5 Essential Facts About Absinthe, The Green Fairy
Lit up in glorious shades of green, absinthe is a drink that tastes just as mythical as its appearance. Also known as the green fairy, the drink was first used as a medication to ward off malaria among soldiers in the 18th century.
With its intense flavors and strong punch, this drink became exponentially popular in the 19th century. Almost 36 million liters of the drink was consumed in the regions of France during these years.
The recent resurgence to popularity after almost a century-long ban has triggered quite the interest to explore the drink further. Here are five essential facts about the absinthe that show why it is an enchanting alcoholic experience.
1. Absinthe Is Not Anise Liquor
One of the most common notions about absinthe is that it is a strong version of anise liquor. Anise is a common ingredient in both drinks. But absinthe is far from liquor as there are major variations in the preparation methods of the two.
Absinthe is a powerful and intense high-proof alcohol. It contains anywhere between forty five to seventy percent alcohol based on the brand. It is much higher than most common alcoholic drinks enjoyed by most like whiskey, gin or vodka.
Absinthe is prepared from macerated botanical extracts that go through distillation into a 70 percent alcohol base. These botanicals might include a spectrum of herbs like anise that pass on their characteristics to the drink. Liquor production, on the other hand, uses a portion of sugar with the alcohol, which makes it quite different from absinthe.
Absinthe preparation involves multi-step distillation processes that contribute to the flavors and color of the drink. In the first step, the botanical extracts of herbs and plants such as grande wormwood, coriander, blending fennel, hyssop, transfuse their essence into an alcohol base.
Traditional distillation methods always used neutral alcohol bases to elevate the enriching flavors of the botanicals. Today, many companies are exploring rather complex choices, such as Chardonnay grapes as the base. The mixture of the fruity hints from the grapes, with the herbal palette of the botanicals, makes it a wonderful drink to relish on any occasion.
The result of the first distillation is a clear and diluted distillate, often known as White Absinthe. It is also called Blanche or “la Bleue” and sold in several regions.
The second step is optional, although it is when the drink gets its characteristics hues. Steeping or second distillation involves the use of chlorophyll-rich plants and herbs infusion to add color naturally. Some companies also use vibrantly colored flora varieties such as hibiscus to give a rather bright twist to the drink.
Some low-end commercial brands tend to overlook this step and use artificial colors such as E133 instead of the characteristic colors in the drink. But herbal infused colors add more than just an appealing touch. They also introduce a distinct flavor to the drink that makes it authentic and delicious.
2. There Is More Than One Right Way to Relish Absinthe
One of the most famous images of serving absinthe involves a sugar cube placed on a perforated spoon over a glass. The drink is poured over the sugar, and the cube is lit on fire.
The advantage of adding sugar to absinthe is that it is a strong drink with bold herbal flavors. It might not be a pleasing choice for many newbies, and the sugar helps to reduce the hint of earthy bitterness from the drink. Also, the sweetness brings out the anise in the drink. But using a flaming sugar cube causes caramelization that destroys the authentic botanical hints and texture of the drink. It also hinders the original taste.
The Swiss love to serve absinthe with a sugar cube on the spoon placed in the rim that was then slowly washed with cold water into the drink. The slow drip method helps elevate the flavors and aroma of the herbal infusion in the drink, making it delicious and fun to consume. It creates a mythical cloudy mixture in the glass in soft hints of green that makes it quite a fascinating and enchanting presentation for absinthe. It also helps to balance the bitterness of the drink, especially for first-timers. It is best done with an absinthe fountain that can serve two to four glasses at once.
There are also lots of cocktail choices for the not so brave souls who cannot fathom the idea of taking a neat glass of absinthe. Recipes such as the Brazilian Sangaria embody the drink's herbal richness in a mixture of fresh fruit extracts and red wine. It creates a complex palate with the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and bitter in a glass. Nevertheless, ensure to add absinthe in very small quantities as the drink has a bold taste that overlooks every other ingredient in the cocktail if used too much.
3. Absinthe Can Work Well With Versatile Food Pairings
This green liquor that captured the hearts of Picasso and Hemingway is a puddle of flavors that makes it an excellent choice to relish with your meals. This highly alcoholic drink pairs well with several meal ideas that make it quite a versatile drink to include in your drink list for your dinner party.
Absinthe is more about an acquired taste and not for the weak-hearted. But it works well in cocktails that make it quite pleasing. The herbal notes of the drink instantly blend with fruit extracts, gin, vermouth, and white wine, making it an elegant ingredient to easily add to cocktails.
Roasted nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds in salads go well with a strong alcoholic beverage. Cheese elevates the rich flavors of the anise and fennel in the drink. The French and Swiss love to relish the drink with a side of their favorite fondue to enhance the taste. Onion tarts make a great pair with absinthe frappe with its cloudy texture and mild flavors. Absinthe is innately bitter. Hence flavors that mask this pair well with the drink. Oysters, devilled eggs, cold poached mussels complement the texture of absinthe well.
