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Jun 23, 2012 06:16 PM

Absinthe strickly for mixing

What absinthe do you use for cocktails? I'm having a hard time finding it here in Tokyo and want to pick up a bottle in the US next month. The thing is, I don't love the flavor so I will not be drinking this straight. I will only be using it in cocktails. So I don't want to over-spend on something that won't get a lot of use. At the same time I don't want to spoil nice ingredients with crappy absinthe. So, does anyone have a happy medium they like to keep around for cocktail making purposes?


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  1. From what I've seen, pretty much all absinthe is in the $60 range for a 750ml- you can of course get half bottles and minis for less. I see a couple bottles in the $40 range online but reviews mention the mild flavor and the lack of traditional liquorice flavor, so probably not the best option. I know that Lucid comes in a half bottle; others might as well- if you're only using in cocktails, a half bottle will last you a long time.

    I only found one thread here on the subject, and it's pretty old- I'm sure some new products have appeared since- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572436. I've heard good things about Kubler and St George, which are pretty widely available around here. Since I've only tried two absinthes myself- Grande and Le Tourment Vert (because they were the only ones available in a mini, and turns out they both have pretty bad reviews online) I can't give recommendations. Other people on this board can speak better to this, but would pastis be a better option since you don't plan on drinking it straight?

    1 Reply
    1. re: tinnywatty

      Ouch! $60 + was what I kept seeing on the few I saw last week when we were in HI. I was hoping it was just the high price of things shipped to Hawaii. I hadn't seen half bottles. That would definitely be the way to go for me.

      I read quite a lot on the Wormwood Society site (which of course is WAY overkill for what I'm looking for, but a good absinthe education for sure). They seem to really like the St. George. I'll look for a half bottle - thanks for the suggestion.

    2. You might try the Herbsaint 100 proof original recipe if you can find it - normal price is in the $35-40 range (I got two bottles on closeout in PA for $21 each at which price I consider it a steal).

      I'm not a connoisseur of absinthe by any means but I like the Herbsaint a lot better than the cheap ones I have tried. I wouldn't settle for the lower proof Herbsaint though, it has very little in common with the 100 proof version and is not supposed to be nearly as good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ncyankee101

        Many thanks for the Herbsaint 100 suggestion. Sadly I'm heading to PA in 2 weeks and I can see that I won't be finding it there since you got it on closeout. I'll also be in CT and NY at different points though and I'll search it out. Thanks!

      2. Absinthe is not for drinking straight ever, the high proof will just burn. Mix with a bit of sugar and the best cool water obtainable. Ice not necessary. To me, that IS a cocktail. If you need to minimize the absinthe experience completely, then make a Sazerac. Ricard is a pastis,which is confusingly absinthe, or close to it. Prado is another. Bardouin is excellent. Pastis is the way to go. Low end absinthe is often with food coloring, so is Pernod. I hate food coloring. These are all 35. or less, down to 26. Pastis is a better value and I do not believe that it would in any way compromise the quality of your cocktails, because the flavor is so dominant to begin with that only tiny amounts would be required. Absinthe and pastis are different only to an utter purist.

        13 Replies
        1. re: pivulis

          I should have been more specific: I know about the water, sugar, etc. I meant I'd never drink it that way. I just don't like anise-y things enough to drink it the traditional way. I'm talking about needing absinthe for exactly the situation you mention, Sazeracs, etc. where it is just a small component of the drink.

          So, for a cocktail with an absinthe rinse, for instance, is Pastis interchangeable with absinthe (or at least close) or does one really notice a difference in a Sazerac, for example?

          1. re: tokyopix

            Before absinthe was legal, all rinses were done with pastis or Herbsaint.

            Absinthe has a higher proof, no sugar, and it has wormwood.

            Most pastis and Herbsaint is 80 proof, with sugar, and no wormwood. There are some higher proof nonabsinthe spirits, but none are in the 120+ proof absinthe range. There are also some that are unsweetened as well.

            If the recipe calls for a rinse or a 1/4 oz or less, it probably won't matter. If the recipe calls for a 1/2 oz or more of absinthe, changing to pastis will begin to noticeably effect the proof (heat of the drink) and the sugar content (balance). Also in small amounts, the wormwood notes would be pretty much indetectable and the anise/licorice/star anise ones will predominate.

            I would not agree with the statement 2 posts up that "Absinthe and pastis are different only to an utter purist." unless you are talking small amounts. Most pastis are liqueurs so it would be akin to saying "Scotch and Drambuie are different only to an utter purist."


            1. re: yarm

              "Scotch and Drambuie are different only to an utter purist."

              The difference is that half the graves in Scotland would need tamping down again, whereas with absinthe, they would be fine.

