Estimated reading time: 19 minutes

Home » Absinthe


absinthe in a glass
absinthe in a clear glass has a sophisticated appearance

Absinthe is a spirit that’s often shrouded in misconception and controversy. Its origins can be traced back to Switzerland in the late 18th century. It gained popularity through its association with renowned literary and artistic personalities. However, a combination of prohibitionist attitudes and flawed science led to its ban in much of Europe and the US for a significant part of the 20th century.

The craft cocktail resurgence in the 2000s breathed new life into many once-forgotten spirits. Absinthe was legalized in the US again in 2007, leading to a competitive market teeming with new and historic brands. Although absinthe boasts a storied past, it remains somewhat mysterious to the average person. This stunning spirit, however, is well-deserving of recognition. Enjoying absinthe properly is a distinctive experience in its own right.

High-proof spirit

Absinthe is a potent spirit at its heart, enriched with herbs, spices, and an array of botanicals, which bestow upon it its characteristic licorice taste and emerald hue. The essential ingredients of traditional absinthes include grand wormwood, green anise, and Florence fennel. The spirit is customarily produced by soaking these herbs in a neutral eau-de-vie, which is then re-distilled to eliminate most bitter tastes. The spirit undergoes another round of herb steeping to achieve its iconic green color.

Contrary to widespread belief, absinthe contains no hallucinogenic compounds that induce psychedelic effects or madness. It does contain trace amounts of a compound known as thujone, which was once thought to have effects similar to THC, but it has since been proven to have virtually no psychoactive properties.

French Method

Place a spoon over the glass to prepare the absinthe and set a sugar cube on the spoon. Gradually pour ice water over the sugar cube. This process dilutes the spirit and adds a touch of sweetness. Moreover, it induces the cloudy ouzo effect, or louche, which enables the drink’s more nuanced flavors and aromas to shine.

An alternative popular absinthe-based beverage is the Absinthe Frappé. This refreshing concoction is similar to a traditional louche in ingredient composition but is simpler to prepare and yields a smoother, more refreshing drink. The Absinthe Frappé is ideal for those seeking to enjoy the unique flavors of Absinthe but with a gentler taste. Blend the absinthe with simple syrup, soda water, and ice. Shake the mixture thoroughly, strain it over ice, and serve.

Absinthe Louche

The absinthe louches, also called the ouzo effect, is an intriguing chemical transformation that transpires when water is added to absinthe. It denotes the milky clouding effect that shifts the liquid from a clear green to an opaque white. This process creates an aesthetic spectacle and amplifies the spirit’s flavors and aromas.

An essential oil, trans-anethole in anise and fennel, triggers the louche effect. When this oil dissolves in alcohol, it forms minute droplets. The addition of water prompts these droplets to expand and cluster, resulting in a signature cloudy appearance. The intensity and pace of the louche effect can differ based on the absinthe quality and the water volume introduced.

Preparation Technique

To aptly prepare an absinthe louche, absinthe is decanted into a glass, and an absinthe spoon is rested on the glass’s rim. A sugar cube is then positioned on the spoon, and ice water is gradually dripped onto the sugar cube, which then seeps into the absinthe. The louche effect commences as the water is incorporated, transforming the absinthe into a milky white hue.

The louche doesn’t merely contribute to the visual allure of the drink but also enhances the overall flavor journey. As the water is incorporated and the louche effect ensues, the absinthe’s flavors and aromas are liberated, crafting a more intricate and layered taste. The louche also tempers the high alcohol content of the absinthe, rendering it more palatable and enjoyable.

In conclusion, the absinthe louche is vital to the absinthe experience. It doesn’t just elevate the aesthetic appeal of the drink but also plays an integral role in unveiling the complex and unique flavors of the spirit. For absinthe enthusiasts, investing time to execute and appreciate the louche properly can enrich the overall pleasure of the experience.

How is absinthe served?

Absinthe is a unique spirit with a fascinating history and a distinctive flavor profile. The proper preparation and serving of it is an important part of the overall experience, and several different methods can be used depending on personal preference.

French method

The French method is the most prevalent way of serving absinthe, necessitating an absinthe spoon, a sugar cube, and ice water. First, one or two ounces of absinthe are poured into a glass. An absinthe spoon is then positioned over the glass, with a sugar cube resting. Gradually, ice water is dripped onto the sugar cube, which trickles into the absinthe, creating the drink’s iconic “louche” or milky appearance. This louche effect enhances the drink’s overall flavor while the water dilutes the absinthe’s high alcohol content, rendering it more palatable.

absinthe on black backdrop
absinthe on black backdrop highlights the green color

Czech or Bohemian method

Another widely used method of serving absinthe is the Czech or Bohemian method. This technique involves utilizing a special slotted spoon and setting it alight before introducing water. While this approach can offer visual appeal, it’s not the conventional method of serving absinthe and could modify the drink’s flavor profile.

Some individuals consume it neat or straight, without adding water or sugar. This practice is a more traditional way of imbibing absinthe, enabling the drinker to appreciate the spirit’s unique flavor profile thoroughly.

Beyond the traditional serving methods, there are also various contemporary and innovative ways to savor absinthe. For instance, the Absinthe Frappé is a refreshing, simple-to-prepare cocktail that blends absinthe, simple syrup, and crushed ice. Other cocktails featuring absinthe include the Sazerac and the Corpse Reviver No. 2.

