What Does Absinthe Taste Like?
Absinthe has a long and storied history in the world of alcohol, and it is this mystique that has helped to maintain its popularity throughout the centuries.
But what exactly is absinthe, and what does it actually taste like?
What Is Absinthe?
Originating ‘officially’ in Switzerland and France in beverage form, absinthe is an alcoholic spirit, derived from several plants that include flowers and leaves from artemisia absinthium (otherwise known as ‘grand wormwood’), green anise, sweet fennel, and other widely used medicinal and culinary herbs used at the time.
However, the actual origins of absinthe are unknown, and there are many links and theories that place it all around the world. One of the earliest references to the medicinal use of wormwood date back to around 1550 BC, where it was used by the Ancient Egyptians – and later – the Ancient Greeks.
However, the origins of absinthe as a distilled spirit date back to the 18th century, and according to legend it began life as a ‘cure all’ remedy devised by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire – a French doctor living in Switzerland around 1792.
Why Is Absinthe So Mysterious?
Over the course of the next few centuries, absinthe developed something of a mystique – a reputation that remains to this day in some respects – and there are several reasons as to why this is the case.
Absinthe has had a long association with hallucinations – a fact that has actually been debunked in recent times. Despite this, the association with the ‘green fairy’ has become something of a signature of the drink, leading to continued fascination.
Frequent users of absinthe were thought to experience hallucinations and visions, and as such the drink became widely adopted by the artistic communities of France and Switzerland during the Victorian era.
However, there is no evidence to suggest that hallucinations occur, nor that there are any ingredients within absinthe that are capable of manifesting them.
It is thought that any effects resembling hallucinations were most likely side effects of alcohol abuse in heavy users – something expedited by the high alcohol content of absinthe throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
Association With Art
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, absinthe developed a large association with the artistic and literary communities of Europe – most notably France – and as such, it became something of an early ‘counter-cultural’ symbol, developing a reputation and image that has endured to present day.
While the reported hallucinations are not backed by scientific evidence, and the alcoholic content has decreased substantially since its origins, the romanticized image surrounding absinthe has persisted.
Of course, another facet of this mystique and appeal, namely amongst young people, is that it still has the reputation of being incredibly strong in terms of alcohol content and taste.
However, while the taste may be strong, the alcohol content of modern absinthe is much lower than it once was – with most brands of absinthe residing around the 45-74% level, which in terms of alcohol content places it alongside other spirits like whisky, vodka, and tequila.
What Does Absinthe Taste Like?
As you can probably tell from its base ingredients, absinthe has a distinctly aniseed taste – one that can make it something of a polarizing beverage for many.
Anyone who has tried aniseed or absinthe will know that it has a distinctly herbal or medicinal taste – something that can make it bitter and loosely unpleasant if not consumed in the right way.
This is why it has historically been consumed with sugar and water – creating a perfect balance between the bitter, strong tasting alcohol, and a sense of sweetness.
What Is The Best Way To Consume Absinthe?
As you can imagine, a drink with such history comes with its own rituals and practices that are purported to present the best outcome.
As A Shot
Due to the much lower alcohol content – brought about by governmental regulations – absinthe is now a fairly common sight in liquor bars and stores, and can as such be purchased as a shot to be consumed like any other spirit.
This is perhaps a less mysterious and ‘cool’ way of consuming this drink, but for better or worse, has become the most common way to do so in modern times.
The Traditional Way
In traditional absinthe bars – many of which can still be found in Paris – tourists can experience the traditional way of consuming absinthe that has been done in the city for centuries.
Traditional French preparation includes placing a sugar cube atop a specially designed ‘slotted spoon’. Ice water is then poured or (more commonly) dripped onto the sugar cube, combining with the sugar, and running through the slots into the absinthe.
The perfect combination consists of 1 part absinthe, and 3-5 parts water, and the perfect glass of absinthe should be milky in color and opaque in appearance.
Can Absinthe Be Used In Cocktails?
Despite being commonly consumed with water, absinthe also has many applications for cocktail making – and has become a much enjoyed element within mixology since its reintroduction in the 20th century.
Some notable favorites include the Sazerac cocktail, the ‘fairy godmother’ cocktail, and absinthe variations of other classic cocktails like the martini and the old fashioned.
Common mixers that go well with absinthe are the lighter and more unflavored ones – such as tonic water, soda water, and sugar syrup – amongst others.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about absinthe, and what exactly it tastes like.
It’s true that absinthe is one of the most fascinating alcoholic beverages in the world, and has a long, mysterious history that has helped it become a thing of legend amongst artists and alcohol aficionados alike.
So if you are looking to enjoy a whole new drinking experience, then why not give absinthe a try? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!