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Absinthe: The Topic


Lord Michael Lewis
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I defy you to show us a dumber [bottle]!
Good answers already. I don't have a handy picture of it, but a liquid appeared a few years ago and surprisingly became popular in parts of the US -- it was a mixed, fruit-flavored cordial, blue, smelled to me like Hawaiian Punch, and came in a frosted bottle with scattered characters around (and an allusion somewhere to Russia) and a name that if, you took the letters as Roman, spelled something like "Hypnotic" but if you took them as Cyrillic -- and I don't know if this was a clever joke or just a coincidence -- was more like "Nurotic."
And why do they keep calling Lucid a "liqueur"?  Annoying.
I would call this less annoying, the more you know about the word "liqueur."

A youngish crowd of spirits hobbyists and bartenders has taken this word lately to mean only what it has usually, but not always, meant in North America, namely a sweetened flavored spirit, or cordial. (That narrow sense was reflected in Wikipedia, for instance, last time I looked -- one of many examples of Wikipedia offering a confident, incomplete explanation.)

More traditionally there was a wider sense of the word: a spirit, usually with strong flavor. For decades I've seen, for instance, recipes suggesting you flavor a dessert with "rum or other liqueur." "Absinthe," explains a standard medical reference (illustrating uses of the Compositae herbs), "is a liqueur containing angelica, anise, marjoram, and wormwood oils."

This wider sense of "liqueur," in other words, has long and respectable history. While it's not the way I usually use the word, a little more awareness of this wider sense might aid understanding.

Hynoptique? there was a whole spate of (not so good) cocktails about 10 years ago using that....

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  • 5 weeks later...

Anyone have any idea if it's illegal for a bar in the US to serve actual (non FDA approved) absinthe?

I ordered a sazerac tonight in a solid joint and while the cocktail was delicious there was a notable lack of the tell-tale anise flavor.....while examining the shelves behind the bar I noticed two OPENED bottles of honest to goodness (jade) absinthe....obviously the expense of my cocktail would have gone up if i would have asked for TRUE absinthe but then it got me to thinking about the above....

...can they actually put absinthe in a cocktail and charge money for it?

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It is illegal to import (or produce) Absinthe for sale in the US containing more than a certain amount of Thujone.

As such, they probably are selling liquor which has been imported into the US without paying the appropriate tariffs.

It is not the FDA; but, the TTB which they would need to worry about.

I've heard of Absinthe parties here in San Francisco being busted and the liquor confiscated. However, it is usually because they don't have the appropriate licenses for selling liquor, not the Absinthe per se, that is the reason the authorities notice.

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Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I've had the opportunity to try Lucid a few times. Not particularly impressed. I felt like it had a certain dominant "dried mushroom" aroma component that I did not particularly appreciate.

--

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I'm not sure I've tasted enough Absinthe to really judge very well.

I also haven't tried Absente or La Muse Verte.

Of the various Absinthe-like products on the US market which I have tried, I do think the flavors/scents of the Lucid are closest to traditional style Absinthes I have tried (mostly Jade Pernod Fils 1901). Even the best of the bunch, Henri Bardouin, uses far too wide a selection of exotic herbs and spices to really taste like a traditional Absinthe. Almost all are too sweet and over use Star Anise.

My main gripe with the Lucid, I think, comes from the beet spirit it is based on. There is a sharpness to the spirit and a funky smell which reminds me of unaged agave or cane spirits.

I have a hard time getting past those aspects when drinking it in an Absinthe Drip.

I will say, though, it does pretty well when mixing. The fact that the Lucid doesn't have an over the top anise character, makes it a little cooperative to mix with than many of the Absinthes and Absinthe substitutes I have tried.

In any case, it is fantastic that Viridian have broken down the door for Absinthe to finally be available here. Hopefully, we will see some other products available soon from European and, cross your fingers, American distillers.

Nice article here on Wired:

Barely Legal: American Absinthe Passes the Taste Test

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Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Much to my surprise, I ordered an absinthe frappe at Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House last week while I was in New Orleans and whilst it was poured with all the ritual and flair and with proper accoutrements, it was made with Absente! I was stunned, to say the least. Or at least as stunned as I could manage to be at the level of inebriation I'd reached at that late point in the evening.

Am I wrong, or should a place known for it's absinthe be one of places pouring the real deal? :hmmm:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Well, the only sorta real deal Absinthe currently available in the US is the Lucid, and it is in very short supply.

Ahem, on the other hand, with propadada like the following on their website, are you really surprised?

As it turns out, Absinthe was indeed a dangerous substance, as the wormwood used for making it had narcotic properties.  The consumption of Absinthe was associated with hallucinations, delirium, madness and even death.  It is further rumored that Jack the Ripper, an unknown killer of a number of prostitutes in 1888, went mad through his addiction of Absinthe.  Consequently, it was outlawed in the United States in 1912.

Oh, fer cripe's sake...I feel guilty just quoting it!

