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Lord Michael Lewis

Absinthe: The Topic

533 posts in this topic

I think that there is a supposition by many that the legal limitations now imposed on thujone concentrations necessarily means a lowering of quality -- like you have to use smaller amounts of wormwood or compromise as to technique in other ways. This would seem to be conclusively disproven by this research, and indeed the authors suggest that modern methods and science should be enable modern makers to produce absinthes with known thujone levels -- not so much in order to produce absinthe with a given concentration of thujone (etc.) but rather to keep it below government limitations without in any way compromising in flavor, etc.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Good points. Thanks.

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I learned today that the Sazerac Company is working on an Absinthe version of Herbsaint (I always assumed that Herbsaint was an absinthe subsitute introduced when the real thing was outlawed---not the case, it's never had wormwood).

They're in the government approval phase, so they can't set a definite release date. The bottle should look like the ancient Herbsaint bottle. Best of all, they hope to retail it for around $32.


Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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In further ansinthe-related news, Pernod's absinthe should be coming to the States in a few months. This is, IMO, one of the very best.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Pernod's absinthe should be coming to the States in a few months.  This is, IMO, one of the very best.

It ought to be! After all, they started the whole thing, more than 200 years ago. (Pernod Fils founded 1805 by Henri-Louis Pernod, acc. to Conrad's standard 1988 book.)

"Pernod" was known as an absinthe for more years than it has been known as the non-absinthe pastis that the brand became after the absinthe ban.

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It ought to be!  After all, they started the whole thing, more than 200 years ago. 

You're right! It "Ought To Be".

Unfortuanately it isn't... to the best of my knowledge it's the same "oil mix" they have been selling in Europe for a while, and while far, far, better than "Hills", it is a poor excuse for a true Absinthe.

I've had the European version and it is rather sad :-<

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It's very sad considering what Pernod absinthe once was as far as quality.


At The close of the day, Drink an Herbsaint Frappe...Legendre Herbsaint, Always served when absinthe is called for.

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Got my first bottle of true absinthe (Kübler) today, and for obvious reasons I'm enjoying some old-school cocktails right now. (It's Dave Wondrich's Improved Whiskey Cocktail at the moment.) I've got quite a few tried-and-true recipes here for Pernod and Herbsaint, but I'm wondering how people substitute in for true absinthe: when they do, don't, what drinks just wouldn't work (French Pearl leaps to mind), etc.


Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Pernod and Herbsaint are both sweetened products. The Kübler and other true absinthes are not, and leave it up to the consumer to add sugar (the whole spoon ritual) or not as they see fit.

Some absinthes are naturally sweeter than others however, depending on their green anise profile, etc. The Kübler is fairly sweet. But it's not Pernod, which is like licorice candy.

Maybe think of it like the difference between lime cordial vs fresh lime juice?

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Right -- got the sweet part. But there's more complexity in this Kubler than there is in the Pernod, e.g.: more herbal quality, in particular. So I guess I'm wondering what cocktails people make to take advantage of that.


Chris Amirault

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Sorry, I'm new here and I don't know how familiar with it folks are, I was going off the "my first real absinthe" thing.

Standard fare for absintheurs is the DITA (Death in the Afternoon) which is a Kir Royale with absinthe instead of cassis. This highlights the absinthe more than most classic cocktails that just take a dash for seasoning.

More involved recipes here:

Classic Absinthe Cocktails

Modern Absinthe Cocktails

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I've got quite a few tried-and-true recipes here for Pernod and Herbsaint, but I'm wondering how people substitute in for true absinthe: when they do, don't, what drinks just wouldn't work (French Pearl leaps to mind), etc.

I think you have to look at the cocktail and decide whether the pastis was used as an absinthe-substitute or not. Generally, this can be discerned from the date of the cocktail and the amount used. If it's a dash or a rinse, you're probably okay-to-better if you use absinthe. If it's a quarter ounce or more, you should probably figure out the date of the formula you are using. The French Pearl, for example, dates to the "modern absinthe era" in the US. Clearly it was designed with Pernod in mind, and absinthe probably would not be an improvement.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Thanks to you both (and don't sweat it, Bill!). I was expecting to focus on recipe date and will try to report here what results I get. Meanwhile, though I was pretty worried to look at that "modern" list, some look good -- especially Jamie Boudreau's L'Amour en Fuite.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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For my taste, the only old school cocktail that I like equally well with either Pernod or Absinthe is the Corpse Reviver #2. It's a bit of a coin toss - some days I just like the anise note that the Pernod brings, and some days I like the herbal symphony that the Absinthe brings.


"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

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Pernod and Herbsaint are both sweetened products. The Kübler and other true absinthes are not ... Some absinthes are naturally sweeter than others however.

