Absinthe Etiquette

There are few spirits more widely misunderstood – and unjustly maligned – as absinthe. Since rising to popularity in 19th century France, where it was initially used as a malaria treatment, the Green Fairy has been vilified as a hallucinogen, and, in the U.S. and much of Europe, banned outright.

Canada has never outlawed the drink, but it was hard to find until its recent resurgence, as most Western nations (U.S. included) have repealed their bans. (Evidence that thujone, a minor ingredient, gives absinthe any psychotropic properties has never been conclusive.) Now, boozehounds are discovering the potent herb-based drink, which tastes like black licorice thanks to the anise present, and which can contain from 45 to 69 percent alcohol. But absinthe is not something to be chugged from the bottle; there’s etiquette involved, and though some revivalists insist on a very fun technique, which involves lighting a sugar cube on fire, today we present the original, flame-free methodology.

1. Pour one shot (1.5 ounces) of absinthe in a regular glass (or a special absinthe glass, complete with “dose line.”)

2. Place a slotted spoon (preferably absinthe-specific, like these,) on top of the glass, and rest a sugar cube on the spoon.

3. Pour three to five shots of ice water, depending on your taste, very slowly on the sugar cube so it dissolves.

4. Once the sugar has totally dissolved, give the glass a quick stir. Although absinthe is greenish clear in its bottle, when mixed with the water it takes on a cloudy, milky form (the louche).

5. Sip. Repeat.

Photo courtesy of Dave Gough.

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