Absinthe is a remarkably controversial spirit with a long history of misunderstanding and sensationalism behind it. This spirit rose to popularity in France around the late 19th century and, despite its popularity, became banned in several countries in the early 1900s due to the ingredient thujone, a reported hallucinogenic.
In recent years, beliefs and myths about absinthe have been disproven, and bans lifted for this unique anise-flavored spirit. Our article gives you information about absinthe including an overview of this alcohol before discussing the best brands of absinthe around today and how to choose one of these bottles for a distinctive drinking experience.
What You Need to Know About Absinthe
Absinthe is a high alcohol spirit that is typically bottled between 90 and 148 proof, which gives the drink an ABV of between 45 and 74 percent.This is much higher than your average ABV for liquor, even for tequila and vodka.
The traditional method of preparing absinthe involves pouring some into a glass, placing an absinthe spoon over the top with a sugar cube, and then dropping water over the sugar cube. This is done to dilute the high alcoholic content of absinthe and make it more palatable in addition to bringing out the flavors and aromas of this spirit.
In the United States, the ban on absinthe was lifted in 2007. Other countries lifted the ban on this drink around the early 2000s, and both imported absinthe and absinthe created within the United States are gaining in popularity for their unique flavor and preparation method. Absinthe is also utilized in cocktail recipes, such as the Sazerac, , and it pairs well with most flavored vodkas in other types of mixed drinks.
Absinthe: An Overview
Absinthe is a distinctive, green-colored spirit that has a history of controversy. Absinthe is created with a distilled neutral alcohol, with traditional versions being produced with a redistilled white grape spirit, and blended with herbs and spices.
The primary flavorings in absinthe come from grande wormwood, green anise, and Florence fennel. Grand wormwood oil contains the chemical thujone, which is what made absinthe controversial and eventually led to this spirit being banned.
Historical reports of wormwood and thujone’s properties indicate consumption causes seizures, muscle spasms, and hallucinations, and has addictive psychoactive properties.
Despite the rise in popularity of absinthe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this drink was a target of sensationalism and the movement to prohibit all alcohols. Absinthe was accused of contributing to crimes, social disorder, and even murder.
Absinthe was banned in the early 1900s by many countries, and the United States banned the import or production of this spirit in 1912.
The ban on absinthe in the United States was lifted in 2007, and this spirit is subject to regulations on the amount of thujone used. In recent years, more distillers within the United States have started to produce this drink. It is increasing in popularity as its somewhat misunderstood and controversial past is replaced with a more positive view.
Absinthe appears light or dark green in color, and when properly prepared, it takes on a whiteish cloudy appearance. Absinthe is slightly sweet with strong notes of anise and fennel, and depending on the brand, it can have other botanical or herbal hints.
How to Choose the Best Absinthe?
Choosing absinthe can be difficult if you’re a newcomer to this spirit, and it’s important to read the labels to get a sense of the ingredients and what the flavor of each brand might be.
One of the most important factors to look for is colorings – quality absinthe should be chartreuse to dark green due to the herbs and botanicals blended into it. Artificial colorings in your absinthe are a sign the manufacturer isn’t using the high-quality or most traditional production methods.
You should also look for the location of the manufacturer, as some brands of absinthe are produced in the United States. Others are produced throughout Europe, most commonly Switzerland and France. Make sure to keep in mind the alcoholic content, as some brands of absinthe are very high alcohol and have a high ABV.
What Does Absinthe Cost?
Absinthe comes at a range of prices, with lower-priced brands starting around $15 and higher-priced or special imports ranging upwards of $100. On average, you can expect a bottle of absinthe to cost around $50, as this is the sweet spot for both good quality and budget-friendliness.
Where Can You Buy Absinthe?
Absinthe is most commonly available from specialty liquor stores, or you can purchase this spirit online if you are looking for a specific brand. The majority of restaurants and bars won’t carry this spirit as it isn’t as popular as other alcohol choices, but you may be able to find a few bars or restaurants locally that carry absinthe and use it in cocktails.
The Best Absinthes
The following absinthe brands are some of the best on the market today. They offer a range of flavors and price ranges for those who are new to the world of absinthe and experienced absinthe drinkers.
- MSRP: $85.00
- Proof: 136 Proof
- Tasting Notes: Anise, Musk, Herbaceous
- Our Rating: 5 Stars
Pernod Absinthe is considered the ‘original absinthe’ and the recipe used to create this brand’s spirit follows one created in the 1800s. It is very much the embodiment of everything absinthe was when it rose to popularity, and the brand stands by its attempt to create a revival of this drink.
