Absinthe drinks and history are a rich part of the history of alcohol and drink mixing across the world. Absinthe has been around since 1792, and it has grown in popularity and myth ever since.
These seven facets of absinthe drinks and history showcase all the finer points of absinthe. It’s an intriguing drink that has inspired many cocktail lovers through the years. Read on to learn all about it.
In this section we cover the basics of absinthe. We cover what absinthe is used for, what its ABV level is, and the legality of the whole absinthe operation. You’ll have a well-rounded view of the history of absinthe by the end of this section.
What Is Absinthe Used For?
There is the historical first reason behind the creation of absinthe and the nowadays reason of creating delicious, powerful drinks.
The historical use of absinthe started in Switzerland in 1792. The exact date varies by account. Absinthe was created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, a French doctor living in Couvet, Switzerland. Dr. Ordinaire crafted absinthe as an all-purpose patent remedy.
These days absinthe may be called medicine in a joking tone but it has taken on a new purpose. Absinthe, either real absinthe with thujone or the newer, less potent variations, is used primarily in cocktails. You can use the traditional method of pouring absinthe over a sugar cube if you want the old effects and remembrance. You can even sample it in some of the oldest bars in America.
What Color Is Absinthe?
Absinthe is traditionally green in color. However, it can be colorless. The green hue is caused by the addition of green anise. Colorless absinthe is still good, but green absinthe rounds out the history of the drink.
What Percent of Alcohol Is In Absinthe?
The ABV, or alcohol by volume for absinthe typically falls between 45% and 74%. It isn’t the strongest liquor or spirit, considering there are many types of vodka and rum options that are over 100%. It is the mix of ingredients alongside the high ABV that makes absinthe the potent spirit it is.
Is Absinthe Legal?
Absinthe is legal to purchase and drink. Selling it depends on the composition of the absinthe. The addition and percentage of thujone makes it unlawful to serve in the United States. However, there are plenty of absinthe blends that are legal to be served in U.S. bars and restaurants.
Absinthe was banned in the U.S. in 1912, as well as in several European countries in that time period. In 2007 it was legalized in the U.S. with regulation in regards to the use of thujone.
Absinthe: Myths, Misconceptions, Mischievous Cocktails
There are plenty of rumors rolling around absinthe cocktails, serving specifications, and the history of the spirit. Overall it’s a unique spirit to serve at your bar or restaurant. There are plenty of absinthe cocktails you can experiment with to find the best options.
"Key Takeaway: It is the mix of ingredients alongside the high ABV that makes absinthe the potent spirit it is. That mix has captured the attention of drinkers and drink mixers for ages."
Absinthe has such a strong flavor that it needs mixers. Read on for 15 best absinthe cocktails to try. These will rock your socks off and, if you’re a bar owner, they'll be a treat for patrons.
15. Fairy Godmother
The Fairy Godmother includes:
- Elderflower liqueur
- Pineapple juice
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
It’s a relatively light mix from this list. The pineapple juice gives it a well-rounded, unexpected flavor that mixes surprisingly well with absinthe.
14. Smoke and Mirrors
The mystique around absinthe makes it a spirit that lends itself to mysterious smoke and mirrors. The Smoke and Mirrors cocktail mixes:
- Scotch whiskey
- Lime juice
- Simple syrup
- Mint leaves
- Mint leaves as a garnish
Who would have guessed that Scotch and absinthe would be a perfect mix? This is a smoky delight of a drink.
13. Sleepy Hollow Absinthe
The Sleepy Hollow Absinthe cocktail is a mix of:
- St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
- Angostura bitters
- Rosemary as a garnish
This drink pairs well with a spooky movie for Halloween or even a sleepy mysterious film for the winter holidays. It’ll spice up any evening.
The Necromancer raises the dead with:
- Aromatized wine, with Lillet Blanc being the recommendation
- Elderflower liqueur
- Lemon juice
Prepare yourself for a punch with the Necromancer. This drink is not for the faint of heart or palette.
