Mata Hari absinthe is an Austrian spirit, distilled (per the bottle) from the original Belle Epoque recipe from 1881. Of course, the actual Mata Hari would have been just 5 years old at the time the recipe was created, so we’ll assume the recipe came first, the name came later.
Made with Grand Wormwood and Salvia, Mata Hari is considerably less intense than many of its counterparts. The anise flavor is — intentionally — played down in this absinthe, so if you’re looking for something more herbal, less licorice, this is a good one to try.
At 120 proof, it’s heavily alcoholic among its counterparts, and with sugar and water it louches only moderately, still somewhat transparent lightly bluish-green rather than completely cloudy. The nose is moderately full of anise, but there’s virtually no licorice on the palate. The sugar in the preparation is up front, followed quickly by the flavor of dried herbs in a kind of chalky texture. The finish is surprisingly bitter and lasts moderately long, perhaps more bitter than any other modern absinthe I’ve tried to date. After finishing a glass I was extremely glad to be drinking it as a digestif, after dinner. It’s much too bitter to work early in the evening. Maybe adding a second sugar cube would help if you demand your absinthe to be sweet, but even with the bitterness is still pretty easy-drinking.
Mata Hari and others have suggested using the absinthe as a traditional mixer, with suggestions for blending it with everything from Champagne to Coke. I haven’t tried any such concoctions yet, but it’s certainly on my to-do list.
B+ / $55