Category Archives: Absinthe

Review: Pernod Absinthe “Original Recipe”

PERNOD ABSINTHE NEW BOTTLE 2 WHITE BACKGROUND HD 525x700 Review: Pernod Absinthe Original Recipe

It wasn’t long ago that Pernod re-entered the market with an authentic absinthe (i.e. one with wormwood in it). But purists complained: Why would Pernod, whose absinthe cred dates back to 1792 and which was the market leader for over a century, release an absinthe with a wholly new recipe? Does not compute.

Following a minor outcry (absinthe nerds are a loud bunch, they’ll be the first to admit), Pernod recently announced some big news: It is returning to its original formula, having spent the last two years researching remaining records from the 1800s to determine how Pernod was made back then.

According to the company, there are three main differences. First, the base spirit has changed from grain alcohol to a grape-based spirit, or brandy. In fact, Languedoc grapes are used for the brandy in keeping with the original recipe. Second, the grande wormwood in the spirit is sourced from Pontarlier, France, Pernod’s historic home. Finally, the new spirit is colored through macerated green nettles, not added dyes or artificial colors. While the eschewing of colorants is a nice touch, it’s the move to a brandy base that is really the biggest shift here. That adds considerable complexity and cost to the production… but what does it do to the final product?

I just so happened to have a bottle of Pernod from its prior recipe (unopened, circa 2012) as well as a sample of the new “Original Recipe” Pernod. Let’s compare.

Pernod “Original Recipe” is slightly different in color. Slightly closer to a solid green, less yellow/chartreuse. On the nose it’s tougher to pick out differences. The prior recipe seems to offer just a hint of added sweetness — like licorice candy — on the nose, but this is also a slight change. Finally, to the body. I’m happy to report that “Original Recipe” Pernod is a standout absinthe… but I thought the prior recipe version was exceptional, as well. The brandy base likely has made the biggest impact here, giving the spirit a somewhat sour edge at first, but also providing a bigger, more robust body than the sharper and somewhat cleaner prior bottling. Otherwise, the botanicals struck me about the same way. Maybe a touch more lemon verbena in the mix on this new absinthe, but otherwise, a fresh, anise-driven body with clean citrusy, licorice-twisted notes behind it.

So, the bottom line: Is Original Recipe better? I’m truly on the fence. The differences are not great, and Pernod should be credited for putting out a classy bottling in its first stab at a post-ban absinthe. The lack of chemical dyes in the new version is to be commended, but the freshness and slight sweetness of the former version also resonate with me. Call it a tie?

136 proof (same as before).

A / $68 /

Preview: Butterfly Absinthe

butterfly absinthe 2 224x300 Preview: Butterfly AbsintheBased in Switzerland, Alan Moss is the kind of guy who lives and breathes absinthe. He writes about absinthe prodigiously on his blog, and he also makes the stuff (well, his partners do): La Clandestine is easily the best blanche absinthe on the market.

Moss has other tricks up his sleeve, it seems, and recently he dropped by Drinkhacker HQ to show off his latest: Butterfly. This is an absinthe that’s been on sale in Europe for a few years but is now coming to the U.S. As well it should: It’s actually an American-born absinthe, the recipe having originated in Boston, Mass., in 1902. As the story goes, an old bottle of an absinthe called Butterfly was unearthed on eBay — only the buyer ended up pouring it out when she was denied the ability to board a plane with it. The label survived, and the spirit was later recreated with a book was uncovered in Boston’s archives, and the original handwritten recipe (or at least one of the recipes) for Butterfly was found.

The label was recreated — with a few minor tweaks — when the absinthe was formally launched in 2011. Today it is produced in Switzerland alongside La Clandestine.

butterfly absinthe 1 224x300 Preview: Butterfly Absinthe

This is the new U.S. label; European label shown above.

