How to Make a Traditional Absinthe Cocktail

Oh, the allure and anticipation I experience when preparing absinthe is oddly unique.  It feels ceremonial and delicate which means the end result, the drink, must be cherished.  No trouble there.  The recipe I’ll share here involves some equipment, but hopefully, if you don’t have access to the hardware, my explanations of their function will suffice.  At a minimum, I recommend finding a well-crafted, slotted sugar-spoon, because it adds immense beauty to the process. If you’d like to know more about Absinthe, I wrote a separate post here.

1.5oz Quality Absinthe (no artificial dyes or flavors-try this online store)
3-6oz Cold, Filtered Water
1-2 Sugar Cubes

1 Carafe full of ice water (or a water fountain)
1 Wine Glass (or a glass specialized for absinthe)
1 Slotted Spoon
**NO TORCH. NO FIRE.** (I think setting the sugar cube on fire is a gimmick used by cheap, non-authentic absinthe producers to add spizazz and distract from the poor quality of their product. It just makes the drink taste off, so please don’t do it)

The ritual is my favorite part, but stripped down to just the drink: Absinthe is prepared as 1 part Absinthe to 5 parts cold water with sweetener to taste. I like about a teaspoon of sugar or honey. Because Absinthe is such a strong aperitif, it is not meant to be drank in shots or neat. The intensity of the alcohol content will just distract from the other flavors (that’s no fun). Once diluted by cold water, the drink comes to life for me. I can taste all the different notes making it a unique experience.

First, pour 1.5oz or 1/5 of your glass’ volume into your glass. The appearance will range from clear to translucent green. This color comes from the herbs used during the making of Absinthe.

Next, place your slotted spoon across the top of your glass. Most absinthe spoons will have a ridge on the spoon to keep it steady. Place your sugar cube onto the spoon. If you are using honey, I mix the honey into the alcohol before the cold water is introduced. Take your carafe of cold water, and slowly drip water onto the sugar cube. Ever so slowly, the sugar cube should begin to break up and fall into your glass.

You may also notice your absinthe is slowly turning an opaque color (white to jade, maybe a light green). This cloudiness is called the “louche,” and it is caused by microscopic droplets of oil left over from distillation being agitated. The word “colloidal suspension” might have significance for some of you. The cloudiness reminds me of oil and water emulsification.

After you’ve added anywhere from 3-6oz of cold water (start with 3oz, taste, add more if you need), gently stir the drink with your slotted spoon allowing the remaining sugar to fall into the glass.

That’s it! Enjoy! Let me know how it goes (send a picture, maybe??), and please remember to always drink responsibly. No amount of this beverage will have you hallucinating, but it will leave an air of sophistication, and it makes me feel calm. Perhaps it’s because I imagine Hemingway or Van Gogh sipping along with me…I hope you love it as much as I do.

Photo Credit: Jeff Vier “Absinthe Water Fountain”