Tasting notes include anise, hints of musk, and a herbaceous undertone, and Pernod Absinthe is an excellent choice for the traditional preparation of sugar and water.
Because of its stronger flavors and traditional roots, Pernod Absinthe isn’t the best choice for being used in absinthe-based cocktails.
- Considered the ‘original absinthe’
- Recipe follows one created in the 1800s
- Great for being prepared traditionally
- Not the best choice for absinthe-based cocktails
St. George Absinthe Verte
- MSRP: $65.00
- Proof: 120 Proof
- Tasting Notes: Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Notes of Licorice
- Our Rating: 4 Stars
The first legal American absinthe brand to be produced after the ban was lifted in 2007, St. George Absinthe Verte stands out for its botanical-forward flavor.
The ingredients in this drink include several essential oils, and the traditional anise, almost licorice, flavor is complemented by hints of lemon balm and hyssop. This brand balances well in cocktails because of its smooth, yet not overpowering, flavor.
Some individuals do find the St. George Absinthe Verte to be too oily or heavy mouthfeel-wise. This is likely due to the higher number of essential oils and botanicals found in this brand compared to other types of absinthe.
- First legal American absinthe brand
- Balances well in cocktails
- Some find the texture oily or too heavy
Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte
- MSRP: $80.00
- Proof: 130 Proof
- Tasting Notes: Citrus, Coriander, Mint, Wormwood
- Our Rating: 4 Stars
Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte is created from a traditional grape spirit base, something that allows it to stand true to historical recipes of absinthe.
This absinthe has a versatile, crowd-pleasing flavor for most lovers of absinthe, and it contains tasting notes of citrus, coriander, mint, and a strong taste of wormwood. It can be used in cocktails or prepared with the traditional methods.
The strong alcoholic content of this absinthe is genuine to this high-alcoholic spirit. However, some individuals have noted that this brand must be diluted otherwise the alcoholic flavors are too strong to handle.
- Traditional grape spirit base
- Versatile, crowd-pleasing flavor
- 130 proof alcoholic content may be too strong for some
- MSRP: $30.00
- Proof: 92 Proof
- Tasting Notes: Sweet Anise, Mint, Mugwort
- Our Rating: 4 Stars
Absinthe Ordinaire utilizes a blend of unique herbs and botanicals including mugwort, peppermint, sweet anise, star anise, and fennel. The resulting taste is a traditional absinthe with hints of strong herbs that create an overall herbaceous and botanical-forward experience.
This drink can be consumed neat or mixed into cocktails, and it’s a decent budget-friendly option for those looking to enjoy absinthe without a huge budget.
The blend of botanicals used in this absinthe brand isn’t as traditional as other brands, and some individuals may not enjoy the taste of mugwort or mint that lend their undertones to this spirit.
- Unique blend of herbs and botanicals
- Decent budget-friendly option
- Not as traditional as some brands of absinthe
Absente Absinthe Liqueur
- MSRP: $50.00
- Proof: 110 Proof
- Tasting Notes: Star Anise, Mint, Licorice
- Our Rating: 3 Stars
Absente Absinthe is a good entry point for newcomers to the world of absinthe. This spirit features the traditional flavors of star anise, mint, and licorice, and it is a liqueur, which means sugar has been added to sweeten up this spirit.
The aftertaste of the Absente Absinthe may be somewhat bitter depending on if you are drinking it neat or not. It does provide an introduction to absinthe for those curious about absinthe but cautious about too strong of a flavor.
However, due to the added sweetness, this brand might not have complex flavors and be the best choice for experienced drinkers of absinthe who prefer to drink their spirit neat. The added sugar does make it too sweet for some, especially those who like to use the traditional preparation method of absinthe.
- Good for beginners to absinthe
- Taste isn’t overly strong
- Flavors might not be complex enough for experienced absinthe drinkers
- Added sugar makes it too sweet for some
Amazing Anise Absinthe
Absinthe is a controversial drink with an interesting history, though many of the myths and incorrect beliefs about absinthe and its ingredients are being replaced today.
As this anise-flavored spirit becomes more popular, you can keep in mind our recommended brands and the traditional preparation method for enjoying this drink. Don’t be afraid to try new brands or even an absinthe-based cocktail as you branch out and add this distinctive spirit to your favorites.