I was fortunate enough to taste the new release, a quite sweet absinthe (which needs no sugar added) that includes some unusual botanicals, namely peppermint and citrus. The color is a beautiful chartreuse and the flavors run to lemon oil, fresh cut ginger, green onion, and of course some licorice candy. It’s a really top-notch product that will hit in the fall of this year for $85 to $90 a bottle. 130 proof. A

Moss also showed off a product which is not coming to the U.S. In fact, it’s only available if you visit the distillery where La Clandestine and Butterfly are made. Absinthe Aux Oeufs (pictured below) is, as the name implies, an eggnog liqueur that’s spiked with absinthe. A bizarre and unlikely spirit, you don’t really detect the absinthe. Instead, this big, eggy, vanilla-and-caramel cream liqueur drinks like a traditional ‘nog… until, after a while, a hint of licorice comes out. It’s super strange, yet surprisingly compelling. Too bad the six month shelf life means it will never be exported. 30 proof.

oeufs 525x702 Preview: Butterfly Absinthe

Review: Obsello II Absinthe Verte

Obsello II 231x300 Review: Obsello II Absinthe VerteWe’ve long since noted Obsello as one of our favorite absinthes on the market. Unfortunately, the American-born, Spanish-made product went off the market a few years ago. But now it’s back, in a slightly revised form.

Obsello II looks almost identical to its original rendition, with a few little twists. For starters, instead of being based on grape neutral spirits, Obsello II starts with Caribbean rum as the base. It is then infused with wormwood, anise, fennel, star anise, coriander, lemon balm, and hyssop flowers (the same recipe) before bottling at 110 proof (instead of 100 proof in the original). It’s also made in the U.S. now (and on sale only in California).

Continue reading

Review: Master of Malt Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Cold-Distilled Absinthe 91.2%

Professor cornelius ampleforth cold distilled absinthe 189x300 Review: Master of Malt Professor Cornelius Ampleforths Cold Distilled Absinthe 91.2%One of Master of Malt’s completely hare-brained sub-brands, Professor Cornelius Ampleforth is the producer of a line of unusual spirits, including this ultra-oddity, an “absinthe” distilled to 182.4 proof.

Not a typo.

Made in the UK from English wheat and traditional absinthe botanicals (grand wormwood, anise, fennel, licorice) and a number of non-traditional ones drawn from the world of gin (coriander, lemon peel, orange peel), this spirit is distilled in a vacuum such that boiling point is at room temperature… and alcohol level is sky high. Continue reading

Looking for the Green Fairy with an Sampler Pack

absinthe kit 300x300 Looking for the Green Fairy with an Sampler PackInterested in absinthe but don’t know where to start? With bottle prices that can top $100 a pop, it’s tough to justify the price for a bottle if you aren’t exactly sure what you’re getting in to.

Germany-based attempts to correct that with its collection of miniatures — 50ml bottles of absinthe available for about $10 a bottle, well within “experimental” range. Continue reading

Review: Ridge Distillery Extrait d’Absinthe Verte

Ridge Absinthe Verte 141x300 Review: Ridge Distillery Extrait dAbsinthe VerteRidge Distillery makes gin and absinthe in the mountains of Montana. This is the flagship, a classic (green) absinthe imbued with grand wormwood, green anise, fennel, coriander, angelica, elecampane, melissa, and roman wormwood — some of which I didn’t have the first idea what they were until I looked them up.

Poured neat into a glass, there’s a distinct lemon note on the nose (that’s the melissa, I think), doing a fair job at battling that anise/licorice character. A sip of unadulterated bottle strength spirit bears this out further. Continue reading

Three New Absinthes from Ted Breaux: Jade CF Berger, Jade 1901, and Jade Esprit Edouard

Absinthe may have been the fastest rising and most rapidly falling fad in booze since Zima (when’s the last time you had a glass?), but let’s not forget our heritage: Absinthe is a spirit of critical import to the history of the (drinking) world, sullied alas by Americans jonesing for modern-day recreations of the stuff after a century of it being banned here. Can’t blame ‘em, but now there’s a flood of absinthe on the market, some good, some not.

Fortunately there are folks like Ted Breaux, who brought Lucid into the U.S. in 2007 as (arguably) the first post-ban absinthe in the U.S, who is now bringing high-end absinthe into the country in the form of three European products released there in 2005. Jade C. F. Berger, Jade 1901, and Jade Esprit Edouard aren’t cheap, but they’re meant to accurately recreate the character of three famed 19th century absinthes that have long been unavailable (but which Breaux has stocks of), right down to the labels. They join Nouvelle Orleans in the company’s “Vintage” line.

Now I’ve never tried the original spirits upon which these are based, so these reviews are based only on their merits (and vs. other modern absinthes). Thoughts follow. (Material in quotes is material provided by Jade’s creators at Viridian Spirits.)

