By: Genie Davis

 

Once banned in many Western countries, absinthe, the potent and historic beverage that has long-inspired artists and writers rendering many inchoate, is back, and is often an ingredient found in craft cocktails.

Although absinthe was banned due to its supposed hallucinogenic properties, it is the green, perfumed alcohol content rather than a mysterious plant-based psychoactive element which truly dazzles drinkers.

Today, authentic, quality absinthe is popular in the U.S. and made with Artemisia absinthium, otherwise known as wormwood. Wormwood is the plant that provides the liquor with its definitive anise-like flavor. Its psychoactive properties are known as thujones. In most cases, today’s absinthe is manufactured with the thujones removed, creating a premium greenish blue liquid that’s pure, potent, and definitely not sending any absinthe indulger on a bad trip.

Instead, absinthe as a part of the craft cocktail scene is a relaxing journey. Yes, it can be served in the classic method used in the French bistros of the 19th century, dripping water into the liquor over a sugar cube perched on perforated spoon. A variation: soak the sugar with liquor and light it, creating a novel but unnecessary fire ritual. But key to today’s imbiber are inventive, absinthe-stoked cocktails.

At The Laundry in Fenton, Michigan the bar serves a Sazerac made with rye whiskey, Peychaud bitters, Turbinado sugar, orange zest, and of course, absinthe. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Chick’s Cafe & Wine Bar the bar menu offers the vibrant Pink Moon, consisting of Bluecoat gin, Vieux Carré absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters and fresh grapefruit juice. And, in San Francisco, California absinthe has its own namesake bar as well as cocktails: the Absinthe Brasserie and Bar, in Hayes Valley, where craft cocktails take a variety of spins with this spirit. Across the country, at the Courtesy Bar in Orlando, Fla., one popular absinthe craft cocktail is The French Bengal, made with Blue Coat gin, Herbsaint absinthe, darjeeling tea syrup, fresh lemon, and chamomile water.

 

In short: the Green Fairy, as absinthe is known has alighted in a collection of cool cocktails that play on both the legendary potency and hedonism of the spirit with a distinct anise-edge.