This article is made by Henrik Steen Petersen
To many, absinthe is the bartender’s troubled child: strong, aggressive and shrouded in much mystery. Absinthe was, like many other types of alcohol, originally marketed as a medicine, and later enjoyed in large quantities during the lively La Belle Époque bohemian life of Paris in the late 1800s.
In the short version, absinthe is the product of wormwood, fennel, anise and other herbs that have been macerated in strong alcohol, distilled, and later added Roman wormwood, hyssop and other spices. Chlorophyll from the leaves gives the absinth its green color and nickname, ‘The Green Fairy’. The finished product usually has an alcohol content of about 70 ABV, or higher.
In pure form, absinth is usually served with water added only drop wise over a lump of sugar. The added water gives the absinthe its well know cloudy louche. More hardcore bars soaks the sugar with absinthe before it is ignited, allowing the sugar to melt and drip into the absinth.
The high alcohol content, and especially the wormwood containing the nerve poison thujone, led many to attribute absinthe with narcotic properties, for which reasons it was also banned in many countries in the early 1900s.
* Harry Craddock who invented the Dry Martini and the White Lady
The ban never reached England, and hence Harry Craddock’s ‘The Savoy Cocktail Book’ of 1930 includes more than 100 recipes that contains absinthe. Denmark too never blacklisted absinthe, and it was also used extensively in the Danish bars at the time.
Today the production and sale of absinthe is legalized again in most parts of the world.
Where many still talk about the wormwood and its possible hallucinogenic effect (or not), Denmark especially has its eyes and taste buds ready for the two other basic ingredients: fennel and anise, which both lie close to our (newfound) taste for licorice.
In small amounts, maybe just as a splash or a mist, absinthe gives a cocktail the kick and spice that tickles the palate.
Explore the added kick by ‘The Green Fairy’ on your next bar visit, or try this Danish recipe from 1930:
(recipe by Topgaard, 1937)
4 cl. gin
2 cl. Bénédictine liqueur
2 cl. orange liqueur
4 cl. dry vermouth
1 dash absinthe
Stir all ingredients except absinthe over ice.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Top with a dash (or mist) of absinthe.