11. Absinthe Frappe
You might expect coffee in this mix, but it’s a combination of:
- Simple syrup
- Mint sprig
This absinthe cocktails option leans into the original meaning of frappe, which is drinks chilled with ice. It’s a refreshing choice from this list.
10. White Elephant’s Cocktail
There’s a cocktail on this list that was created by Ernest Hemingway–and it’s not the Hemingway Daiquiri. This White Elephant’s Cocktail wasn’t crafted by Hemingway, but it was created in his honor. It includes:
- Bacardi white rum
- Simple syrup
- Lime juice
- Large grapefruit twist
Rum and absinthe is a surprising but delicious mix. This drink is both smooth and intriguing.
9. Inside Job Cocktail
Similar to the Smoke and Mirrors cocktail, the Inside Job Cocktail is for the absinthe drinkers who want some espionage on the side. Inside the Inside Job Cocktail there is:
- Bourbon whiskey
- Maraschino liqueur
- Sugar syrup
- Angostura bitters
This mix is sneaky and delicious. The maraschino liqueur makes it exceptionally sweet.
8. Garden Fairy
A great deal of absinthe cocktails have the word fairy in the name. This goes back to the old name for absinthe: the Green Fairy. The Garden Fairy includes:
- Cucumber liqueur
- Lime juice
- Grapefruit bitters
Cucumber liqueur isn’t something you see in everyday drinks. It gives this mix a light, refreshing flavor.
Chrysanthemum flowers are poisonous, so we can’t say for sure if this drink tastes like the flower. It certainly tastes like a treat. The Chrysanthemum is a mix of:
- Dry vermouth
- Orange twist as a garnish
You can never go wrong with an orange garnish. It adds a delightful citrus bite.
6. Corpse Reviver
The Corpse Reviver matches the Necromancer, although the Necromancer is a bit stronger. This deadly mix is a combination of:
- Lemon juice
- Dry vermouth or Lillet Blanc
Whenever you want to raise the dead the Corpse Reviver is the drink to try. It’ll put some pep in your step.
5. Original Sazerac
This classic Sazerac will transport you to New Orleans with an easy finish. The Original Sazerac is a mix of:
- Simple syrup
- Peychaud’s bitters
- Lemon peel as a garnish
This drink is smooth and enticing. It’s indicative of the city it is from.
4. Absinthe Suissesse
The Absinthe Suissesse brings together:
- Orgeat syrup
- An egg white–this is optional
- Orange flower water
- Heavy cream or half-and-half
- Crushed ice
While it originated in New Orleans, the Absinthe Suissesse is named for a “Swiss Woman” or “Swiss Girl." That is the meaning of Suissesse in French. It is a drink that will transport you to the Swiss countryside.
3. Death in the Afternoon
Death in the Afternoon is the absinthe cocktail that was created by Hemingway. It combines:
- Champagne or Prosecco
- Simple syrup
The world is blessed by many creations from Hemingway. Namely, literary works such as The Old Man and the Sea and The Sun Also Rises. His drink contributions are equally delightful to consume in an afternoon.
2. Neptune’s Wrath
Neptune’s Wrath wraps together:
- Lemon juice
- Sugar syrup
- Green Chartreuse liqueur
This is a unique and powerful cocktail. The name is fitting, as this drink will have you feeling wrathful and in need of a hangover cure the next morning.
1. Absinthe Drip
The Absinthe Drip is saved for the number one spot because it is the traditional way to enjoy absinthe. To mix it up, you need:
- One sugar cube
- Water to drip
There are so many excellent absinthe cocktails on this list. If you want to honor traditions however, the Absinthe Drip is the drink for you.
Absinthe Cocktail Mixes: Put the Lime In the … Absinthe?
Absinthe cocktails are a unique subset of cocktail culture. The range on this list is because the flavor of absinthe pairs with many unexpected combinations. There are also so many absinthe brands you can test out.
Whether you have a bar business or you’re buying absinthe for your home learning about some of the best brands is key. These 10 best absinthe brands cover a range of what absinthe can be. No matter what you’re planning to use your absinthe for–perhaps even a cocktail bar–there is something on this list for you.
