How to drink

How to drink absinthe

There are numerous ways to drink absinthe, but the classic method involves slowly dripping cold water into the liquid to create an emulsification, called the louche. The slow addition of iced water, sometimes from an absinthe fountain, causes the herbal constituents in the absinthe to be released. When this occurs the absinthe will turn an opalescent green color, if it contains natural wormwood, or white if it is a modern absinthe dosed with anise, rather like ouzo.

As the alcohol concentration drops, the terpenoids come out of solution to form a yellow opalescence. This louche effect is retained in modern absinthe substitutes (pastis, such as Pernod and Ricard), which are rich in anise but contain no thujone. The alcohol concentration of diluted absinthe was thus not greater than that of other spirit based drinks.

Professor John Strang, King’s College, London

Bohemian Fire Ritual

Nobody knows where this unusual method originated. Germanic societies have long used feuerzange (fire tongs) when preparing alcoholic beverages, although the roots may lie in the medicinal history of absinthe.

Another theory recently, suggested by serious historians, mentions tests for homemade absinthe: a small quantity of absinthe was poured onto a metal spoon and then set alight, safe distillate will burn with a blue flame, and irregular distillates burn with a yellow flame. In any case, this method has arrived in modern bar culture, it was popularised after being observed in the 1990s by the owner of the world famous La Fee range of absinthes.

Historical Absinthe Cocktails

=== Tremblement de Terre ===

Tremblement de Terre (“Earthquake”) was invented by the French painter Henri Toulouse de Lautrec. The recipe is simple. Just mix–

50% absinthe
50% brandy

–and enjoy. Adding “four dashes of red wine” (as some sources suggest) is optional.

=== Death in the Afternoon ===

Invented by Ernest Hemingway. Here are the directions in his own words:

“Pour one jigger absinthe into a champagne glass. Add iced champagne… Drink three to five of these slowly.”

=== Absinthe Suisse ===

An original cocktail from New Orleans’s Old Absinthe House.

Blend–

1 ounces (40 ml) absinthe
3/8 ounce (15 ml) syrup
1 egg white
3/8 ounce (15 ml) single cream
4 ounces (120 g) shaved ice

Serve in a chilled glass.

=== Sazerac ===

Another Louisiana classic. You will need–

1.5 parts absinthe
2 parts rye whiskey
3 dashes of bitters
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Place in a cocktail shaker with some ice. Shake, strain into a glass and garnish with lemon peel.

=== Absinthe 75 ===

Named after a World War One 75mm artillery cannon and intended to steady the nerves. Simply mix–

1 teaspoonful of absinthe
2/3 part calvados
1/3 part gin
1/2 teaspoon sugar

–and enjoy.

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