Absinthe can still be something of a mystery to Americans. After decades of finding itself on the wrong side of a misguided prohibition, the spirit finally returned to US shores and liquor stores in the 21st Century.
Since it's return, there has been a lot of curiosity by the drinking public about what this once-taboo liquor really is. Does it really make you hallucinate? Will it make me go crazy if I drink it? Do you set it on fire to drink it? (The answer to all of these questions is no, by the way.)
Of course the biggest question is, “What does it taste like?” The vast majority of absinthe tastes a lot like black licorice. It has a strong anise flavor with a touch of sweetness and a great deal of oomph (most absinthe is pretty high proof stuff). While the curiosity may take a hold of everyone, the taste of absinthe doesn't necessarily grip them quite as readily.
This black licorice flavor and high alcohol content can frighten many a drinker away from the famed favorite spirit of artists and bohemians from the 19th Century. It is the job of the bartender to create drinks that highlight and expose the good and approachable parts of the spirit, while somewhat masking the less favorable elements. The best way to do that is often through a great, well-balanced cocktail.
The Fifth Stage
1 oz Pernod Absinthe
1 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice
2 tsp Housemade Orgeat
2 slices of cucumber
Shake all with ice and double-strain over ice into a Double Old Fashioned Glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice.
320 Main's head bartender, Dave Castillo may have found that perfect balance for introducing people to absinthe. In his Fifth Stage cocktail, Dave brings together the anise flavor of the absinthe and subdues it with tart lime and sweet pineapple. The drink is rounded out with the depth of the housemade orgeat and accented perfectly with the cucumber slices that are pulverized in the tin with the drink.
You'll be hard-pressed to find a better drink to relax with under the hot sun – or the dim lights of the bar at night.
Matt “RumDood” Robold is a bartender at 320 Main and, in his spare runs RumDood.com, where he writes about rum, rum cocktails, and rum history.