Absinthe

A Visit From The Green Fairy…


Way back in early August, we received an email from a woman named Miriam, asking if we’d be interested in working with her company to help promote their product. The company’s name is Absinthes.com (they are based in Germany) and they claim to be Europe’s #1 Absinthe vendor. Here is my response to her email:

Miriam,

It’s like you were reading my mind! I was just thinking about a Sazerac cocktail and how I need to stock up on ingredients, i.e. Rye whiskey and Absinthe or Pernod. We would love to try some samples since we’ve never really had absinthe before. Let me know what I need to do.

Thanks!
G-LO

And here is Miriam’s reply to my email:

Hi G-LO,

Glad we seem to have some telepathic connection! We’re more than happy to send you some samples of absinthe, where are you based? We’d appreciate a featured blog post, for example if you write a post about a cocktail recipe, you could add a link to our product page with the absinthes you’ve used.

Thanks!

Miriam

Not being one to pass up on an opportunity to write what I hope will be an interesting blog post, I agreed to Miriam’s terms. Five weeks later, a lovely package containing three different varieties of Absinthe arrived at my door.

Here is a bit more information about the Absinthes we received:

As I mentioned to Miriam, I have absolutely no experience with Absinthe and have no clue how to distinguish between a good one and a great one. That being said, there is a noticeable difference between the three varieties that we received…

The colors range from crystal clear (La Valote Bouet) to pale yellow (Eichelberger) to pale emerald green (St. Antoine). While all three have strong anise/licorice aromas, as the color deepens, and as the ABV escalates, the aromas became more complex. La Volete Bouet smelled liked a freshly opened bag of Good and Plenty licorice candies. Eichelberger adds some eucalyptus and peppermint oil to the mix. St. Antoine adds some herbal notes to the mix, i.e. fresh cut grass and chives.

Back in March of this year, I had my first Sazerac at The Brandy Library during my anniversary weekend in Manhattan. Since I really enjoyed it and hoped to one day recreate it at home, my original plan for this post was to create the same cocktail three different ways, i.e. the only variable would be the variety of Absinthe used.

Since I knew what cocktail I planned to make, and since I had all of the ingredients at my disposal, my next step would be to find a recipe. If you’ve ever tried to find a cocktail recipe, you will quickly discover that there are endless variations, and once you start to read them you will also discover that every variation claims to be the best. Instead of doing the research on my own, I decided to ask our friends on Twitter for some cocktail recipe recommendations. While I received several interesting replies, there were two that really stood out:

  • Jordan Devereaux of the Chemistry of the Cocktail blog pointed me in the direction of the Savoy Stomp blog. In February of 2010, Erik Ellestad, the blog’s author, decided that he would make or try 28 different Sazerac recipes for the entire month.
  • Will of the Brew Trek blog offered to email me three of his wife’s favorite Sazerac recipes: one from a 1940’s book called Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts, one from a 1970’s Mr. Boston ‘Deluxe Official’ Bartender’s Guide, and one from a 2007 book called Mixing New Orleans: Cocktails and Legends. Click the following link to download Will’s PDF that contains all three recipes: Sazerac.pdf .

After doing a bit of reading, I decided to use the guidelines in the third recipe that I received from Will (I’m sure the pretty picture influenced my final decision). The only variations from this recipe would be a sugar cube and water instead of simple syrup, and the Absinthes that I received in the mail instead of the Herbsaint.

Here is a photo of the ingredients:

And here is the recipe:

  • Crushed ice
  • 2 oz. Sazerac Rye (I used Rittenhouse Rye)
  • 2 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 1/4 oz. simple syrup (I used one sugar cube and a teaspoon of water)
  • 2 dashed Herbsaint (I used one of the Absinthe samples)
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon Peel

Directions: Chill 2 old fashioned glasses with crushed ice. Empty one glass, muddle the sugar cube with the water, add the Rye whiskey, and Peychaud’s Bitters along with a few ice cubes. Empty the other glass and add Absinthe. Swirl glass to coat thoroughly, then pour out excess Absinthe. Strain mixture into this glass. Twist lemon peel over drink and serve.

