Also known as the Green Fairy, absinthe has long held an aura of mystery and even infamy. Legalized for sale in the US in 2007, it’s maintained steady popularity over the years due to its strong alcohol content, unique taste, and fairly elaborate pouring method.
Absinthe’s history is intertwined with tales of artistry and even madness, popularized in works by Hemingway, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, and many others. It’s a neutral, high-proof (110 to 145) spirit infused with botanicals, including wormwood, fennel, and anise. One botanical in particular, wormwood, is often rumored to contain hallucinogenic properties – although it doesn’t really.
Production is similar to gin. After the botanical infusion, it’s redistilled in a copper pot still. Then, it’s infused for a second time, a process that creates the signature green color. Lower quality brands will typically skip the second infusion in favor of green dye.
Absinthe has a fairly involved method of preparation. You’ll need what’s called an absinthe spoon. It’s a pronged spoon with slots in the middle. An absinthe spoon is used to slowly add sugar water to the absinthe. No other drink has a preparation method quite like absinthe – and many people find it’s what makes this drink so fun!
Ingredients for an Absinthe Drip
An absinthe drip only requires a few simple ingredients. This is enough to make one cocktail:
- 1 1/2 ounces absinthe
- 1 sugar cube
- Approximately 4 1/2 to 6 ounces of filtered water
Directions to Make an Absinthe Drip
Preparing an absinthe drip is a fairly straightforward process but does require a bit of finesse (and patience).
1. Pour the Absinthe
Pour the shot of absinthe into a glass. Traditionally, absinthe is served in stemmed glasses, although rocks glasses also work well.
For the most authentic experience possible, use what’s called a Pontarlier glass, also known as an absinthe glass. It features a bubble compartment near the bottom of the glass that helps measure the perfect pour.
2. Prepare the Spoon
Place the absinthe spoon across the glass. Next, set the sugar cube on top of the spoon. Many people prefer organic sugar because it tends to dissolve quickly and in a uniform fashion.
3. Add the Water
Fill a container with about six ounces of filtered, ice-cold water. While any standard water carafe will work, the best option is what’s called an absinthe fountain. It’s a thin, ornate container that allows you to adjust the water flow precisely.
Next, you’ll slowly pour or drip the water through the sugar and into the glass. Patience is key. If you’re using an absinthe glass, fill it to the designated line. Otherwise, pour slowly until the water and absinthe combine to create a milky mixture known as louche (which is the French word for opaque).
4. Adjust as Necessary
Pouring the perfect glass of absinthe often takes practice. If you’re new to making this drink, you might need to adjust the water and sugar levels to suit your personal taste.
If you don’t like the taste of traditional drip absinthe, two popular alternatives are available:
- Sugar-Free: Simply add water to dilute the absinthe as much (or as little) as you like. No absinthe spoon or sugar cubes are required.
- Accent: A quarter of an ounce or less adds a bittersweet, slightly floral flavor to practically any cocktail.