Absinthe Cocktail

While others may have already broken out their Tom & Jerry bowls and eggnog mugs in preparation for the holidays — assuming they change their drinking habits at all this time of year — I’m still relishing a few drinks I picked up this autumn while reading IMBIBE!

Of the many drinks I’ve now tried from Mr. Wondrich’s new book, the absinthe cocktail is undoubtedly one of my very favorites. Of course, it helps that I love absinthe, not to mention the messing about with dashes from assorted bottles and the rat-tat-tat of ice in the shaker, but really, this is a fine little potion. Not too different from an absinthe frappe, the absinthe cocktail salts up a few of the spirit’s distinctive notes with bitters and a little anisette, leavens it with water and chills it in the shaker.

Absinthe CocktailPretty much an absinthe drip after a trip to the beauty parlor, the absinthe cocktail can’t, and shouldn’t, replace the purity and simplicity of a glass of absinthe that’s been lovingly louched, but it’s a nice little variation on the theme. And, considering that genuine absinthe is becoming cheaper and more available in the U.S., you don’t have to feel like you’re squandering your hard-earned contraband when you toss an ounce or two into your shaker.

Absinthe Cocktail adapted from IMBIBE!, by David Wondrich

  • 1 ounce absinthe
  • 2 dashes anisette
  • 1 dash angostura bitters [I prefer 2 dashes of Peychaud’s instead]
  • 2 ounces water [if using a lower-proof absinthe such as Kubler or Francois Guy, drop this to 1 1/2 or even just 1 ounce]
  • [not in Wondrich’s recipe, but in mine: a dash or two of simple syrup]

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Angostura makes for an interesting drink, but Peychaud’s just works better with absinthe, in my opinion — plus, it gives the drink an alluring, bubblegum-pink color that will likely lead to an order that’s guaranteed to shock the hell out of some inexperienced Cosmo drinker should these things ever appear in bars. I also like to use club soda for at least some of the water — and yes, this makes shaking the cocktail without breaking the seal on the Boston shaker challenging — just to give it a little effervescent pizzazz. Anisette may seem redundant, given the anise flavor of true absinthe (as opposed to the lime-green, wormwood-spiked crapulescent forgeries that are out there), but it spikes up the points of the drink in a very pleasing way (if you’re using Lucid, the anise could well use some spiking). And do pay attention to the water: if mixing with something higher octane like Marteau, you’ll want the full measure, but Francois Guy is about the same potency as most whiskies and gins on the market, so 2 ounces of water would just wash out the flavor.

With any luck, by this time next year there’ll be another half-dozen or more brands of absinthe available in the U.S., and I’ll really be able to go to town on mixing up these suckers.

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