Absinthe

What? Absinthe is probably the worlds most maligned and misunderstood spirit. An authentic absinthe is a distilled herbal spirit made from wormwood, anise and other herbs which is generally sold as an extract or concentrate, meaning it is bottled at a very high proof and is intended to be diluted with iced water and drunk as a cool refreshing aperitif.

Where? Switzerland originally but shortly after its 'invention' in the late 18th century Frances' love affair with the drink meant it became synonymous with the drink. Most countries in Europe have at one time produced absinthe, as well as the USA, Brazil and Australia.

When? Although humans having been drinking wormwood infused spirits dating back to the times of the ancient Egyptians it was Frenchman living in Switzerland in around 1792, a Dr. Pierre Ordinaire, who is credited with the invention of the drink we know today as Absinthe. In 1797 absinthe went into commercial production when Ordinaire's recipe was bought by Major Dubied who, along with his son-in-law Henri-Louis Pernod, set up the very first absinthe distillery in Switzerland. After moving production to Pontarlier in France the 'Absinthe Fever' started to flourish. By 1910 36 million litres were being consumed in France alone. But, after being blamed for all sorts of horrendous things including madness, criminality and murder sprees by 1915 most countries in Europe and the USA banned the distribution and consumption of absinthe.

The Absinthe revival started in the early 1990's when some UK importers started to import absinthe from the Czech Republic where, in both countries a ban had never taken place. Slowly as, popularity increased, the countries of Europe and America lifted their bans of the spirit and a multitude of new distilleries started production.

How? Because of it high alcohol content it really should be drunk diluted in some way, usually with water. This not only lowers the alcohol but opens up the complex flavours found in a good absinthe.

To prepare the perfect absinthe you will need a quality absinthe, a spoon (preferably a perforated absinthe spoon), a sugar cube, an absinthe glass or small wine glass and ice-cold water.

Fill the glass with 1/5 absinthe, place the spoon accross the top of the glass with the sugar resting in it, pour a little ice-water on the sugar and let it saturate then slowly pour the water to disolve the sugar and fill the glass.

Where To Start? If new to absinthe start with a light Blanche such as The La Maison Fontaine Absinthe 56% which is not mind-blowingly strong but has all the complex flavours of a quality absinthe. If you want to the classic green style, we suggest the La Fee Parisienne Absinthe 68% which even comes with the special spoon for the traditional serve. Remember when starting out to experiment with the dilution of the spirit, taste it as you go so you get the right level for you.

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