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The Angostura & Absinthe Thing

Chris Amirault

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I just enjoyed a Blackthorn Cocktail:

1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey (Redbreast)

1 1/2 oz dry vermouth (Dolin)

3 dashes Angostura bitters

3 dashes absinthe (Marteau)

Stir; strain; up; no garnish.

Dry and subtle, it sits there like Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity" waiting for you to figure it all out, Mr. Neff.

This is one of several cocktails in which the Angostura/absinthe combo nails it. It's the backbone of the Sazerac, not to mention every Improved Fill-in-the-Blank Cocktail. Many tiki drinks are inconceivable without it, and other classics (remember the Remember the Maine?) rely on it.

So what gives? Why does this combo work like Miles and Coltrane? And what other libations take advantage?

Chris Amirault

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Don the Beachcomber's 1934 Zombie Punch is the first example that comes to mind.


Don's Beach Planter is another one.


The Test Pilot, also from Donn Beach. This combination was at the basis of many of his signature drinks.


In the non-tiki category, besides Remember the Maine, I can think of the Waldorf Cocktail which is a sweet Manhattan with an absinthe rinse.

Waldorf Cocktail


Remember the Maine


The Sazerac uses Peychaud's rather than Angostura bitters, but there are old-fashioned variations with Angostura and a touch of absinthe - looking at the Bartender's Choice app you have the Hendrick Cocktail (bourbon, sugar cube, angostura, dash absinthe) and the Choker (same with Scotch instead of bourbon).

Why does it work so well? My guess is that cloves/cinnamon (in Angostura) and anise (in absinthe/pastis) have some things in common - most likely eugenol. So when they are paired together their flavors "resonate" together and create harmony in the drink, similar to a chord in music.

Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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One more, gin-based this time, from the Savoy Cocktail Book (quoted from the Stomping through the Savoy thread).


Merry Widow Cocktail

2 Dashes Absinthe. (St. George)

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.

2 Dashes Benedictine. (1 teaspoon Benedictine)

1/2 French Vermouth. (1 oz French Vermouth)

1/2 Dry Gin. (1 oz Plymouth Gin)

Stir well and strain into cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel on top.

When we initially tasted this, it was just too dry. Neyah remarked,"That Widow is just not very merry!" A bit more benedictine seemed to bring it into somewhat more tasty territory, but to my tastes there was still something conflicting in this combination. Maybe the bitters and the Absinthe?

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