The mythos behind absinthe can be confusing. Does it make you hallucinate? Does it actually make you go crazy? Wait, isn’t it illegal? Well, the short answer if you think any of the above are true is that you are wrong. Sorry, but you are. That’s just the way to cookie crumbles (or in this case that’s the way the sugar cube melts).
While it does have a component that could in very, very large amounts make one hallucinate, your everyday drinker is not going to experience that (because you’d be dead after drinking multiple bottles of absinthe in one sitting). As for the illegal thing, it’s true that it was illegal for a long time, but as of the mid-2000s, absinthe is as legal in the U.S. as whiskey.
While the absinthes below all share some commonalities (like containing the typical absinthe botanicals — wormwood, fennel, and star anise), each takes a slightly different interpretation of the drink. From the base spirit, to the other herbs added, to the amount of time those herbs are cooked, each is a little different in its approach.
Never tried a white absinthe (absinthe blanche)? Great, we’ve got one for you. Didn’t know that St. George Spirits produced the first legal absinthe in the United States after the ban was lifted? Now seems like a great time to check out a piece of American spirits history.
Whatever you’re looking for in an absinthe, these ten spirits below are a great place to start expanding your knowledge (and palate)!
The first legal absinthe made in the U.S. since the ban was lifted (in 2007) also happens to be one of the best. Eleven years in the making (you could distill absinthe before the ban, just not sell it), this absinthe bursts with herbal flavors without being overwhelming (as far as absinthe goes, considering the ABV on most absinthes).
Copper & Kings Absinthe Blanche
Copper & Kings’ white absinthe is made from a Muscat brandy base and double-distilled before being diluted slightly before bottling to bring out the nose and palate. It’s also the only blanche absinthe on this list; you can check out our full review here.
Following the lead of 19th-century European distillers, Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte starts with an imported Chilean pisco base to which the traditional absinthe botanicals are added. Following distillation, the spirit is colored using natural ingredients such as lemon balm and hyssop to produce the verdant glow.
Chances are if your local shop or bar sells absinthe, Pernod will be on the menu — this is one of the most prominent names when it comes to absinthe. Based on a recipe and a distilling process perfected by Henri-Louis Pernod in 1805, this bottle is hard to beat if you’re looking for something that hearkens back to the original absinthe era.
Warm, sweet, and spicy, this absinthe is pure New Orleans (if you hadn’t guessed from the name). Inspired by the absinthes that helped make the Crescent City the place to be in the 1800s, Jade Nouvelle-Orleans Absinthe Supérieure works best in one of the cocktails that made the city famous, the Sazerac. If that’s not your style, find some ice-cold Champagne and make a Death in the Afternoon, a-la Ernest Hemingway.
You can’t get much closer to the history of absinthe than having a spirit made in “The Capital of Absinthe,” Pontarlier, France. Using traditional herbs and spices, this absinthe brings to life what the first absinthe drinkers were consuming. With a spicy nose, and a fennel-and-anise-filled body, you get a sweet-yet-bitter taste of what recipes used to be like before absinthe was made illegal.
La Clandestine Absinthe is from the first legal absinthe distillery in Switzerland, though the owner admits to having distilled the product before it was legal to do so. Highly aromatic — everything from anise and fennel to citrus and mint present themselves — the palate is surprisingly sweet, but finishes with a somewhat bitter note.
Letherbee takes a white absinthe recipe and ages it in new American oak casks for six months, resulting in a brilliant caramel color with all of the notes you expect in an absinthe and more. Mellow anise plays softly in the background of the abundant spice and citrus characteristics. Add to those notes the caramel and vanilla from the oak and you have a well-rounded absinthe.
Utilizing methods that were used in the Belle Époche era in the 1890s, Redux Absinthe is the result of years of experimentation and digging into countless historical texts in order to find the optimal blend of herbs and spices. Redux is rich in anise, citrus, and licorice with a long, tantalizing, anise-filled finish.
Made by the husband and wife team of Kevin and Stacey Herson, Doc’s is the first legal absinthe made in Brooklyn. It’s distilled from malted spelt and barley and infused with ten different botanicals. The primary flavors are wormwood, anise, fennel, and mint. The licorice flavor, though, plays second fiddle, making it a great absinthe for a variety of cocktails.
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