This past Friday we had an absinthe tasting in order to experience for ourselves this legendary drink. (Hey, somebody's got to do this kind of work!) Until recently, my only knowledge of absinthe was that it was illegal, it caused hallucinations, and it was in a few Impressionist paintings. Turns out, only one of these things is true--the one about the paintings.
Although I had some sort of vague notion about artists and authors on the West Bank sipping on absinthe in cafes while they created masterpieces, I really didn't have any facts until I ate lunch a few months ago with Ted Breaux, creator of Lucid absinthe and one of the people responsible for making absinthe legal again in the United States. Ted filled me in on the fascinating history and legends surrounding absinthe, and told me all about the production of Lucid absinthe in France.
I am particularly fond of the whole process of making an absinthe cocktail as it involves special glasses and cool spoons over which you place a sugar cube and drizzle cold water. For more details, see How to Make an Absinthe Cocktail. We had mixed reviews in our tasting group, but we all agreed that it's pretty potent. It does have a very high alcohol content, and a very "herby" type of flavor, with strong notes of fennel and anise. Some people said it tasted like licorice, but I really picked up on the fennel. The flavor is kind of growing on me, but I can see that this is something you might have to develop a taste for. Since it's so strong, it's supposed to be diluted with water, or used in another cocktail recipe. We also tasted an absinthe Bloody Mary, which was pretty popular. The strong herbiness of the absinthe was great with the spiciness of the tomato juice mixture.
The brand of absinthe Ted makes and the one we tasted is from Lucid, and they have a number of other recipes for other absinthe cocktails. Our friend Ashley in the Oxmoor House Test Kitchens developed a recipe for Lemon-Absinthe Sherbet that sent us all over the edge it was so good. If you're skeptical about trying absinthe, you should try this recipe and you'll be a convert for sure! I am now officially obsessed and eager to learn more about this spirit. Let me know if you've tried it and what you think.