I have for some time been reading about Absinthe’s return to the United States, and more to the point, looking at all the elegant, exotic-looking bottles blooming on liquor store shelves everywhere I go. Most Americans out there will respond, when you mention Absinthe, thusly,
Absinthe? Isn’t that illegal? And they’ll say it in the same tone as they might if you mentioned Hashish…. It did in fact used to be illegal, and not just in the U.S., but not so much anymore. There has been a profusion of Absinthe brands of late, accompanied by a chorus of interest from the cocktailscienti.
Frankly, I’m as cowardly and superstitious as the next guy, and every time I read an enthusiastic article or saw one of those beautiful bottles filled with a new experience, I hesitated because of The Tales. There were reasons Absinthe disappeared from the marketplace in responsible nations. Whether they were good ones or not are irrelevant. But the tales were scary and exotic, filled with madness and monsters. To hear the stories, Absinthe (The Green Fairy) was Mary Shelly and Edgar Allen Poe in a bottle. Wimpy Doug was hesitant to try. But with the arrival of a bottle of La Fée Absinthe Parisienne, it was time to take the plunge, risking life and sanity in a flirtation with the Green Fairy. All to give my faithful readers insight into the world of the exotic. I took the risk for you! No, No. No need to thank me. I’m just a giver.
I started out with the straight Absinthe Cocktail. You pour a measure of Absinthe into your glass and balance an Absinthe Spoon over the top. This spoon is more or less a small metal spatula with lots of holes and slots. I got one with the bottle, but a small slotted spoon would do the trick. Maggi collects exotic serving pieces for our silver, and I need to look and see if we have an absinthe spoon in our collection, or if one was ever made. The Victorians made every other imaginable serving piece, so I guess they did. But I digress (as usual). You place a sugar cube on the spoon and slowly drizzle four to six measures of ice cold water over the sugar cube, most of which will dissolve as the drink mixes. The resulting drink will turn cloudy. No garnish, unless you want to control the Fairy further by harvesting Mistletoe on a new moon night, cutting it with a silver sickle and catching it in a golden bowl or something.
I was prepared not to like it. And I didn’t.
I was prepared to hate it. But I didn’t!
To be honest, it was bit bland and one dimensional served like this. I expected to hate the flavor, since I won’t go near straight Pastis, but I found it interesting and inoffensive. But there wasn’t any there there in this cocktail. If you actively liked the flavor, and found the presentation charming, it doesn’t seem like a bad drink. Oh yeah, no creatures swam up out of the mists, nor was I induced to lie around the house in a dreamy state. In truth, I should admit that I did in fact lie around the house on my ass, doing nothing, but that’s a normal evening and I can’t blame the Green Fairy. So, cute but no cigar. I was not going to give up, however. Most of what I read about Absinthe was in regard to its use in mixed cocktails.
I decided to try the one cocktail I make regularly that uses Pernod Pastis: The Corpse Reviver #2. The Corpse Reviver had the twin advantages of a spooky and exotic name to go along with my gothic mindset at the moment, and being a drink that I liked but never thought was quite perfect. I wrote about this cocktail in my first ever Mixology Monday post last year. I read about it to begin with at Cocktailnerd, where Gabriel presents two versions. Both use Pastis, but the cocktail originated with Absinthe in the ingredient list. The recipe I have been making for the last year is Gabe’s version 2.1, which uses just a dash of Pastis. Since I had already determined that the LaFée tasted so much better than the Penod Pastis I had on hand before, I decided to try Gabe’s v.2.2, in which the Absinthe would be a featured player.
Wow, this is a huge improvement. The Corpse Reviver retains its pungent kick, but the flavors are smoother, more complex, and frankly just better all around. I usually only make Corpse Revivers when I have homemade maraschino cherries on hand. I immediately put a new batch of the fruit on my to do list, so I can have a few more of these sooner rather then later. Maggi, who never much liked the CR#2 at all to begin with, also found the Absinthe version to be miles better.
Here’s my new recipe:
- 2 parts Bombay Sapphire Gin
- 1 part Cointreau
- 1 part Lillet Blanc
- 1 1/2 parts Lemon Juice, strained
- 1 part LaFée Absinthe Parisienne
- 1 homemade marachino cherry
Combine in a shaker and shake fit to wake the dead. Strain into a chilly cocktail glass. Garnish with a homemade cherry. (If all you have are store bought superballs, don’t bother.)
I guess this means I’ll have to experiment further with this stuff. The bottle of LaFee’s is pretty good sized, and a little goes a long way. If I don’t drink it all in Corpse Revivers, I’ll have a lot of fun experimenting further. If anyone has a favorite I should try, let me know!