Jade C. F. Berger Absinthe Superieure – “C. F. Berger absinthe verte, originally produced by C. F. Berger in Couvet, Switzerland. Considered one of the premier absinthes of the 19th century, it is in the Swiss style, characterized by a bold bouquet; full-bodied, rounded mouthfeel; and distinct herbal notes that linger on the palate.” The lightest in color of this trio, in the high-test world of absinthe it’s practically easygoing. Light lemon and lime notes, with a solid anise slug backing it up. I wouldn’t describe it as particularly herbal, but rather fruity and simple instead, albeit with a lasting finish. Minimal louche. I actually prefer it with just water, no sugar. 130 proof. B+

Jade 1901 Absinthe Superieure “is a tribute to the best known and most widely sampled pre-ban absinthe, which was originally produced around 1901, but then virtually wiped out when the original distillery in Pontarlier was destroyed by fire. Jade 1901 is a classic absinthe, balanced and crisp, with an appetizing herbal aroma and a smooth, lingering aftertaste.” Very mild. With sugar and water, it’s almost like a pastis, pleasant, refreshing, and easygoing. After awhile, I found the finish turning a touch bitter, like a dried herbal character. Lovely louche. 136 proof. B

Jade Esprit Edouard Absinthe Superieure “is a faithful reproduction of one of the most famous and highly regarded Belle Époque absinthes.  A century after the demise of the original, Breaux examined perfectly preserved examples of the renowned spirit to develop a contemporary recipe that captures the original’s delicate tint, refined texture, and exquisitely smooth flavor.” A chartreuse monster, one sip straight nearly knocked me off the couch. Don’t skimp on the water here, for when it’s prepared correctly this absinthe offers a unique earthiness, echoing the aromas and flavors of the forest. Unique, you’ll find citrus notes, moderately strong floral characteristics, and a lasting, bittersweet finish. Beautiful, iridescent yellow louche. The best of this bunch, and at a blazing 144 proof. A-

each $100 /

Ted Breaux Absinthes Berger Jade 1901 Esprit Edouard Three New Absinthes from Ted Breaux: Jade CF Berger, Jade 1901, and Jade Esprit Edouard

Review: Germain-Robin Absinthe Superieure

My, absinthe, what a long while it’s been!

Germain-Robin’s Absinthe Superieure (via Greenway Distillers) is a blanche (clear) spirit, distilled not up to a blazing 140 or so proof, but down to 90 proof, making it perhaps the least alcoholic absinthe I’ve ever sampled. The spirit is infused with wormwood, rose geranium, lemon balm, fennel, hyssop, lemon verbena, star anise, and lemon peel.

The result is an absinthe that you can practically drink straight, if you’re so inclined: Quite sweet (despite no added sugar), and fragrant with straight-up licorice notes. It burns, but it’s not a killer. Add water and sugar (but not too much of either… less than a full cube and a 2:1 or even 1:1 ratio of water is fine) and this absinthe becomes quite easy-drinking, offering a really lightly sweet, Pastis-like experience, with a lingering licorice finish. I don’t get much in the way of additional character. Maybe a little touch of tart citrus on the mid-body from the lemon ingredients, but otherwise a clean, easy, and really pleasant absinthe. Like Pastis, but with just a bit more kick to it.

A- / $44 /

Germain Robin Absinthe Superieure Review: Germain Robin Absinthe Superieure


Happy Absinthe Day

absinthe poster Happy Absinthe DayYeah, it’s about as made-up a holiday as you can get, but March 5 is Absinthe Day, which means you should be mixing up a little green fairy concoction in honor of the misunderstood spirit.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some of my favorite absinthes on the market:

Obsello – Spanish. Fragrant, silky, and lush. 100 proof.

La Clandestine – Swiss. Blanche style (that is, not green). Lovely lavender tint to it, needs minimal doctoring to be pleasant. 106 proof.

Vieux Carre – American. Light and pleasant. 120 proof.

St. George – American. Peppery and lemon character make this one a little unique. Hot. 120 proof.

Review: Herbsaint Original

There is one known use for Herbsaint, and it’s a big one: In the classic Sazerac cocktail, in which the glass is washed with Herbsaint before rye, sugar, and Peychaud’s bitters are added.

Now Sazerac (the company) is relaunching the venerable spirit with its original 1934 recipe, called Herbsaint Original.