10. Copper & Kings Absinthe Blanche
Copper and Kings Absinthe Blanche, crafted in Butchertown, Louisville, Kentucky, is an absinthe with a brandy base. It has the typical absinthe notes of wormwood, hyssop, and fennel, alongside black pepper from the unique blend.
9. Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte
The Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte is another U.S.-made favorite absinthe choice. Made in Denver, Colorado in a small-batch process, this Absinthe Verte is produced with the traditions of 19th Century European distillers in mind. This absinthe was first crafted in 2008.
8. St. George Absinthe Verte
The St. George Absinthe Verte was the first legal American absinthe after the ban on absinthe was lifted in 2007. Produced in Alameda, California, this absinthe option may have a playful monkey on the label but it’s not messing around.
7. Pernod Absinthe Superieure
The Pernod Absinthe Superieure was originally made in Pontarlier, France. The Pernod name gained traction from the beginning of the distillery in 1805. These days Absinthe Superieure is still produced in France.
6. Letherbee Charred Oak Absinthe Brun
The Letherbee Charred Oak Absinthe Brun, from Chicago, Illinois, is a unique addition to this list. The barrel-aged process results in a caramel-colored mixture. The oak barrels also affect the flavor, creating a spicy, smooth, mellow absinthe.
5. Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe
Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe is from Pontarlier, France, which historically is the heartland of absinthe. It’s a small-batch production absinthe, which means care is put into every single bottle. The base comes from a chardonnay grape.
4. Jade Liqueurs Nouvelle-Orléans Absinthe Supérieure
Jade Liqueurs Nouvelle-Orléans Absinthe Supérieure has the most high-class name of all the absinthes on this list, and its name suits it well. From Samur, France, this mix is one of the classic absinthe options.
3. La Clandestine Absinthe
La Clandestine Absinthe, from Switzerland, is one of the best clear absinthe options. It’s fitting that it is so high on this list since it comes from Switzerland, the birthplace of absinthe.
2. Golden Moon Redux Absinthe
Golden Moon Redux Absinthe, crafted in Golden, Colorado, is a notable choice from all the U.S.-based absinthes. With an ABV of 65%, this is quite the punch of absinthe. The traditional use of thujone is a major player in the mix.
1. Doc’s Natural Spirits Green Absinthe
We saved the number one spot for an absinthe that rings true as a traditional choice. Doc’s Natural Spirits Green Absinthe, from New York City, is considered a modern rendition of the classic absinthe mix.
Absinthe Brand Choices: Pick Your Poison
These 10 absinthe brands suit any bar, restaurant, or home. They can be mixed into cocktails and served up on any occasion. They’re all a part of learning how to drink absinthe.
"Key Takeaway: These 10 best absinthe brands cover a range of what absinthe can be."
Learning how to drink absinthe is vital for bartenders, bar owners, and bar patrons. In this section, we cover everything you need to know about how to drink absinthe. From cocktails to safety standards, this is the place to start if you’re serving or drinking absinthe.
There are many absinthe cocktails you can choose from. Some are new inventions while others have stood the test of time. These three absinthe popular cocktails have been around for quite some time.
The Sazerac is one of the most popular absinthe cocktails. In fact, there is even a Sazerac company that specializes in everything to do with alcoholic beverages–the drink came first. The Sazerac is known for combining whiskey and absinthe.
2. Death in the Afternoon
Death in the Afternoon is the absinthe cocktail that was invented by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was known to enjoy absinthe. He named his concoction of absinthe and champagne after his 1932 novel of the same name.
1. Absinthe Suissesse
Absinthe Suissesse is an exceptionally decadent absinthe cocktail. It’s a mix of creme de menthe, egg whites, absinthe, orgeat syrup, and orange flower water.
Best Way To Drink Absinthe
Most absinthe connoisseurs will tell you the best way to drink absinthe is as an Absinthe Drip. If the Absinthe Drip is your favorite absinthe drink, then by all means it is the best for you. If you prefer another absinthe cocktail, there’s no rule against it.
How Much Absinthe Is Safe To Drink?
There are different ways of measuring how much absinthe is safe to drink. It can depend on legal limits, bar limits, and personal alcohol tolerance. These upcoming three factors are all things you should consider.