Besides this, sweet flavors of chocolate also pair well with absinthe to create an excellent dessert pairing idea. Bittersweet chocolate desserts with Sazerac can balance the sophisticated palate of the ingredients to give a fantastic climax to your dinner. For more great pairing ideas, check out our Absinthe and Food Pairings article.
4. Absinthe Being Hallucinogenic
The mythical correlation to absinthe originated from 19th century Europe where the advertisements portrayed a green fairy offering the drink that can get you drunk fast with mind-altering effects. As popularity for the drink grew, the drink's association to inducing hallucinogenic properties became very famous.
These hallucinogenic effects of absinthe are also the reason behind the widespread ban that began in the 20th century. During the early years of the century, a popular movement to abolish alcoholic drinks began to gain popularity in several regions of Europe. An incident involving a heavily intoxicated Swiss farmer who killed his wife and two daughters before shooting himself sparked questions among the residents over the safety of absinthe. Many say that the farmer consumed a variety of alcoholic drinks and caffeine on the day of the incident. But the Temperance movement put absinthe in the stance as the cause for such violent outbursts to raise questions among absinthe drinkers.
The growing interest in consuming absinthe became a major threat to the wine capital as their grape vineyards just started to recover from the blight that destroyed many of the vineyards. However more and more users preferred cheaper absinthe that got them drunk faster. Opium was also very popular in France those days, hence the hallucinations when combined with spirits that were 140 proof. The drink was finally banned in several countries, including France, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland, the US in the next few years.
One of the regular purposes for the conviction that absinthe does, truth be told, cause mind-changing impacts is the nearness of a compound called thujone. Thujone is a psychoactive consequence of a spice called wormwood; in the occasion that you're having absinthe made with wormwood, by then you better get ready for some weird visuals.
Thujone can cause extreme inebriation with mind-modifying symptoms, for example, seizures, volatility, and spasms when utilized in extremely high portions. It is one reason why many accept that the soul could start psychedelic impacts.
Today the concentration is strictly monitored to ensure minimal levels to enhance safety. Be that as it may, economically fabricated absinthe regularly contains modest quantities of thujone to check any potential issues, for example, substantial inebriation. Subsequently, devouring absinthe arranged with thujone well inside as far as possible can be an energizing and fun experience without bringing on any high.
Absinthe available nowadays in the US can't outperform 10 ppm (parts per milligram) of thujone, in this manner it is technically thujone-free. If you ever wish to experience absinthe like it meant to be experienced, you should get yourself a bottle of wormwood absinthe with thujone!
5. Absinthe Hails From Switzerland
The history of the origin of this impeccable drink has many versions to it. Some believe that the drink hails from Eastern European regions, whereas most say that it comes from the Czech Republic. Although Czech played a significant role in popularizing and commercializing the drink to the world, absinthe originated from Switzerland.
The story of the first created absinthe dates back to 1792, Switzerland, where Dr. Ordinaire prepared an herbal medicinal portion. The portion was useful for treating several conditions that include kidney stones, gout, epilepsy.
The intense alcohol concentration made it useful as an antiseptic as well. The captivating aesthetics, the bold botanical flavors, and high alcohol content made it popular among poets and artists. It helped elevate the market for the drink to about 700,000 liters in 1874 alone.
The following years also saw an exponential jump in sales of the drink. The numbers even surpassed the average wine consumption of France in the next few years.
But the drink became known to the world through the efforts of the Czech Republic. The drink was produced in large quantities from the 1860s until the ban that began during World War II. They established a powerful market presence for the drink through advertising and marketing campaigns in the early days.
During the 1900s, the Velvet revolution spiked the input of tourists in the region who were ready to pay hefty prices to get a hold of the green fairy. Even today, the region creates some of the best quality absinthe with a strong presence of thujone. The authentic herbal flavors brim every drop of the drink. Most manufacturers use traditional distillation techniques to maintain the taste. Czech absinthe uses a slightly lower degree of anise that does not turn cloudy on adding cold water. But the flavors and aroma are still extraordinary.
Our whole range of original, genuine absinthes with elevated level of thujone is being created in the Czech Republic.
Many countries, including the United States, France, Germany, and Switzerland have already lifted the ban on absinthe. Traditional European distillers have carried the authentic preparation methods to produce premium absinthe enriched with herbs' fine flavors.
Only a handful of producers are into preparing original absinthe recipes that contain high levels of thujone. However only genuine King of Gold Absinthe contains 100mg of the compound. What you will purchase in a bottle of Absinthe King of Spirits Gold is as close as you can get to the real, pre-ban thing. It is an unusual ingredient for punchy cocktails and an apt company for a fabulous dinner.