Neither the standard Herbsaint nor Herbsaint Original contain wormwood, so while they both carry a strong anise/licorice flavor, neither is a real absinthe. Nonetheless the liqueur was caught up in anti-absinthe hysteria in the 1930s, and the company was forced to remove the word “absinthe” from its labeling.

I was expecting minimal difference between Herbsaint Original and standard Herbsaint, but boy was I wrong. Poured neat, these are night and day against each other: Herbsaint is electric green and a little scary in its artificial coloring, while Herbsaint Original is a deeper greenish brown (though it too includes artificial coloring). The flavors are different, too: Herbsaint is known for a sharp licorice character and a heavy alcoholic finish, but Original is deeper and richer, still clearly licorice, but less sweet and, surprisingly, less boozy, despite being 100 proof to the standard version’s 90 proof.

One surprise: Herbsaint standard actually performed better in the Sazerac cocktail. While the tastes were similar, Herbsaint Original just weighed things down too much.

Both versions will continue to be sold.

A- / $35 /

herbsaint original Review: Herbsaint Original

Bastille Day Review: Ricard Pastis

Today is Bastille Day, and in honor of the French Revolution, the folks at Pernod-Ricard sent us a bottle of Ricard Pastis (and a pétanque set) to help us celebrate.

Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur — not the same as absinthe (but it’s the closest category we have here) since it has no wormwood, but it tastes and behaves quite similarly. Flavored strongly of licorice, pastis is high in alcohol (Ricard is 90 proof), and is served with lots of cold water, whereupon in creates a cloudy louche effect. Unlike with absinthe, sugar is not added because the pastis has sugar already in the bottle.

The golden-hued Ricard (which is based on beet spirits) is quite alcoholic without water, but its sweetness and anise still come straight through. It louches into an eggnog color with water, and once diluted to something more approachable (the company suggests 5 parts water to 1 part Ricard), it’s really quite tasty and refreshing. It’s on the sweet side for pastis, but not overly so. The anise is well done, the overall effect being more licorice-candy like, with hints of lemongrass and cocoa powder.

Just the thing for celebrating all that French bloodletting.

A- / $26 /

ricard pastis france Bastille Day Review: Ricard Pastis

4th of July Cocktail Recipes – 2009

Every time a holiday rolls around, the spirits makers commission all manner of cocktails from their in-house mixologists and professionals in the field. Independence Day is no exception, and this post full of selected recipes is drawn from what is arguably the biggest bumper crop of cocktail ideas I’ve seen since starting this blog. Hope you like red, white, and blue.

Sapphire American Collins 244x300 4th of July Cocktail Recipes   2009The American Collins

1 1/2 oz. Bombay Sapphire
3/4 oz. simple syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
4 Bing cherries, pitted
8 blueberries

In a Collins glass, muddle the blueberries and cherries in the lemon juice and simple syrup. Add Sapphire and ice and stir briefly. Top with club soda. Garnish: 1 Bing Cherry and 1 Lemon Wheel.


3 oz. Flor de Caña 7 Year Grand Reserve Rum
1 oz. Triple Sec
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup (boil and cool equal parts water and sugar)
4 watermelon chunks
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whirl all ingredients together and pour into a glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Lucid Stars and Stripes 221x300 4th of July Cocktail Recipes   2009Stars and Stripes

1/4 oz. Lucid Absinthe
1 oz. Blueberry Vodka
1/4 oz. Simple Syrup
Splash of Lemon Juice
Drizzle of Raspberry Liqueur
Ginger beer
Fresh Blueberries

Muddle fresh blueberries and add syrup, Lucid, juice and vodka. Add ice and shake and pour into highball glass. Drizzle Liqueur and top with Ginger Beer. Garnish with one sugar cube.

Sobieski Star

1 1/2 oz. Sobieski Vodka
1/2 oz. Massenez Créme de Peche
3/4 oz. Pineapple Juice
1 oz. Lychee Juice
1/4 oz. Lime Juice
Garnish: Star fruit

Put all the ingredients in a shaker, shake and strain into a Martini glass.

Roman Candle 214x300 4th of July Cocktail Recipes   2009The Roman Candle

4 oz. Korbel Brut
1 oz. Tuaca Italian liqueur
Garnish with dried cranberries

Combine in a tall flute.