After nosing each Absinthe several times over the course of two evenings, I decided to use the mid-range Absinthe (the Eichelberger) to make the Sazerac cocktail (for the purposes of full disclosure, I did make three different Sazerac cocktails in one evening as I had originally planned, but after sipping and sniffing three different Absinthes and three different Sazerac cocktails in one sitting, I came to the realization that I wasn’t able to tell the difference between the three Absinthe varieties once they were mixed with the Rye whisky and bitters). I chose the Eichelberger because it had a bit more complexity when compared to the La Valote Boulet, and because it was a little more subtle than the St. Antoine. I wish I could add more details about my decision, but like I said, I’m far from an expert when it comes to Absinthe (or anything else for that matter). Sometimes you just have to go on instinct.

As far as the cocktail goes, I am a big fan of the Sazerac. The spiciness of the Rye, the licorice infused herbal nature of the Absinthe, the sweetness of the sugar, and the slight bitterness of the Peychaud’s meld together to create a smooth, well balanced, and highly drinkable cocktail. Now that I have three different Absinthes to work with, I will definitely experiment with different Absinthe/Bitters/Whiskey combinations over the coming months.

___________________________________________________________

Thanks again to Miriam of Absinthes.com for sending us these very generous and beautifully packaged samples!

10 replies »

  1. Glad we could help! The Wife has actually been experimenting during this past week to get the recipes to taste like what we’ve had in New Orleans over the years. To get it to taste, she found that you should be overly generous when coating the glass with Absinthe, and the addition of Angostura bitters from another recipe helps. Enjoy!

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    • Thanks again for all your help Will! It was good fun. As far as the Angostura, David Wondrich’s recipe on Esquire.com says to do that as well. He also recommends using the best Rye you can find. Since I do enjoy Rye whiskey, I may have to upgrade when I run out of the Rittenhouse.

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  2. We got a nice “class” in Absinthe when we were down in New Orleans last January. Sadly I didn’t have a Sazerac, mainly because I was stubborn and decide if I was going to have one, it would be at the Roosevelt and we never got over there. We tasted our Absinthe using the “French” drizzle-over-sugar-cube method. Good times.

    Also, I obviously need to expand my subject base. I’m not getting any companies in foreign countries offering to ship me samples of their beer, LOL. Perhaps I should start doing rum reviews 😉

    Great post!

    Like

    • I need to get back to New Orleans! It’s been over 8 years. Between the food, drink, and music, there is more than enough stuff going on down there to keep me happy. I have not yet done the French drizzle thing. I definitely like how the Absinthe smells and what it does for the cocktail, so I’ll have to do this lickety split.

      As far as the freebies go, we definitely get some interesting products every so often. As of today, we’ve only gotten beer in the mail once, but since we didn’t exactly have much nice to say, that was our first and last beer shipment. Such is life! And yes… rum would make for a fun review for sure!

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the read!

      Cheers!
      G-LO

      Like

  3. G-LO,

    Will’s wife here. Sounds like you have some great absinthe to play with – I’m a bit jealous! Just wanted to add a quick comment on the bitters – when I made my first Sazerac, I did not have Peychaud bitters, and used only Angostura. The results were a tad disappointing. I just recently made my second and third, and wow, did the Peychaud bitters make a huge difference – now it tasted much more mellow and closer to what I had in NOLA. I also added a bit more absinthe and Peychaud on the third try, and it was even closer, but I do believe their use of Herbsaint creates a much more ‘medicinal’ tone to the drink. I like both versions. The Sazerac is definitely a classic cocktail.

    Like

    • Yo Mrs. Will!

      Thanks so much for the comment and for sharing your Sazerac recipes. To be honest, while I definitely enjoy cocktails, I’m not much of a bartender. I typically just have a beer or sip on some whisky neat. I’ll have to try the Sazerac with just the Angostura and then just the Peychaud’s. I can see how they would make completely different cocktails.

      One last question. Do bitters go bad? Given how little you need to make a drink and how few and far between my cocktail excursions are, I can see having those bottles about for a really long time.

      Cheers!
      G-LO

      Like

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