Absinthe. Just breathe the name of this notorious, strong-tasting liquor, and many connotations come immediately to mind: It’s bright green. It’s illegal. It’s hallucinogenic. It can make you insane.
While all of these statements are actually false, the long-running rumors about absinthe certainly make it intriguing. Why not capitalize on that intrigue?
Here are some “do”s and “don’t”s when it comes to bringing absinthe to your bar:
Do feature “green fairy” classes. Because absinthe was indeed illegal in the United States for nearly a full century, most Americans don’t know much about absinthe, a.k.a. “the green fairy.” Educate them with hands-on sessions that include a bit of history, demonstrations, and tastings. Just say the green fairy sent you.
Don’t use the bright green variety. Many years before absinthe was legal in this country, I had the pleasure of seeing bright green bottles of “absinthe” for sale in Europe. The only thing classier than the mouthwash-like, glowing color of this particular variety of the product was the brand name: “Hill’s.”
Wait, I thought. Isn’t that a brand of dog food?
I couldn’t read the label without hearing it in the voice of an American tourist with a strong regional twang.
For God’s sake, you can do better than Hill’s. There are more than 300 types of absinthe today, and while there is no technical definition for what makes a liquor worthy of the name “absinthe,” tradition holds that it must contain wormwood, fennel, and anise. And the right amounts of these ingredients will make the substance a milky (not neon) green.
Do advertise. Simply letting customers know that you’ve added absinthe to the menu will definitely catch people’s attention. Remember, while absinthe isn’t against the law, it’s only been legal in this country for seven short years – after 97 long years of being outlawed. It still feels like a forbidden fruit. People want to make up for lost time.
Also, while our hipster predecessors Vincent VanGogh and Oscar Wilde forgot to mention all the hard drugs they were mixing with their absinthe in order to have mind-altering experiences hallucinations, patrons will still want to try the drink for themselves just to see what happens.
Do offer absinthe cocktails. Absinthe is an acquired taste. It has a strong flavor, and the anise/fennel blend isn’t for everyone. If you serve absinthe alone for sipping, make sure patrons have lots of water to chase it down; they’re going to need it! As an alternative, offer absinthe cocktails, too. Here are two popular examples:
- 1 1/2 cups of ice cubes
- 1 cube or 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 4 dashes of Peychaud or Angostura Bitters
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of rye whiskey
- About 1/2 teaspoon of absinthe
- 1 lemon peel strip (thin)
Fill an old-fashioned glass with 1 cup of ice and set it aside. In a second old-fashioned glass, stir the sugar, bitters, and ½ teaspoon of water together until the sugar is completely dissolved (about 30 seconds). Add the rye whiskey and the remaining ½ cup ice, and stir well (at least 15 seconds). Discard the ice from the first glass and add the absinthe. Holding the glass horizontally, roll it between your thumbs and forefingers, allowing the absinthe to completely coat the interior, and then discard the excess. Strain the rye whiskey mixture into the chilled, absinthe-coated glass. Squeeze the lemon peel over the drink, making sure that the oils drip into the glass, and then drop the peel into drink and serve.
- 1 teaspoon of absinthe
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of Benedictine liqueur
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of dry vermouth
- 1 cup of ice cubes
- 1 orange peel strip (thin)
Stir the absinthe, Benedictine liqueur, and vermouth together in a cocktail shaker. Add the ice and stir for one minute. Strain the mixture into the martini glass. Squeeze the orange peel over the drink, making sure the oils drip into the glass. Drop the peel into the drink and serve.
Click here for more about these recipes (and for more recipes like them).
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