ZICO Doodle Dandy

2 oz. ZICO Mango
4 oz. Skyy Infusions Vodka all natural passion fruit
1 oz. Cointreau
Splash of cranberry juice
Slice of orange

Mix all ingredients together in a shaker with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh strawberry and enjoy.

summerjulep 214x300 4th of July Cocktail Recipes   2009Old Forester Summer Julep

1 1/2 oz. Old Forester bourbon
2 oz. Lemonade
1 oz. Pomegranate Juice

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Roman Candle

In a tall flute add:

4 ounces Korbel Brut (a sparkler for your Independence Day entertaining)

1 ounce Tuaca Italian liqueur (the Italian heritage lends itself to the cocktail’s name)

Garnish with dried cranberries

Revisiting Absinthe: Seven Bottlings Re-Sampled

absinthe poster Revisiting Absinthe: Seven Bottlings Re SampledAbsinthe is the subject that keeps on keeping on — some of the forum battles over the intricacies of the subject here are legendary — and in honor of Vieux Carré‘s fine showing, I thought it would be personally instructive to revisit some of my most highly rated absinthes — and a few I didn’t like so much at first — in a side-by-side-by-side scenario.

This is an informal review, just a re-sampling of several of the more noteworthy bottles from prior reviews. But I thought it would be fun to see whether my opinions have changed since the early days of the blog, when some of these absinthes were initially reviewed. They appear below in my order of preference (with gut reaction ratings), based solely on this limited sampling.

To clarify: This is not a comprehensive sampling of EVERY absinthe on the market or even every absinthe I have on hand, just a ranking of seven I thought merited a re-taste. Some very good products are not included here.

On to the absinthe, starting with the best.

Obsello – 100 proof, gorgeous milky louche. Relatively subtle flavor; goes down incredibly easy. Interesting additional herbal notes but nothing overwhelming. The comparatively lower alcohol content is noticeable when compared directly to others in the group. Shockingly, also the cheapest real absinthe on the market. A

La Clandestine – 106 proof, clear/louches to a milky white. Sweetest absinthe of the bunch, and very mild. Anise is practically an afterthought, here. Extremely easygoing. A

Pernod – 136 proof, big and muddy green louche. Artificially colored. Huge, bittersweet flavor. Almost like licorice candy. Pleasant but different than lighter style spirits, and by a wide margin the strongest flavor in the group. A-

Koruna – 146 proof, pale color with no louche. Tart character, with clearly citrus overtones. Lighter in style and dominated by alcohol rather than anise/wormwood. I’m still a fan. A-

Kübler – 106 proof, clear/louches to milky white with yellow notes. Heavy lemon notes are love-it-or-leave-it, I think they clash with the anise here — which may be why this didn’t strike me as especially good on first review. I’d dismissed it as a bit boring originally, but it’s indeed unique when you put it side by side with the others. Still, though, not a favorite. B

Lucid – 124 proof, pale color with light yellow louche. Weirdly bitter and not altogether pleasant on first taste. Grows on you over time, but there’s much better stuff out there. C+

Le Tourment Vert - 100 proof, blue-green with (contrary to popular opinion) a slight louche. Artificially colored. Amazing how wrong I was, and I humbly have to give credit to the commenters on this one who told me I was nuts. (I plead youth: It was the first absinthe I formally reviewed, back in the day.) Really strong chemical flavor and psychedelic coloration combine in negative ways for me now. It’s got a huge mint character, which is probably why, in combo with the coloration, people make comparisons to mouthwash. I’d give this a much lower rating today, though it has some charms. C

Interesting that the lighter-flavored absinthes tended to do better in my ranking, with the exception of Pernod, whose strongness surprised me just as much as the backlash against it has. And in case you’re looking for more “top” absinthes out there, in addition to the top 3 on this roundup, add Vieux Carré, Nouvelle Orleans, and St. George to the list of “absinthe bests.”

Review: Vieux Carré Absinthe

It is fortunately far easier to drink Vieux Carré Absinthe than it is to type Vieux Carré Absinthe.

This absinthe is produced by Philadelphia Distilling (which also created the fine Bluecoat Gin) and is composed, as the bottle tells us, of “grain neutral spirits distilled with herbs with additional herbs added.” No mention of artificial color, and in the glass it indeed looks authentic, a deep yellow tinged with green.

At bottle strength (120 proof) it is extremely boozy but offers surprising depth of bittersweet anise character. When prepared traditionally, it creates a medium to strong louche, with a curious, thin foam-like film on top. Not at all unpleasant, but noteworthy and unusual.

