A favourite for black liquorice lovers, absinthe has long been an interesting (and controversial) spirit.
With a past linked to medicine, hallucinations, and even being made illegal for a lengthy period of time, it’s no wonder people have mixed views on the spirit!
Much like the creatives who enjoyed absinthe in the early 1900s, namely Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde, bartenders equally use absinthe as an ingredient for creative and complex tasting cocktails.
The high alcohol content alongside a relatively unique flavour has meant that there are a number of great absinthe cocktails to test out.
In this article, we’ll show you the best of them…
What Is Absinthe
Absinthe is a spirit made of herbs and spices – primarily from anise, fennel, and wormwood – with the first two giving it a liquorice taste and the latter responsible for the bitterness and green hue of the spirit.
A key component of absinthe is the strength of the cocktail with most brands/variations being produced with high alcohol content, typically ranging from 40% to as high as 90% ABV.
Absinthe has an interesting and checkered history.
Due to the strength of the spirit, creatives like Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde enjoyed this drink as it was considered to be a cool drink at the time.
It also garnered a reputation for causing hallucinations – though this has since been disproven by science.
Partly due to the hallucinations and partly due to the chemical ingredient thujone, absinthe was banned in the US and many parts of Europe from the late 1900s up until 2007, when it was internationally recognised that the spirit has no hallucinogenic or psychoactive substances.
Since then, the spirit has once again risen in popularity and is used to create a number of iconic (and less notable) cocktails.
Best Absinthe Cocktail Recipes
The “original” absinthe cocktail.
While modern drinkers – mainly clubbers – will experience absinthe as a shot due to its high alcohol content, the original way to drink absinthe is to mix it with sugar and water.
The process used to make an Absinthe Drip is mainly why it gets that name.
Chilled water is dripped over a sugar cube (which is placed above the absinthe) to gradually dilute the absinthe whilst also making it sweeter and less bitter in the process.
This is done with some specific barware which includes:
- Absinthe glass
- Absinthe spoon
- Absinthe fountain
These items can be substituted but if you want to experience absinthe as it was intended, we’d definitely recommend testing out the absinthe drip!
1 Sugar Cube
Pour the absinthe into a chilled absinthe glass.
Place an absinthe (or perforated) spoon across the rim of the glass and add a sugar cube onto the spoon.
Fill an absinthe fountain with ice and water and place the tap over the sugar cube.
Slowly turn the tap until the water is released at a drip.
Leave it to drip over the sugar cube until the sugar cube has completely dissolved into the drink. You’ll know it’s ready when the drink has turned to a milky/cloudy colour.
Mix with a spoon and serve.
The Sazarac – the official cocktail of New Orleans – is a hugely popular and iconic cocktail, with claims that it was one of the first cocktails ever made!
Absinthe is not the primary ingredient in a Sazerac but it’s an essential component that creates the complex flavour profile for this cocktail which is enhanced by the use of Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters.
The reason we like the Sazerac as an absinthe cocktail is because one of the steps is solely dedicated to absinthe and is known as an absinthe rinse.
This step alone makes this cocktail feel like an “absinthe cocktail”.
50ml Rye Whiskey
1 tsp Sugar
3 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1 Lemon Peel
Fill a rocks glass with ice and pour over the absinthe (this step is known as an absinthe rinse). Swirl the absinthe around the glass coating all of the inside of the glass and then leave it to sit while you prepare the next step.
Take a mixing glass and add the sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, Angostura bitters and a lemon peel to a mixing glass.
Muddle the ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved.
Add ice along with the Rye Whiskey and stir all ingredients together to blend the ingredients together and chill the drink.
Pour the absinthe from the rocks glass into a shot glass. Strain the mixing glass into the rocks glass and garnish with a lemon wedge.
Find out more: about the Sazerac recipe
Corpse Reviver No.2
The Corpse Reviver (and its variations) are named so because the cocktails were designed as a hangover cure to essentially “bring people back to life” after a heavy session.
There are a number of variations but the Corpse Reviver No.2 – which was created for The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930 – is by far the most popular variation even to this day.
This cocktail is incredibly simple to make and very refreshing but be warned, the strong alcohol content means that this is not a drink to be underestimated.
1 Dash Absinthe
25ml Lemon Juice
25ml Lillet Blanc (or Sweet Vermouth)
Add all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake until the shaker becomes cold to touch.
Double strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
Find out more: about the Corpse Reviver No 2 recipe
Death In The Afternoon
If you’re new to absinthe, Death In The Afternoon is a must-try cocktail.
The reason for this is that it was supposedly invented by the famous writer Ernest Hemmingway!
It’s not every day that a famous person also invents a cocktail so when we come across such an instance, it’s hard not to test it out.
Death In The Afternoon, which is named identically to a Hemmingway novel, is a simple cocktail containing just two ingredients which are absinthe and Champagne.
Hemingway went as far as to include a tasting recommendation with this drink which is:
“Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”
The opalescent milkiness he describes is the same as the cloudy mixture you’ll get with the Absinthe Drip cocktail mentioned earlier.
1 Sugar Cube (optional)
Pour the absinthe into a chilled coupe glass and slowly add the Champagne.
The Champagne bubbles quickly disappear when the Champagne mixes with the absinthe. To make it a little bubblier, add a sugar cube once the drink has settled.
Find out more: what is the Death in the Afternoon cocktail
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