Few spirits are as intriguing or misunderstood as absinthe. Due to its powerful flavour and high alcohol content, it’s not recommended to drink it straight, and it can be dangerous if you drink too much of it.
After diving into whisk(e)y in the past, we thought we’d help you actually enjoy absinthe too. If you’re keen to try the mysterious spirit, you might like to try Pernod Absinthe ($103 at Liquorland), the brand that is responsible for absinthe’s popularity in Paris in the 1800s. It’s believed to be one of the best in the world. However, if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you can also try Green Fairy Absinthe ($73 at Liquorland).
The best way to drink absinthe is to dilute it with water by pouring it over a sugar cube – this is known as an ‘absinthe ritual’, which was popularised in France. Drinking it this way tames the intense flavour of the spirit.
The sugar quells the bitterness of the absinthe, and the water dilutes it, making it far more palatable. If you wanted to give this a go, a short-stemmed glass is ideal, and if you’re going to be really fancy, you could buy an absinthe spoon, which is flat and has holes to allow the sugar and water to drip through – if you don’t have one of these, a large fork will do the job.
Now, it’s known as a ritual because it’s meant to be done deliberately and slowly. It’s a full experience.
1. Pour about 30mL of absinthe into the glass.
2. Lay the absinthe spoon or fork across the top of the glass and place a sugar cube on the spoon.
3. Slowly pour ice-cold water onto the sugar, just enough to saturate it. Allow to sit until the sugar cube starts dissolving.
4. Slowly pour more water over the sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved – usually, you’ll have between 3 and 5 parts of water to one part absinthe.
5. As the water hits the absinthe, you’ll notice it slowly becomes cloudy – this is known as the louche effect – allow this to rest and then stir through any remaining undissolved sugar.
6. Enjoy! Make sure to take your time. It’s not a race!
This is very similar to the ritual, but it adds ice and soda water, which softens the flavour further. You also don’t need a special spoon for this one!
1. In a mixing glass half-filled with crushed ice, pour in 30mLs of absinthe.
2. Place the sugar cube on top of the ice and very slowly drip soda water onto the sugar until it’s completely dissolved.
3. Stir well, and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Glass in a Glass
This method isn’t used too widely nowadays, but it was popular in France in the 1840s.
1. Place 30mL of absinthe in a small glass, like a shot glass.
2. Place that glass into a bigger glass.
3. Slowly pour between 90 and 120mLs of water on top of the absinthe. Once all the water has been added, the larger glass will contain the absinthe and water mixture, and the small glass will just contain water.
Death in the Afternoon Cocktail
Invented by Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon is also the name of his 1932 book about Spanish bullfighting. It involves a very potent mixture of absinthe and Champagne.
Hemingway contributed this cocktail recipe to So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon, a 1935 cocktail book featuring recipes from celebrities.
“Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly,” Hemingway wrote.
Though, we’d probably recommend drinking fewer than Hemingway suggests! The cocktail is potent yet surprisingly refreshing!