegal for many years, true absinthe is once again legal in many countries. There are many different types of absinthe, some much more authentic and of higher quality than others. Absinthe is traditionally prepared and enjoyed according to the absinthe ritual.
Quality absinthe will usually show the louche effect. It is desirable for absinthe to gradually demonstrate increasing turbidity (opaqueness) or turn partially translucent as ice water is gradually added to it. This is known as the louche effect. The louched color should demonstrate complexity as well as nuance, and the absinthe should not turn opaque rapidly. However, it must be noted that not all quality absinthe will turn opaque, as the louche effect is primarily produced by the herbs anise and fennel. Absinthe typically tastes like liquorice due to the addition of such herbs. The louche effect is produced by the precipitation of the herbal essential oils.
The absinthe should be made from natural, whole herbal ingredients. The finest absinthe is made with whole, natural herbs and does not contain any artificial ingredients such as artificial colors and flavors. The herbs are merely ground up so that they can be efficiently used during the distillation and extraction processes. The pale-green color of typical high-quality absinthe is imparted by the chlorophyll that is extracted from whole, natural herbs. Absinthe that is bright green may be artificially colored. However, not all quality absinthe has a green color. Quality absinthe may also be clear, orange, or red, but the color should be imparted by natural herbal ingredients such as petite wormwood. Vintage absinthe may have an amber color, as the chlorophyll will have faded over time.
Quality absinthe has a high alcohol content. The best tasting absinthe falls into the range of 45-68 percent alcohol by volume. Absinthe has traditionally been about 136-proof. A very high alcohol content is not considered to be excessive because absinthe is traditionally diluted with water before drinking and it is meant to be sipped slowly over time, so as not to allow the effects of alcohol to overwhelm the subtle and pleasant effect of the herbs.
Prepare the absinthe for drinking. There are different traditional and non-traditional ways to prepare absinthe. The most popular method is referred to as the absinthe ritual, although there are slight variations on this method. When preparing absinthe, keep in mind that the green fairy is associated with creativity, and is not something to be conformed to. Several methods are described below.
Drink your absinthe. The prepared absinthe can be drunk as desired, perhaps sipped gradually while pondering creative ideas. Oscar Wilde described drinking absinthe as such: "After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world."
Classic French Absinthe Ritual