FYI, I have a cross-section of cocktail recipe books spanning the last century -- absinthe spent most of that time on "back-burner" status in the US, before moving to the front burner recently. (Picked up these books along with many more titles on general food and wine.) You can see recipes calling for absinthe (even into the general alcohol Prohibition years), shifting later to "absinthe substitutes" which were many, though I haven't looked for any systematic recipe changes.

With apology to any people who may look to this eG forum solely for liquid nourishment, I'll mention also the famous cooking recipes that used absinthe -- for shellfish especially. Mussels and prawns are still cooked with Pernod (and citrus zest etc.) in restaurants -- the flavor harmony can be exquisite. US cookbooks of mid-century or earlier allude to traditions of cooking crawfish etc. in absinthe. I expect a renaissance of these dishes -- if it hasn't begun already -- with attendant spreads in the Wednesday newspaper food sections (and the usual mentions of absinthe's lurid mystique, so obsolete, yet so indispensable as a marketing aid).

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I wonder how much cooking with absinthe will happen while the available examples in the US are North of 50 bucks for a bottle.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I wonder how much cooking with absinthe will happen while the available examples in the US are North of 50 bucks for a bottle.

I suppose one could make a very expensive, historically authentic plate of Oysters Rockefeller. The original dish dates back to 1899, but Pernod (pastis) didn't appear until 1920, and Herbsaint 1935. So, is it fair to assume that the dish was originally made with absinthe?


"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

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I wonder how much cooking with absinthe will happen while the available examples in the US are North of 50 bucks for a bottle.

That, implicitly, touches a feature of absinthe that's seldom mentioned, but is the very reason it's useful for cooking: Absinthe is, literally, a spice extract. Similar in manufacture and composition to other, more familiar extracts sold for cooking.

The $50-plus buy-in will discourage some cooks, yes; but 750ml will season a lot of shellfish (and after all, it has beverage uses too). Little 20 or 50ml bottles of quality Vanilla extract, lemon extract, peppermint, green herbs (rarer but available), etc., for cooking, commonly sell for a few dollars each, and probably outprice absinthes on price-per-volume. (When the makers get around to putting absinthe into those little single-drink bottles like many other spirits, they may do a surprising business for cooking use.)

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I think you have to look at the cocktail and decide whether the pastis was used as an absinthe-substitute or not.

I'd been wondering about that too. It can be tricky to tell for sure. Older recipes may state absinthe, but some specifically call for Pernod. Were these meant to be made with Pernod, or was the writer just resigned to the fact that absinthe was not available and they recast the recipe for the next best thing. Some of the current writers call for "absinthe-substitute" so are we to assume that they would use real absinthe in those recipes we they can, or are they really suggesting using only the substitute? Such turmoil we cocktail enthusiasts must cope with! :unsure:

For my taste, the only old school cocktail that I like equally well with either Pernod or Absinthe is the Corpse Reviver #2.  It's a bit of a coin toss - some days I just like the anise note that the Pernod brings, and some days I like the herbal symphony that the Absinthe brings.

That's it. When you've been making a drink with Pernod for so long you come to believe that's how it should taste. Then, when you finally get the real thing (like you, I got a bottle of Kübler a few months ago), and make your favorite drink with it, you discover that it is different. Perhaps better, perhaps not so.

What about the Sazerac? Use real absinthe or not?


Edited by brinza (log)

Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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The Sazerac absolutely calls for absinthe.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'd say the Monkey Gland should only be made with absinthe. Having only had it with Pernod, I thought it was somewhat bland. I wrote it off for a while then tried it with absinthe and it was a complex, sophisticated, interesting drink.

I've been meaning to make a Cocktail a la Louisiane with absinthe. I thought this one was a bit too rich when I made it with Pernod. It was cloyingly sweet. Maybe I added too much pastis then, but I suspect the absinthe will dry it up so that it hits the right mark of sweetness/richness.

And I agree, a Sazerac has to be made with absinthe. It increases the contemplation-factor of this drink quite a bit.


nunc est bibendum...

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The Sazerac absolutely calls for absinthe.

Thanks. That's good to know. I couldn't remember if Herbsaint had been used from the beginning or if that came later.


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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The Sazerac absolutely calls for absinthe.

Thanks. That's good to know. I couldn't remember if Herbsaint had been used from the beginning or if that came later.

As much as some would like you to think that Herbsaint is necessary or "traditional" for a Sazerac, in fact Herbsaint only dates to 1935. The Sazerac is around a hundred years older.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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As much as some would like you to think that Herbsaint is necessary or "traditional" for a Sazerac, in fact Herbsaint only dates to 1935.  The Sazerac is around a hundred years older.

While it is true that Herbsaint didn't come into existence until after prohibition, I believe at least one of the companies that was eventually rolled into the Sazerac company (L.E. Jung & Wulff) manufactured true Absinthe before prohibition.

So while it is impossible that Herbsaint was used in the original Absinthe containing version of the Sazerac, it is possible that an American Absinthe was used, possibly even manufactured in New Orleans.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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