3. Drink Mixes
There are some absinthe cocktails that have only a very small amount of absinthe in them. You should still always be careful, but an absinthe cocktail sipped slowly is a good idea.
2. Personal Limits
Knowing your personal limits is vital with any alcoholic beverage. If you haven’t tried absinthe before, test it out at home first.
1. Legal Limits
There are specific blood alcohol counts and legal limits for driving and generally operating yourself well. Learning your limit in regards to weight and tolerance will help you balance absinthe drinks. A good rule of thumb is that two drinks is enough to make most people fairly tipsy. Please drink responsibly.
How To Drink Absinthe With Fire
Absinthe is a fiery drink in terms of ABV percentage and history. If you want to bring it even closer to the flame, you can do that with fire. The traditional Absinthe Drip cocktail can be mixed up with some flame to give it a shocking edge.
You start with the basic ingredients and tools:
- A sugar cube
- Cold water
- An old fashioned or rocks glass
- An absinthe spoon, large fork, or slotted spoon
Usually, an Absinthe Drip starts with the absinthe in the glass. For this, with the glass empty, put the spoon or fork over the top and place the sugar cube on top. From there, pour an ounce of absinthe over the sugar cube and into the glass. This starts the dilution of the absinthe and preps the sugar cube.
Once you’ve poured the absinthe, set the cube on fire with a lighter or match. Only burn it for a few moments. If it burns too long you’ll char the cube and have a far more burned drink than you were aiming for.
Trickle the water over the burnt cube into the glass. Once the absinthe is completely cloudy, you’ve added enough water. Then flip the sugar cube into the glass to complete this sweet and smoky mix.
Drinking Absinthe: Dancing with the Green Fairy
Learning the ins and outs of how to drink absinthe is vital for any drinker or bar or restaurant owner. Servers would also benefit from some background knowledge to share with customers. It’s an added level of customer service. That background knowledge could include some traditional absinthe recipes.
If you want to dive deep into drinking absinthe, the next best step is to learn how to make absinthe recipes. Read on to learn an absinthe recipe and a few options to make it. We’ll also talk about a few absinthe cocktails in this section.
You can test this simple recipe in your kitchen after a trip to the grocery store and perhaps some specialty mixologist or bartender shops. The materials you’ll need are:
- A bottle
- A strainer or cloth bag
- A warm, dark storage space, like a cellar
This recipe, which will yield 95-proof absinthe, calls for:
- An alcohol base of your preference, perhaps types of vodka
- 35 grams of wormwood
- 35 grams of anise seeds
- 8 grams of star anise
- 4 grams of fennel seeds
- 8 grams of Angelica root
- 4 grams of marjoram
- 4 grams of coriander
- 4 cardamom pods
- One-half seed of nutmeg
The main ingredients you need are the liquor, wormwood, anise, and fennel. Those are the key ingredients for absinthe. Everything else on the above list is technically optional. However, they’ll give your absinthe a more robust flavor.
The Recipe Creation
Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients it’s time to start the creation process. This absinthe recipe will take some time, but following the steps of this infusion will get you there.
Step 1: Add ⅓ of a cup of the herbal mix you have into 750 ML of your liquor choice.
Step 2: Store the bottle in a warm, dark place. A waiting period of anywhere from two weeks to two months is recommended.
Step 3: Infuse the wormwood and the liquor together for a few days.
Step 4: Once you’ve stored your mix as long as you’d like to, it’s time to strain out the herbal mixture. From there you distill the liquid by boiling it. A still kit will help make this easier. This process removes the bitterness and some of the alcohol.
Step 5: Mix together your herbal and liquor infusion with your wormwood and liquor infusion, and add some water to dilute the mixture.
Step 6: Keep trying mixtures, herbal combinations, storage times, wormwood amounts, and liquor types. Eventually, you’ll find a mix that suits you.
The Second Option
There are more options for mixing absinthe with similar ingredients. The second option we’ll walk through involves a slightly different order of creation.
Step 1: Infuse the wormwood by putting the alcohol in a glass bottle with the wormwood. Close it with a sealed cork and let it sit for a month. Shake it a few times each day.
