Story by Sam Bygrave
Absinthe. Hemingway was a big fan. The Sun Also Rises, his first novel about the Lost Generation of Paris after the first world war, is littered with scenes of streetside cafes, where the young sit in the afternoon sun sipping on cold glasses of absinthe and anis. It’s there in Spain when Jake Barnes is soothing his pain: “We watched the beginning of the evening of the last night of the fiesta. The absinthe made everything seem better. I drank it without sugar in the dripping glass, and it was pleasantly bitter.”
Eau de Vie owner Sven Almenning has always been a fan of absinthe, he said.
“My favourite absinthe drink is probably just the classic serve inclusive of fountain, sugar and water, but minus the flames,” said Almenning. “I love the ritual of it and also enjoy some of its romantic and historical connotations. That said the Frappe has always been a favourite of mine when made well.”
Marco Nunes owns Papa Jack’s in Brisbane, which does a handy trade in bringing a little taste of New Orleans to Fortitude Valley, and is a fan of the classic absinthe drip as well. “For me, quality absinthes don’t need to mix with anything other than water. They have a multitude range of flavours and are really aromatic. The ratio of water to Absinthe should change with each absinthe but 3:1 is what I use the most,” he said.
Joe Sinagra, bar manager at Bobeche in Perth, also is a fan of the traditional serve and reckons that a 4:1 ratio suits him best. But he also finds absinthe to be a great inclusion in mixed drinks.
“Absinthe gives cocktails depth,” he said. “The anise and subtle herbal notes of the absinthe add complexity to drinks. I find that it works well as a substitute to bitters. Also there is always a sense of mystery, danger and excitement whenever you list a cocktail that has absinthe in it. Customers read absinthe in a cocktail and expect something theatrical and daring.”
Nunes told us that a little absinthe is one of New Orleans’ lasting contributions to the cocktail world.
“Before absinthe was banned in the U.S in 1912, I found a few straight cocktails from New Orleans using absinthe for aromatics. The “absinthe rinse” is one of Nola’s most influential cocktail technique with the Sazerac being the most popular example. It inspired bartender from all around the globe with the creation of many classics cocktails such as the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, Morning glory Fizz, Corpse Reviver #2, De La Louisiane, etc.”
Now that we’re heading into warmer days of Spring, perhaps you too should revisit absinthe. We’ve got a few classic recipes that evoke that era of absinthe, from fin de siècle Paris to after the first world war.
40ml dry vermouth
20ml Dom Benedictine
3 dashes of Green Fairy Superieur Absinthe
Stir down over ice then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
Adapted from a recipe in the Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930
If you haven’t mixed one of these, then please do. It doesn’t look like it should work, when you look at the specs. It is just a slight touch on the sweet side but it’s perfectly balanced, and a great showcase of dry vermouth. The herbal notes of the absinthe, that little hint of anise (and absinthe’s sometimes fearsome alcoholic strength) work perfectly in the Chrysanthemum.
50ml Pernod Absinthe
2 dashes sugar syrup
2 dashes of Ricard Pastis
Shake all ingredients with ice. Fill a tall glass with crushed ice, and strain mixture into glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
Adapted from a recipe in The Mixicologist, 1895
This drink has a long history, going all the way back in time to Harry Johnson’s Bartenders Manual. Sven Almenning from Eau de Vie is a fan of it, too.
“I’ve always been a bit of an absinthe fan,” he said, “and when we decided to name one of the sections on our cocktail list “1920’s The Train from Paris to Milan” I thought it would be fitting to offer a tasty twist on a classic Absinthe Frappe. The idea received a slightly lukewarm reception, but after working on it for some time the bar team came up with the recipe currently on the menu. I actually had one of these just yesterday and it remains one of my go-to pre-dinner drinks on the menu.”
Eau de Vie’s recipe differs from the one above in that it receives a few enhancements: a little maraschino, a little honey, and the addition of lemon juice.
It’s a beautiful looking drink so as soon as one goes across the bar the orders for the Absinthe Frappe keeps coming.
50ml Green Fairy Absinth
15ml sugar syrup
20ml lemon juice
Half an egg white
A dash of soda water
Shake all ingredients without ice, then again with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with grated nutmeg on top.
Adapted from Frank Meier’s the Artistry of Mixing Drinks 1936
A variation on this recipe, albeit called a Swiss S. instead of Suissesse, had earlier appeared in C. F. Lawlor’s The Mixicologist. And in that book, you can see that it is simply an Absinthe Frappe with the addition of egg white, and served up. Lawlor omits the citrus, which makes for an altogether thinner drink. You might like to switch in white crème de menthe (go for the Tempus Fugit bottling) and some orgeat for the sugar syrup in this recipe, too: that’s how they do it down in New Orleans.
40ml Sazerac Rye
20ml sweet vermouth
A dash of Cherry Heering
Green Fairy Absinth to rinse
Rinse glass with absinthe. Stir all ingredients and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
This is Joe Sinagra’s favourite absinthe cocktail. “Rye, sweet vermouth, a dash of Cherry Heering with an absinthe rinse,” he said. “The absinthe ties everything together, the anise gives the cocktail a roundness that travels through the drink while the bitterness from the wormwood balances out the sweeter elements. I’ve tried it without the absinthe and it’s a little sweet and obvious.”
You might notice the similarity of this recipe to one in Charles H. Baker Jr.’s The Gentlemen’s Companion: Around the World with Jigger, Beaker and Flask.
“After 1939 it started being called Remember the Maine,” said Sinagra.
Corpse Reviver #2
20ml triple sec
20ml lemon juice
20ml Cocchi Americano (or Lillet Blanc)
5ml Koruna Absinth
With absinthe being banned in the US in 1912 — and in France and a number of other countries — one of the few places you could still pick up the wormwood delight was in England. In the 1920’s Harry Craddock was tending bar at The Savoy, and came up with this hangover cure par excellence.
3 Czechs & a Frenchman walk into a bar
Green Fairy Absinth: Strong herbal qualities come through more intensely with some dilution. A subtle and pliable star anise presence throughout the palate. Inherent bitterness from the wormwood and hyssop is ever-present but does not overwhelm the palate. Southtrade
Koruna Absinth: Softer anise tones work wonderfully with the bitterness of the infusing herbs in the bottle. Slight sweetness of star anise coming in on the initial palate, then soon develops more herbal tones from juniper and hyssop before finishing with enticing wormwood bitterness. Southtrade
Pernod Absinthe Recette Traditionelle: Pernod has distilled absinthe for 200 years. The plants are harvested locally in Pontarlier, and distilled in wine alcohol in the village of Thuir, in a manner faithful to its 19th century roots. Pernod Ricard
Green Fairy Superieur Absinthe: A lovely natural pale green colour that louches into hues of green and blue. Pleasant aroma of wormwood with touches of sweet anise and hints of violet. Spicy warmth coats the mouth and lingers quietly. The finish is exceptional – smooth with not a hint of burn. Southtrade
Tasting notes from suppliers