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Absinthe has to be one of the most celebrated, maligned, and misunderstood drinks in the world. Say the magical word and you will be instantly transported to the decadence of Belle Epoque Paris, drinking in a bar with Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Toulouse Lautrec. There will also be green faeries, hallucinations, and even madness. So what is this demonic drink?

The History of Absinthe
Absinthe is related to drinks such as gin and aquavit in that it consists of high strength alcohol flavoured with something. It has its roots in a time when eaux-de-vies were thought to have medicinal properties. The word ‘absinthe’ comes from the Latin artemisia absinthium, wormwood, a principal ingredient which is also used in vermouth (whose name is derived from the German for the botanical, wermut).

How to drink abstinthe
Nowadays, absinthe is made in Europe and America and there are dozens of different brands from big players like Hendricks’s gin which launched its own absinthe in 2019 to tiny players like Devil’s Botany. But what’s the best way to drink it? There are two main methods for absinthe preparation:

The French Method involves the traditional slotted absinthe spoon. Absinthe is poured into the glass first. Then the slotted spoon is placed atop the glass with a sugar cube on it. Using a slow drip fountain, water is gradually dripped onto the sugar cube, and into the glass, until the cube is dissolved. The spoon is then used to stir the drink. This will produce a sweetened, cloudy drink not unlike pastis.

The Bohemian Method involves using a traditional heat-proof absinthe glass, absinthe is poured into the glass, the slotted spoon is placed on top of the glass and an absinthe-soaked sugar cube is placed on the spoon. The sugar cube is then lit, and the cube is dropped into the drink and allowed to burn out.

Absinthe is also an important ingredient in cocktails like the Sazerac and Dick Bradsell’s creation the Green Fairy Sour. Shake one part absinthe with one part lemon juice, one part mineral water, ¾ part sugar syrup, one dash of angostura bitters and an egg white with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist, and a mad glint in your eye.

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