Step 2: Grind up your herbs with a mortar and pestle.
Step 3: After the month in storage, filter the clear liquid. Then add the herbs you ground up. This gives the absinthe its color and works similarly to a tea bag. You can use a new bottle, or the same one you infused the liquor in. If you use the same one be sure to wash and dry it fully.
Step 4: Let that mixture steep in the bottle for another month. Continue to shake it at least once each day.
Step 5: Enjoy your absinthe!
Absinthe Original Recipe
Sadly, we don’t have access to the absinthe original recipe. The mix of herbs that have gone into different absinthe options through the years has been a closely guarded secret. We can do our best and feel a long-lost connection with those original mixes.
Absinthe Recipes: A Recipe for Adventure
With your absinthe recipe and cocktail information you’re ready to start experimenting with absinthe drinks. Next up, it’s time to learn about the unique absinthe flavor. It makes for some interesting drinks.
"Key Takeaway: In the late 1700s, absinthe became the spirit we know it as today–albeit with different recipes. These days the main point of absinthe is to mix up amazing cocktails."
Absinthe flavor is a unique beast in the world of drinks. If you are looking to serve absinthe at your bar business, or you’re a home mixologist or bartender, this is the spot for you.
Absinthe Flavor Pairings
Absinthe flavor is distinctly noted as black licorice. This intense flavor is due to the mix of herbs that go into absinthe, including anise and fennel. The absinthe flavor can be mixed with many other flavors. From cocktail mixes to food pairings, we’re going over 10 of the best absinthe flavor pairings.
The main absinthe cocktail that mixes perfectly with steak is the Absinthe Frappé. The Absinthe Frappé is a mix of absinthe, soda or tonic water, mint, and cream. That sweet mix pairs with the savory decadence of steak.
Cheesecake mixes with the Absinthe Frappé as well. That said, the richness of cheesecake compliments any absinthe drink depending on the flavor of the cheesecake dessert. A raspberry cheesecake would pair well with Death in the Afternoon, the absinthe and champagne cocktail.
Pineapple is quite the unique flavor on its own. It’s sweet, savory, and tangy all at once. Each facet of the flavor of pineapple brings out something different in absinthe cocktails. You can experiment with pineapple as a garnish, or mix in pineapple juice for extra flavoring.
Burgers pair with absinthe in a similar way to steak. The rich, savory aspect of a burger makes it a pairing that brings out and complements different factors of an absinthe drink. You can pair a burger with an Absinthe Frappé, or branch out and try it with an absinthe and whiskey drink.
Omelets pair well with any absinthe cocktail that works for a brunch menu. A brunch café serving up a Sazerac or an absinthe mimosa would be well-suited to serve omelet options. You can mix nearly anything into an omelet, so any of them can suit an absinthe cocktail.
5. Coconut Water
Coconut water is different from the other options on this list, but it’s equally important. Coconut water serves as a great mixer for absinthe cocktails. If an absinthe cocktail calls for tonic water or tap water, try coconut water instead to see how it mixes.
4. Olives and Cheese
An olive and cheese platter for an appetizer or charcuterie course can suit a variety of absinthe drinks. You should use a mix of sharp and mellow cheeses, as well as an array of olives. That way you can pick and choose to match different absinthe cocktail samples.
Pasta mixes with everything. It can be plain or adventurous. It can compliment a flavor or become the main focus of the meal. Ultimately, your favorite pasta dish can work with the absinthe cocktail of your choice.
2. Fruit Salads
Any absinthe cocktail with a fruity flavor addition will benefit from a fruit garnish. To keep the sweet and savory flavors going, mix up your absinthe drink with a fruit salad on the side. You’ll find this to be a refreshing mix for any absinthe drink.
Absinthe pairs well with any and all seafood options. From oysters to crab to salmon, there’s an absinthe drink that mixes with the unique flavor and texture of seafood options. You can pick your favorite absinthe cocktail and nearly any seafood dish you enjoy.