The prepared absinthe is extremely easy-drinking and very pleasant, a licorice kick with gentle sweetness and a bittersweet finish. Difficult to pick out specific herbs that might be used in addition to classic wormwood, anise, and fennel, but there’s a faint muscular flavor to it — almost like hints of chimichurri sauce, which I happen to love.

As for the name, it’s drawn from the French phrase for the French Quarter in New Orleans. The bottle is also of note, a thick, heavy, and beautiful decanter that, when full, is completely illegible since it’s covered in an opaque, lacy green design, making the spirit inside look far darker than it actually is while wholly obscuring the label (the bottle shot below must have been lit with a hundred halogen lights). Luckily, you won’t need to read this one closely: You’ll know it when you see it. As absinthes go, it’s an excellent value too, by the way.

A- / $60 / (website is currently buggy)

vieux carre absinthe Review: Vieux Carré Absinthe

New York Times Rates Absinthe

Ever so quick to jump on the absinthe bandwagon, the New York Times has finally weighed in on the absinthe phenomenon, and has even gone so far as to rank its favorite absinthes, as determined by a tasting panel which went through 20 bottlings. (I shudder to think of the aftermath of that event.) Their results:

1. Kubler
2. Grande
3. Pernod
4. Emile Pernot
5. St. George
6. Jade Nouvelle-Orleans
7. Obsello
8. La Clandestine
9. Lucid
10. Mansinthe

I haven’t tried a few of these products but overall the rankings are fairly agreeable. I think Kubler is overrated here, and Obsello deserves a higher spot, but otherwise (not including the three I haven’t tried), this seems like a pretty fair list.

I’m sure many will find plenty of room for disagreement in the comments…

This Can Only End Badly…

Virgin America will be offering Le Tourment Vert absinthe for sale and consumption at 30,000 feet, starting in May.

Via Boing Boing:

Incidentally, Virgin America (which today started service to/from Orange County) is also expanding the number of craft in its fleet that offer in-flight WiFi. Absinthe + internet + idle time? Can’t wait to read the mile-high tweets that result.

Personally, I can’t wait for the airborne grousing from the absinthe nerd crew that Le Tourment Vert isn’t “real absinthe.”

Review: Djabel and Green Fairy Absinthe

Admiral Imports, which is bringing the incredibly controversial (based on the comments on this review, at least) Koruna Absinthe to the U.S. market, isn’t just quitting with one. It’s also bringing these two absinthes — Djabel and Green Fairy, both also from the Czech Republic — to the States.

green fairy absinthe 150x300 Review: Djabel and Green Fairy AbsintheI’m lumping these two reviews together because Djabel (Czech for “devil” — also note some sources spell this product as “Djable”) and Green Fairy are pretty obviously close siblings. They use the same bottle. The labels are strikingly similar in design. The color is nearly the same — Djabel is a tiny bit darker — and both rely heavily on artificial coloration. The only obvious difference to the outside observer is the alcohol content: Green Fairy is 120 proof, while Djabel is a racier 140 proof. (Djabel is, somewhat expectedly, also $5 more expensive per bottle.)

And how do they taste? Without water, they both come across like unadulterated firewater — though Djabel is far stronger than Green Fairy thanks to that 10 percent bonus alcohol kick.

Add sugar and water and, like Koruna, neither louches at all, leaving you with a Scope-looking concoction that you can see straight through. The Djabel is again a little darker in hue, but otherwise they’re impossible to distinguish from one another.

The flavor? Very light and mild, minimally sweet (though saccharine in character), and barely flavored with licorice. Djabel has a slightly more herbal character — think cloves and allspice — but it lends an astringency to the drink where Green Fairy comes across as sweeter. Again, in the case of both absinthes (and I’ll let the absinthe geeks bicker in the comments over whether either spirit is truly absinthe at all), they’re very mild and mostly harmless experiences. And that’s really the problem: They’re drinkable, but just not very interesting. Whether you prefer a deeply anise-flavored absinthe or a more approachable, sweeter version, either way you’re going to be disappointed with these two spirits. Provocative labels aside, you can think of them both as the lite beers of the absinthe world.

Green Fairy: C / $59
Djabel: C- / $64

djabel absinthe Review: Djabel and Green Fairy Absinthe

Review: Koruna Absinthe

I pity the bartender that sells both Koruna and Corona, but after a glass or two of this top-notch absinthe, I expect the drinker won’t have much of a problem making his requests known.