              1. re: yarm

                To me, the word 'liqueur' connotes a syrupy quality, anisette, benedictine, drambuie all possess. Scotch is a huge palette of flavors and I do not even consider drambuie related. Pastis is the poor man's absinthe. Absinthe is the long lost cousin of pastis. Pastis is not syrupy so I never classify it as a liqueur. There is some sugar. I add sugar to all pastis, I prefer sweet, but I also add water, even to fresh orange juice. Pastis may have a slight, variable amount of sugar relative to absinthe, but remember an absinthe drip requires sugar anyways. We are on this track because I prefer pastis or absinthe with sugar and water, and the first writer was asking about cocktails. So I am not really answering the cocktail question. I just was worried that they saw absinthe a straight 'shot' kind of drink, which is a common attitude in the U.S. It is a debate about sugar. Pastis and absinthe should be shelved together. Scotch and drambuie together in a store, never. The graves in France cry out for more pastis.

              2. re: tokyopix

                Any port in a storm. What I mean is, the anise taste is so strong even in small amounts as to make it hard to differentiate among pastis and absinthe unless in a side by side comparison. In a cocktail up against the onslaught of rye and bitters I feel the difference would be difficult to specify. Many absinthe formulas include fd and c blue and yellow food coloring, absente and herbsaint and absinthe ordinaire(25 dollars makes it tempting ), among them. The venerable Pernod Pastis (35dollars) does this as well. This bothers me as it somewhat clouds the issue, to me a good color free pastis is preferabLe to green tinted absinthe of comparable price. You can see that I am operating with a paradigm placing great importance on value. So I am not a purist. But when Kubler was 30.dollars I bought out the stock. There is an absinthe museum in Antibes, I guess I will have to go there on a research trip now to properly answer this question. At least 50 varieties on sale in the gift shop upstairs. Pastis varies in sugar content. With Ricard I add sugar.Prado on the sweet side. Ordinaire I recall as sweeter. Bardouin in between. None have the syrupy quality associated with liqueurs as a class. Anisette is syrup. Ouzo, arrack hangover material. Absinthe and pastis are cleaner. Pastis is generally eau de vie with extracts added, so it is a poor mans substitute, but it is my favorite because everyone has it. In France that is. Drambuie is a liqueur having no relation to scotch. Pastis is a poor relation of its long lost cousin absinthe.

              3. re: pivulis

                Do you recommend Bardouin specifically for a pastis? Is it one of the ones that yarm mentioned that are unsweetened and therefore closer to real absinthe?

                1. re: tinnywatty

                  I recommend it, I add sugar to it. It might even already have sugar, but I am unable to detect it and, in full disclosure, am also a sugar fiend. I do not regard it as sweet. Restaurant water is not sweet, and often benefits from a few packets mixed in surreptitiously.

                  1. re: tinnywatty

                    I definitely recommend Bardouin over Ricard/51/Pernod and the like. Granier is solid too. Bardouin is definitely sweetened, but not as sweet as the others. I've never heard of adding sugar to pastis but to each his own. Bardouin has a bit more complexity than the big names and less of a liquorice candy simple flavor. I also recently found it at Martignetti's in the Boston area for $22 a bottle, compared to over $30 for Ricard/Pernod, so it's worth checking out. If I remember correctly there is only one Pastis brand that is unsweetened but its name escapes me and it's difficult to find. I use Bardouin for Sazeracs and I think it works fine considering how little Absinthe/Pastis is used in the drink.

                    Also, fun fact, Pernod is the only pastis not made from neutral spirits so it's not "technically" a pastis. I believe it's made from grape eaux-de-vie.

                      1. re: Klunco

                        Great, thanks for the info! You saved me from grabbing Ricard or Pernod thinking they were the main labels. Bardouin is $30 here and Granier is $20- would you say Bardouin is worth the extra $$? Like the OP I'd probably be using it mostly for sazeracs and the like although I do like absinthe unmixed now and then.

                        1. re: tinnywatty

                          I would just get the Granier. The differences are going to be subtle. If you find yourself drinking a lot of pastis (which you should, especially in the summer!) Then maybe pick up Bardouin next time to compare and see which you prefer. Good luck!

                        2. re: Klunco

                          On the matter of neutral spirits, Klunco, Granier uses alcohol made from sugar beets, does that place it as an outlier as well?

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                      1. If you do decide to go with an actual absinthe, a couple others to consider are Vieux Carre and Obsello. They might be a little harder to find, but they are on the less expensive side (~$55 for the VC and ~$45 for the Obsello), and out of the few absinthes I have tried I like Vieux Carre the best. Obsello is lower proof (100) and milder, but still has gotten mostly favorable reviews (I haven't tried it personally).

                        I bought a bottle of the Vieux Carre and have only used it for cocktails so the bottle is still 95% full, but it has worked well for me. I can't compare it to a pastis as I haven't tried any pastis, but for me having the real thing seemed worth the extra money.