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Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Some interesting news from the blogs.

According to Jamie Boudreau in this post at SpiritsAndCocktails.com, a Canadian Distiller, Okanagan Spirits, is working on bringing an Absinthe to market:

Marteau Verte Classique

I haven't tasted the Okanagan Spirits Absinthe yet; but, the the distiller makes what appears to be a line of quality, small batch, eau de vies and grappas, which seems promising. Some initial reviews I've read in the Absinthe community for the product also seem positive.

In more local news, I'd been hearing rumors over the last year that a local flavored vodka producer had been experimenting with prototypes for an Absinthe.

It appears Hangar One/St. George Spirits are getting closer to bringing their product to market. The most recent (unconfirmed) news I've heard is that they are currently working with the TTB on their label.

I'll try to get more info on this.

Pretty exciting stuff though!

Both of these are the first true Absinthes made legally in North America since 1912!

---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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According to Jamie Boudreau in this post at SpiritsAndCocktails.com, a Canadian Distiller, Okanagan Spirits, is working on bringing an Absinthe to market:

Marteau Verte Classique

I haven't tasted the Okanagan Spirits Absinthe yet; but, the the distiller makes what appears to be a line of quality, small batch, eau de vies and grappas, which seems promising.  Some initial reviews I've read in the Absinthe community for the product also seem positive.

I think you're blending two things together:

* Okanagan Spirits is working on an absinthe, which Jamie kindly gave me a taste of several weeks ago. I don't know how or where this will be marketed, but for an early batch, it seemed promising.

* Marteau Verte Classique is a different creature. It is designed by Gwydion Stone from the Wormwood Society, and will be made in Switzerland based on Gwydion's recipe. It should be available for online sales this fall, and if all goes well it may be available in the US by next spring. This is the absinthe that was served during the Lost Ingredients session at Tales of the Cocktail (and at assorted other events, public and private), and in my opinion (as well as those of many folks over at the WS) it's a wonderful absinthe.

So, combine that with St. George, and that makes three North American designed or manufactured absinthes. Happy days!

Paul Clarke

Seattle

The Cocktail Chronicles

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No, I haven't talked about the Marteau Absinthe, yet.

That is just the name of Jamie's Blog Article.

I can see how that could be confusing.

But, yes, in the near future, we're looking at 2 Absinthe's designed in the US and manufactured abroad, in Lucid and Marteau Verte Classic.

Lucid was designed by T.A. Breaux, is manufactured in France, and is already approved for sale in the US.

The Marteau Absinthe has been designed by a Washington Absinthe enthusiast and historian. It will be manufactured in Switzerland. I don't believe the Marteau folks have begun the process of applying to be approved for sale in the US, so it will still be the typical expensive proposition to order it from overseas. It is my understanding that they would would like to bring production to the states, eventually.

The Okanagan Spirits Taboo Absinthe, made in Canada, will likely not be available any time soon in the US. Given that Jamie's article says its thujone content is near 35PPM and the FDA/TTB have determined that thujone content can be no greater than 10PPM, it seems like the only way you'll be able to sample this Absinthe will be to bring it in from Canada yourself.

The St. George/Hangar One Absinthe is made and manufactured in the US. Woo! USA! USA! It is also rumored to be in the process of being approved for sale here.

There is also a Kubler Absinthe, manufactured in Switzerland, which is very close to being available in the US.

I'm guessing we'll see a lot more entries into the market soon!

edit - fixing some stuff to hopefully make clearer.

Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

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

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Absinthe Promotion at "Ye Waverly Inn"

http://www.urbandaddy.com/articles/738/the...ity_nyc_leisure

" Go green at Ye Waverly Inn as re-legalized Absinthe hits their cocktail list. There's the Absinthe Minded Martini (Absinthe, gin, sour mix, orange) and a classic Sazerac with Absinthe for a little extra kick. The early bird gets the wormwood... "

The photo shows the LaFee Absinthe, which many saw promoted at this years TOC. Given that LaFee is not yet TTB approved, think they're serving Lucid?

Who needs the extra kick here?

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  • 1 month later...

I will be travelling to Montreal at the end of the month, and I understand there may be some things available there that I won't be able to find in the states. Does anyone have any specific recommendations for places to look? Any chance of finding some of the Ted Breaux bottlings, or is it just going to be the Czech stuff?

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I will be travelling to Montreal at the end of the month, and I understand there may be some things available there that I won't be able to find in the states.  Does anyone have any specific recommendations for places to look?  Any chance of finding some of the Ted Breaux bottlings, or is it just going to be the Czech stuff?

Quebec, like most Canadian provinces, enjoys a government monopoly on the sale of spirits. Your best bet is to visit the SAQ "Signature" store at 677 Ste-Catherine West (at the corner of University St., in the Les Ailes shopping centre), since they have the widest selection of premium wines and spirits. You can use the search engine on the website of the Socitété des alcools du Québec (SAQ) to find out which products are available, and in which stores: click here.

Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Quebec, like most Canadian provinces, enjoys a government monopoly on the sale of spirits. Your best bet is to visit the SAQ "Signature" store at 677 Ste-Catherine West (at the corner of University St., in the Les Ailes shopping centre), since they have the widest selection of premium wines and spirits. You can use the search engine on the website of the Socitété des alcools du Québec (SAQ) to find out which products are available, and in which stores: click here.

Thank you. After a quick search and checking out some reviews it looks like there isn't anything especially noteworthy available, so you saved me some time and effort.

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  • 3 weeks later...

In Sunday's Style section in the NY Times, there was a piece about Lucid, the perfectly legal absinthe being produced in the United States.

In May, Viridian Spirits of Manhasset, N.Y., introduced in New York a product called Lucid, which it says is the first legal and authentic absinthe in the country since the ban. Viridian was able to skirt the regulations by omitting (or almost omitting) thujone, the chemical compound cited in the law. Unlike the absinthe substitutes, Lucid is produced from the plant Artemesia absinthium, or grand wormwood, making it the genuine article. Or at least as genuine as the law allows.

Since its release, the 124-proof liquor has been rapidly worming its way behind the city’s bars. At the Waverly Inn, the Bank Street restaurant owned by Graydon Carter, diners can request an absinthe fountain, for drinking absinthe in the classical style (with drops of cold water added slowly to turn the absinthe milky and opalescent), or can try it mixed with gin and sour mix in the Absinthe Minded Martini. Employees Only, the West Village lounge, has taken a similar tack, adding an Absinthe Drip to its menu and replacing the absinthe substitute in its signature Billionaire Cocktail with Lucid.

Since I have very little experience with the real thing, I was wondering if anyone has tried it, how you like it, if it is better than using Pernod or Ricard in a drink like the Sazerac, etc. etc.?

Oh, and here's a link to the NY Times article, quoted above, but which may require registration to view....click here!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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In Sunday's Style section in the NY Times, there was a piece about Lucid, the perfectly legal absinthe being produced in the United States.
In May, Viridian Spirits of Manhasset, N.Y., introduced in New York a product called Lucid, which it says is the first legal and authentic absinthe in the country since the ban. Viridian was able to skirt the regulations by omitting (or almost omitting) thujone, the chemical compound cited in the law. Unlike the absinthe substitutes, Lucid is produced from the plant Artemesia absinthium, or grand wormwood, making it the genuine article. Or at least as genuine as the law allows.

Since its release, the 124-proof liquor has been rapidly worming its way behind the city’s bars. At the Waverly Inn, the Bank Street restaurant owned by Graydon Carter, diners can request an absinthe fountain, for drinking absinthe in the classical style (with drops of cold water added slowly to turn the absinthe milky and opalescent), or can try it mixed with gin and sour mix in the Absinthe Minded Martini. Employees Only, the West Village lounge, has taken a similar tack, adding an Absinthe Drip to its menu and replacing the absinthe substitute in its signature Billionaire Cocktail with Lucid.

Since I have very little experience with the real thing, I was wondering if anyone has tried it, how you like it, if it is better than using Pernod or Ricard in a drink like the Sazerac, etc. etc.?

Oh, and here's a link to the NY Times article, quoted above, but which may require registration to view....click here!

its not as good as the top of the line Jade absinthes...Eduard 72 and the like...but it's not bad.

edit: I'm pretty sure Ted is producing it in France and having it imported.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

For those interested in knowing how the TTB evaluates Absinthe by formulation and label, there are two new circulars on the topic, as below:

http://ttb.gov/industry_circulars/archives/2007/2007_05.html

While the 10ppm limit is nothing new, the standards on label approval are interesting in the limitations on the use of the term "Absinthe" and suggestive "mind-altering" imagery.

______

In addition to the requirement that a product be “thujone-free,” TTB applies the following guidelines in approving labels and reviewing advertisements:

o Since there is no class and type understanding, the term "absinthe" may not be used as the brand name or fanciful name, or as part of the brand name or fanciful name, because otherwise it would appear as a class and type designation. 27 CFR 5.42(a)(1).

o The term "absinthe" may not stand alone on the label; it must be accompanied by additional or dispelling information so as not to appear as the class and type designation. 27 CFR 5.42(a)(1).

o Any artwork or graphics on the label, advertising, and point of sale materials using the term “absinthe” may not project images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic, or mind-altering effects. 27 CFR 5.42(a) and 5.65(a).

o TTB will include the following qualification statement on all approved COLAs showing the term “absinthe” on a label: “The finished product must be ‘thujone-free’ pursuant to 21 CFR 172.510.”

_____

Edited by eas (log)
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The Washington Post business section had an article today that focused on a lot of the regulatory hoops the marketers and importers are having to jump through - and, as usual, it sounds like various branches of the government aren't getting their stories straight.

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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