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Oct 17, 2009 10:00 PM

Absinthe / Herbsainte component of a Sazerac

I've been toying around with making Sazeracs lately and am curious for people's input on variations. I've tried a variety of Rye, with baby (6yr) Sazerac, Old Overholt, and Russel's Reserve being my favorites so far, and have been sticking with Peychaud's bitters, and I'm curious for comments about the Absinthe rinse component of the drink.

I've used what I've got in the cabinet, Kubler Swiss Absinthe and Henri Bardouin Pastis. I actually like the Pastis a lot, even a rinse imparts a strong licorice / fennel component I enjoy, but it's a bit outside traditional I think. The Kubler somehow seemed wrong. Not sure what to say about why. It wasn't terrible, just didn't work great for me. I think I need to buy some new bottles for this but I'm curious for people's feedback on what works best. Herbsainte has NOLA tradition going for it, and then there is Absinthe, but which one besides the Kubler? And I'd really like to buy a bottle of Chartreuse for some other drinks, what would that be like here? Green or Yellow? Some recipes say Pernod works fine, what say you?

Also, as a side note, I've been skipping the sugar cube / bitters trick and just using a dash of simple syrup, it seems to work fine, but am I missing something important?


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  1. I would imagine that using anything expensive would be kind of a waste, no?

    2 Replies
    1. re: will47

      They are all expensive! But you only give the glass a rinse, you use maybe a Tablespoon to make a Sazerac, so if that's all you make with it, the cost per drink is very low and the bottle lasts a long time.

      So, generally, no, it's not a waste here to use something expensive. But my priority is to use something GOOD!

      1. re: andytee

        Herbsaint is pretty cheap, no? (re: "They are all expensive").

    2. If you want Absinthe, there are a zillion here in Paris going up to, whew, 72%, at 40€/600ml bottle. For Chartreuse, the verde is stronger by about 10% and has far more herbs than the jaune. What you want to get regardless of the color is the VEP, comes in 50cl and 1L bottles sold in wood boxes. It is aged about 10 years in cask and is smooth while the regular is very harsh. Costs here in Paris about 100 € for the liter. Have seen and bought in the US. It is my favorite after dinner drink and have converted many people to it. Hope this helps.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        Yes, but in a Sazerac? I'd love to try the VEP (never had it) but wonder if it's the way to go in this application?

      2. I wouldn't say that HB is outside traditional. Pastis is essentially absinthe with no wormwood and a lower alcohol content (although some is also sweetened like Pernod), and there's plenty of variation within absinthes alone.

        Herbsaint is affordable although not widely available. One thing to look out for in the near future is the re-release of their absinthe, Legendre Herbsaint Absinthe, which I got to taste at Tales of the Cocktail this past July. The Legendre would be the most authentic.

        Chartreuse doesn't have any place in a traditional Sazerac. Variations, sure. But traditional, no. Neither the yellow nor the green is anything like absinthe or pastis in style. And yes, they are both well worth buying for other applications.

        And one thing you didn't mention except an allusion in the 'sugar cube/bitters trick' is the Peychaud's bitters. And lemon twist is key for the nose of the drink. Purists would say to discard after expressing the oils, but I have had Sazeracs in NOLA where they dropped it in.

        3 Replies
        1. re: yarm

          Check on Peychaud's and Lemon. Been leaving the twist in lately b/c I've been using up older lemons and they are a little dry - less oil to express.

          Sou you think a bottle of Herbsaint is the way to go here, while I wait for the release of their Absinthe? Any other relatively available absinthe you would suggest? What about Pernod? Too sweet? Glad you don't feel the Bardouin Pastis is too far off, it tastes different to me but I like it.

          I'd also be curious if you have any opinion on simple syrup vs.s sugarcube.


          1. re: andytee

            I prefer the sugar cube since I'm making one or two at a time. I don't begrudge bars for using simple to save time. I do begrudge bars that use an ounce of simple to make the drink more palatable to the masses (seen it here in Boston as well as a Sazerac I had in NOLA). A sugar cube is about a 1/4 oz of simple (1:1) syrup.

            For all other opinions, I'll defer you to Chuck Taggart's (lived in NOLA for quite a while) article. He cites Stanley Clisby Arthur amongst other sources:

            Here's something I wrote up which includes the Sazerac company's concept of the proper cocktail:

            1. re: yarm

              Thanks, great links, and yeah, a light hand with the simple syrup is key - 1oz seems sick. I don't measure but would be surprised if I make the 1/4 oz mark. The is a rich simple syrup, demerra sugar - glad to see the Taggart article recommending syrup too.

        2. I like real Absinthe and have had good results using both Lucid and Obsello. The more botanical Absinthes (St. George for example) are a bit too strong and can clash with the rye.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sku

            Any comment on using Kubler? It's what I've got, so far I've preferred the pastis, but like the idea of "real" absinthe. The Taggart article Yarm linked to (goor read for everyone to check out) seemes pro-Kubler, but it's not totally clear since he mostly seemed to be making the point that Absinthe was available.

            1. re: andytee

              Kubler will work well. I do agree with Sku that St. George can dominate any drink it's in and the volumes need to be decreased (with the symbol on the label, I always say "with even more cowbell!").

              Obsello is a good example of a less standard absinthe. I like the flavor a lot but it has different botanicals than Pernod Fils or Kubler (also a nice chocolate note).

          2. Herbsainte was used in the U.S. as a Absinthe replacement while true Absinthe was illegal. I use a recipe for Absinthe Bitters made with equal parts Absinthe and Green Chartreuse, then add a few drops each of Fee Bros Mint, Angostura and Peychaud's bitters. This recipe keeps indefinitely in a bottle to be dashed into your glass. I like to leave a few teaspoons in the glass I'm serving the cocktail in.

            Regarding the sugar cube, I like brown. Grinding this to a paste with some nice bitters incorporates the ingredients in a way I don't believe can be achieved using simple syrup. Stir a good quality rye whiskey with ice in the glass that your bitters and sugar are in, about 40-50 revolutions, strain into your Absinthe Bitters washed, chilled glass, twist a piece of fresh lemon peel over the top, drop it in, and enjoy!

            2 Replies
            1. re: BeautifulVesper

              Has anyone tried the new Herbsaint Original?

              1. re: will47

                Yes, it's quite good. More herbal notes than most absinthes. Far superior to the previously available Herbsaint, which used extracts.