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Now With Wormwood! (Yay?)

So, a #twitterpony told me the other night that absinthe tasted like licorice. This was the first I'd heard of it, so naturally i had to seek some out.

I've always been fairly dismissive of absinthe, it seemed a very posey sort of drink, and I'm not much for hard liquor anyway. But a drink that tastes like licorice? THAT I had to try.

Traditionally, absinthe is served by putting a shot into a glass, then dissolving a sugar cube in a spoon and mixing that in. I didn't have a sugar cube handy, but I did have some sugar packets, and did my best to get the mix right.


*poink* O.o

That's ... some strong stuff. And yes, it tasted just like licorice, except licorice that burned a hole in your esophagus and went shooting out the bottom of your stomach while simultaneously causing the top of your head to explode.

I ended up not finishing the shot. Too much of a much, and I couldn't think of a good way to cut it short of just pouring in more water. But I can at least now say I've tried it, and I can see how, given the right mood, I'd be interested in trying again. But it's not something I'm going to be eager for soon.

-The Gneech


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:09 am (UTC)
Actually, watering down absinthe is traditional. Though if you just want an anise flavored liqueur, try Pernod.
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
I can only drink absinthe when I have a sugar cube in my teeth.

And, yeah. VERY strong stuff.

(You learn about absinthe indirectly from MLP:FIM. I learn about geology for a story I'm writing. See... it really IS an educational program!)
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:20 am (UTC)
Absinthe makes the heart grow fungus.
Oct. 25th, 2011 03:40 am (UTC)
I thought it was that absinthe makes the fart go Honda

Edited at 2011-10-25 03:40 am (UTC)
Oct. 25th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC)
no, Absinthe makes the mind go yonder.

I think Zambuka is another anise / licorice flavored booz.
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:33 am (UTC)
If Absinthe is a bit strong, but you'd like that licorice flavor, try some good Italian sambuca, Greek ouzo, French anisette, or Spanish ojen.

Personally, I like ouzo best, but sambuca is quite tasty as well.

Come to think of it, I may just like ouzo best because 'ouzo' is fun to say. Hmm....
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
I think Ouzo might be, well, worth a shot.

I like the Pernod idea too...

Oct. 25th, 2011 03:00 am (UTC)
Re: OPA!
For a Llama, you're a smart ass :P

Oct. 25th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
Re: OPA!
I agree with the Llama here. Nevermind the absinthe... you want good Ouzo.

It has a neat chemical trick. It is absolutely clear, and when you pour it over ice, it turns opaque. That's how you know it's good ouzo.

It is not subtle.
Oct. 25th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
Re: OPA!
Absinthe does that, too, when you add water to it. You need to add a *lot* of water to absinthe, traditionally -- usually around a 4:1 ratio -- which is something a lot of people seem to vastly underestimate, giving them a drink that tastes less like brandy and anise than like sadness and burning.

(I tend to use absinthe in cocktails far more than using it straight, though, and it tends to be used very sparingly.)

Oct. 25th, 2011 04:17 am (UTC)
Unless we're talking cherry licorice I'll pass.
Oct. 25th, 2011 02:17 pm (UTC)
Same here. Licorice is one of the nastiest flavors on the planet.
Oct. 25th, 2011 05:35 am (UTC)
Well, I have yet to find a drink that tastes like licorice (varying Scandinavian salmiakki liqueurs aside, which are a thing unto their own), there are plenty of anise flavored liqueurs and spirits:
  • pastis (such as Pernod and Ricard)
  • anisette
  • ouzo
  • sambucca (which is flavored with anise and elderflower)

Absinthe is another whole world. Traditionally flavored with green anise and wormwood (for bitterness), it's almost always loaded with a bunch more spices, herbs and other botanicals. There's usually enough anise to drive off people who hate licorice, but in a decent absinthe it's not the strongest flavor note.

Putting packets of sugar in absinthe isn't going to do anything other than leave sugar on the bottom. The alcohol concentration is so high crystalline sugar isn't going to want to dissolve.

The classic "bohemian" French preparation of absinthe is in a large (5-6 oz) tapered glass. Pour in 1 oz of absinthe. Put a sugar cube on a slotted spoon balanced over the glass. Drip very cold water (about 4-5 oz) very slowly through the sugar cube and slotted spoon into the glass. When finished, tip the sugar cube in and stir it up with the slotted spoon.

Yeah, it's a bit pretentious. But it avoids the exposure to straight absinthe, which is murderously flammable.

It turns out the sugar cube was to cut the bitterness of cheap absinthe with a lot of wormwood. Good absinthe still requires the water in the same ratio, but doesn't require the sugar. Very cold and very slow are not necessary but are desirable; you get a very pretty effect as the oils in the absinthe "louche" (come out of solution and into suspension, clouding the mixture) as the alcohol concentration and temperature drop.

Burning sugar cubes was a thing early 90's Prague bartenders used to sell Czech absinth (note the lack of "e," it lacked anise but was hopped up on wormwood) to Ivy-league fratboys who were exploring the former Soviet satellites during spring break because Florida was cracking down. Anything that's improved by adding sugar ash isn't good.

And, as it turns out, the good historic absinthes didn't have that much wormwood, only enough to give a hint of bitterness. Most of the absinthe hysteria about the psychoactive properties of wormwood was overblown propaganda by competing beverage industries.

There are some decent Swiss (Kubler), French (Lucid, Pernod) and German (I don't know any brands off-hand) absinthes available in the US. Czech and Spanish are atrocious in entirely different ways. La Tourment Vert from South America comes in a very pretty bottle, but looks and tastes like Scope.

Tempus Fugit (out of Novato, north of SF) imports a few very nice European absinthes, including Duplais, Emile Pernot and (the absurdly Marilyn Manson branded, but actually quite nice) Mansinthe.

The good domestic absinthes are excellent. TF's Pacifique is quite good, as is Absinthe Marteau from Portland's House Spirits Distilling. My fave is from St. George Spirits in Alameda, only a 50 minute drive from San Jose and FC. Their tour is fun.
Oct. 25th, 2011 06:39 am (UTC)
I was given a small shot once, but straight. I was never told about how strong it would be.
It set the roof of my mouth on fire!
Oct. 25th, 2011 12:29 pm (UTC)
I've had a bottle of Absinthe in my cabinet for a few years now... every so often I'm tempted to try it again.
then make excuses.
Oct. 25th, 2011 06:08 pm (UTC)
I've had absinthe and did my best to improvise the sugar & water bit to get the louche. Even diluted this is definitely a drink one sips over an extended time. And, ideally, dines before and/or during it. The bartender where I sampled this (I was NOT going to spring for a full bottle on a prospect!) did warn me that almost everyone who tried it ended up vomiting and "I don't want to have to clean that up again." So I drank it very, very slowly. And ate. And ate. And now I can say I've had absinthe, and did finish the drink, though I feel no urgency to repeat the experience - and that's mainly from the high proof rather than the licorice/anise flavor, which I generally like.
Oct. 26th, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
Never tried absinthe - nobody I know drinks it, and it's just to ex$pendy for me to go pick up a bottle to give it a shot.

Besides, I tend to prefer sweeter drinks (dessert wines, ports, meads, lambic beers and coke-based mixes), and am not all that fond of the taste of licorice.
Oct. 31st, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
Very intereresting reading. thx

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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