Absinthe Cocktails: the Art of Enigmatic Mixtures
Absinthe is one of the most fascinating spirits available and has a fascinating past, often associated with bohemian artists in late 19th century Paris such as Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso or Aleister Crowley. However, its mystique aside there’s much to like about absinthe: its sweet-licorice flavor, natural green color and unique chemical properties make it irresistible as a cocktail ingredient.
Absinthe is produced by macerating botanicals such as Artemisia absinthium or grand wormwood leaves and flowers with green anise, sweet fennel and other herbs in a grain base that’s later distilled. Real absinthe is usually clear in appearance with only faint green hues from natural ingredients (hence its name “La Fee Verte,” “The Green Fairy). Other less than authentic brands may use dyes or tints; such drinks should not be mistaken as real absinthe.
Though highly alcoholic, absinthe is typically mixed with water before consumption to dilute it and reveal its complex botanical notes. Beverage Director Nicolas O’Connor at NYC’s Apotheke NoMad has made absinthe a mainstay in his cocktail program and finds that adding water helps enhance this traditional preparation while making its high proof spirit easier to consume. “Adding additional water helps bring out herbal notes while making this very high proof spirit more easily digestible,” according to him.
O’Connor is especially fond of creating Chrysanthemum Absinthe cocktails, which feature adding one quarter-ounce of absinthe to a classic Brandy Martini made with Cognac, dry vermouth, and orange peel garnish. This easy-drinking concoction highlights absinthe’s botanical qualities while remaining easy on the stomach – an effective combination that could revive its reputation among drinkers.