The Absinthe Flavor: Some Licorice In Your Liquor
The absinthe flavor is strong, that’s for sure. It brings character to any drink and frankly, to any bar or restaurant serving absinthe cocktails. It’s something you need to be aware of when it comes to serving absinthe.
Now it’s time to cover the basics about the legality of serving absinthe. There are also tips for serving absinthe at home, and general information about serving and drinking absinthe. Read on, then pour away!
How Do You Serve Absinthe?
From absinthe cocktails to where you can get an absinthe drink, the options for how to serve absinthe are vast and varied. These five facets of the answer come together to give you some background knowledge about absinthe.
5. With Regard to History
Drinking absinthe requires at least some appreciation for the history of the drink. Absinthe was first crafted in Couvet, Switzerland, around 1792. It was created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire. Absinthe was first made to be used as a medicinal elixir. It didn’t take long for that to change.
4. The Rise of Absinthe
Once the intoxicating effects of absinthe were discovered it didn’t take long to catch on as a popular spirit for all sorts of people. From Vincent van Gogh to Ernest Hemingway to Oscar Wilde, absinthe took the world by storm.
3. Serving Absinthe In Bars
Serving absinthe in bars comes with regulations, and you’ll definitely need to learn more than how to get a liquor license. It is legal to serve absinthe in the U.S. and across the world. You should look up your specific state regulations, but odds are you can serve at least some varieties of absinthe in your bar.
2. Innovative Cocktails
Making an absinthe cocktail is all about finding complementary flavors and ingredients. These days, there is a long list of absinthe cocktails to work with. That said, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting. You might just discover your new favorite cocktail.
1. Traditional Absinthe Drinks
While it’s exciting to try out new absinthe mixes, there’s never a bad time to enjoy traditional absinthe drinks. From the Absinthe Drip to the Sazerac to the Absinthe Suissesse, there are so many old fashioned cocktails to choose from. You truly can’t go wrong with any of them.
How to Serve Absinthe At Home
Learning how to serve absinthe at home is a little different from enjoying absinthe in restaurants or in a bar business. These five options have something for every home absinthe drinker. Some require a few tools and ingredients, and some can be whipped up with whatever you have available.
5. Herbs and Spices
Absinthe is traditionally mixed with a variety of herbs and spices. You can experiment with it at home. The contents of your spice rack will have several options you can choose from. You never know what you might discover.
4. Sipping Tasters
We don’t recommend drinking straight absinthe. If you want to try it out, however, there is a relatively safe option. A small taste of plain absinthe, perhaps a half a thimble full, isn’t excessively strong. If you want to experiment with straight absinthe, stick with miniscule amounts.
3. At-Home Mixers
When it comes to random at-home mixers, anything you have in the fridge can work. The best way to experiment with absinthe with a kitchen mix is to try small batches with a little extra flavor. Test out different juices, garnishes, or pairings for a unique twist.
2. Home Bar Setups
If you’re stocking a bar at home, absinthe is a good option. You should buy a few brands and have some cocktail ingredients on hand. Any night at home can be spruced up with an absinthe cocktail.
1. Water and Sugar
Water, sugar, and absinthe is the traditional mix of the Absinthe Drip. If you’re not sure what to do with your absinthe at home, you can’t go wrong with this classic. All you need is three ingredients, a cup, and either an absinthe spoon or a large slotted spoon to dilute the mix.
Absinthe Served Properly
Absinthe served properly is a matter of opinion. There isn’t one proper way to serve absinthe. The most important factor is that you enjoy your absinthe drink.
How to Serve Absinthe: Serve with a Side of Sugar
Learning how to serve absinthe is useful for bartenders, bar managers and owners, and absinthe enthusiasts alike. There is always more to learn, and the knowledge can be mixed with other cocktail education.
"Key Takeaway: Making an absinthe cocktail is all about finding complimentary flavors and ingredients. These days, there is a long list of absinthe cocktails to work with."
Drinking and Serving Absinthe: The History and Legacy of an Iconic Drink
Absinthe drinks and history are something everyone in the bar and restaurant industry should know. It’s a unique drink with so much to offer. Every bar that serves up absinthe cocktails and information is better for it.