Koruna, a “bohemian absinth” — using the alternate spelling — from the Czech Republic, makes its intentions well-known from the label, which bears a fierce gargoyle and a 146-proof notice staring out at you. Immediately you’ll notice two things about Koruna: It’s very pale in color, a light greenish-yellow, lighter even than yellow Chartreuse, and it has a good layer of solid sediment at the bottom of the bottle. That sediment is some of the wormwood and herbs used in the preparation of the spirit, and while it doesn’t likely do much for the flavor, it really gives this absinthe a unique look. It’s a gimmick, for sure, but as gimmicks go (and these days, every new spirit has one) it’s not a bad one.

Koruna (the name comes from the term for Czech currency) is made with all-natural ingredients and no artificial colors. The spirit base is distilled, surprisingly, from molasses — which I guess technically makes this a sort of flavored rum.

Sure enough, Koruna is rum-sweet (and quite pleasant), both straight (only try that once, seriously) and in the traditional preparation with sugar and cold water. The herbal character here is very sedate compared to most absinthes, with a comparably mild licorice note, backed by some slightly bitter orange peel character. For something with herbs in the bottle and 73% alcohol, the easygoing nature came as a bit of a surprise.

One other note: It’s not a blanche absinthe (and though it’s light, it’s not totally transparent) either. In fact, in one way it doesn’t behave like absinthe at all: Koruna does not louche, and with water added it looks a lot like a glass of sauvignon blanc. (I believe this is because of the way the herbs are utilized in large pieces instead of being mashed during the production process, so particles do not suspend in the liquid after water is added.) Whether that detracts from the absinthe “experience” is a question better left to the individual, but I found it a little surprising and disconcerting. Either way, considering the alcohol content and smoothness of this absinthe, tread with caution.

A- / $79 /

koruna absinthe Review: Koruna Absinthe

Review: La Clandestine Absinthe

Part of the rare but growing segment of “blanche” (aka “la Bleue”) absinthe, La Clandestine is a Swiss absinthe with a recipe that dates back to 1935. The main difference: Blanches are clear, without the traditional yellow/green tint that has earned absinthe its noteriety and its famed “green fairy.” (The reasoning dates back to absinthe’s illegality: The clear color could fool the authorities into thinking you’ve got something else in the bottle… the aroma, however, is a dead giveaway.)

Coloring aside, by and large, blanche absinthes smell and taste much like the standard variety. La Clandestine is an absinthe much in line with what appears to be a trend — sweeter, less bitter products that are more accessible to a wider audience entranced with the absinthe mystique. That’s not a bad thing: Many absinthes have a harsh bitter aftertase that makes them difficult to drink without copious amounts of sugar and water. La Clandestine needs only minimal doctoring; the company itself even suggests it can be consumed without sugar, and sure enough, though it’s 106 proof (actually on the light side for absinthe), it’s even sippable straight… though that’s definitely not my recommendation.

With its clear anise notes and heady aroma of fennel and sugary sweets, this is a very drinkable and easygoing absinthe. But what I actually like the most is the interesting and unique lavender color of the louche. La Clandestine is an absinthe you can stare it for hours, getting lost in its milky swirls while you get quietly drunk off your ass.

A- / $80 /

la clandestine absinthe Review: La Clandestine Absinthe

Review: Nouvelle Orleans Absinthe

nouvelle orleans absinthe Review: Nouvelle Orleans Absinthe

The folks that make the widely available Lucid are expanding their line of absinthes with two new bottlings. At the top of the line is Nouvelle Orleans,a 136-proof traditional absinthe with a yellow-green color straight from the bottle.

Fragrant but not overpowering, uncut Nouvelle Orleans offers light, sweetish notes but is far too blazingly alcoholic for actual consumption without being cut.

With sugar and water you get a nice, milky-white louche, flavored strongly with licorice — more like the candy than the raw anise and fennel herb flavors you get with many absinthes. It’s very drinkable but quite sweet: Traditionalists may wish to use less sugar in the blend than the usual full cube. If that’s too difficult, just try using more absinthe and more water. Share with a friend.

This absinthe contains no artificial colors and is made with whole herbs instead of extracts or oils. While it lacks much in the way of complexity — and carries a stratospheric price tag that makes it the most expensive commonly available absinthe on the market — it’s definitely one of the tops in the current field.

A- / $110 /