In conclusion, there are multiple ways to serve and delight in absinthe, and the correct preparation and presentation of the spirit play a significant role in the overall experience. Whether you favor the traditional French method or a modern cocktail, the distinct flavor profile of absinthe is certain to create a memorable impression.

Absinthe Maine

Absinthe Maine is a distinctive and rare variety of absinthe, originating from the state of Maine in the United States. Recognized for its superior quality and unique flavor spectrum, it has rapidly gained favor with absinthe aficionados.

A key characteristic of Absinthe Maine is its production using traditional distillation techniques and premium ingredients. The distillers employ a mix of herbs, including wormwood, anise, and fennel, to fashion a layered and nuanced flavor profile that is both unique and unforgettable. This specific blend of herbs is meticulously curated to produce a well-rounded, flavorful, inviting, and pleasurable spirit.


In addition to the excellence of the ingredients and the distillation method, Absinthe Maine is also notable for its distinctive packaging and branding. The bottle showcases a unique label incorporating imagery and design features evocative of antique absinthe labels from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This meticulousness and emphasis on aesthetics have helped cement Absinthe Maine as a favorite among collectors and enthusiasts.

There are various ways to serve Absinthe Maine, including the traditional French method, the Czech method, or simply savoring it neat or over ice. The optimal way to appreciate this variety depends on individual preference and palate. However, serving it with ice water is generally recommended to manifest the typical louche effect and dilute the high alcohol content.

In conclusion, Absinthe Maine is a unique and superior variety worth discovering for any spirit fan. Absinthe Maine stands out worldwide with its intricate flavor profile, remarkable packaging, and commitment to traditional distillation techniques. It is a tribute to the craft and dedication of its creators.

Absinthe Longevity and Degradation

Absinthe, akin to many other spirit types, doesn’t come with an expiration date. With appropriate storage, it can endure for an extended period. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to understand the proper storage techniques because certain conditions can impact its flavor and quality over time. By adhering to the correct storage practices, you can ensure the longevity of your absinthe.

Key Considerations

One of the most crucial aspects of absinthe storage is the bottle itself. To preserve the spirit’s quality, the bottle should be dark-colored and airtight to prevent light exposure from affecting the contents. Moreover, keeping the bottle in a cool, dry, and dark environment is recommended to curtail exposure to heat, humidity, and light, all of which can alter the taste and quality of the absinthe.

Temperature Considerations

Another vital aspect to consider when storing absinthe is the temperature. Although storing it in a cool, dry, and dark location is recommended, the optimal temperature range is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature escalates too much, it could cause the alcohol to evaporate or oxidize, resulting in alterations in flavor and aroma.


Additionally, it’s advisable not to store absinthe for an extended period, as it can lead to transformations in flavor and aroma over time. While it won’t necessarily spoil or become harmful, the taste might degrade and become less enjoyable as time passes. Ideally, it should be consumed within a few years to guarantee the best taste and quality.

In summary, with proper storage, absinthe can endure for an extended period, but certain factors can impact its quality and flavor over time. By adhering to correct storage practices, such as using a dark glass, airtight bottle and storing it in a cool, dry, dark location, you can ensure your absinthe remains at its best for the longest possible time. However, consuming it within a few years is recommended to guarantee optimal taste and quality.

Key Factors

One of the essential elements that can influence the quality of absinthe over time is exposure to light. Direct sunlight or intense indoor light can cause the herbs and other ingredients to deteriorate and lose potency, adversely impacting the spirit’s overall flavor. Therefore, absinthe should be stored in a dark place, such as a cool, dry cupboard or pantry.


Temperature is a crucial factor to bear in mind when storing absinthe. Excessive heat or cold can trigger the liquid to expand or contract, potentially damaging the bottle’s cork or seal and allowing air to infiltrate, which could lead to oxidation and spoilage. Absinthe should ideally be stored at a steady, cool temperature, preferably between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seal Integrity

Alongside appropriate storage, ensuring the bottle is tightly sealed is crucial to prevent air ingress, leading to oxidation. Absinthe should always be stored upright, not on its side, to avoid sediment settling on the cork, which might contaminate the liquid.


With proper storage, absinthe can remain unspoiled and retain its flavor for numerous years. Some vintage absinthes, if stored correctly, can endure for decades and are still enjoyable today. However, it’s important to understand that the flavor of absinthe can evolve, especially if exposed to light or air, and may not retain the vibrancy or complexity it exhibited when first bottled.

In summary, to guarantee that your absinthe maintains its quality for the longest possible time, it’s vital to store it correctly in a cool, dark location and keep the bottle tightly sealed. While the flavor may evolve, you can savor your absinthe for years with proper storage.

Absinthe and water ratio

A defining feature of absinthe is its potent alcohol content, which typically falls between 45% to 74% ABV. Due to this potency, diluting the absinthe with water is generally advised before consumption. This makes the drink more enjoyable and facilitates the full development of its flavors and aromas. However, the optimal proportion of absinthe to water may vary based on individual preferences and the various preparation methods.

The conventional ratio of water to absinthe usually lies around 3:1 or 4:1, signifying three or four parts of water for every part of absinthe. This ratio is achieved by gradually adding cold water to a glass of absinthe, typically using an absinthe spoon and a sugar cube to create the characteristic cloudy effect or louche. The added water dilutes the absinthe’s high alcohol content and accentuates its intricate flavors and aromas, while the sugar helps to counteract the bitterness and intensify the spirit’s sweetness.

Slightly higher water ratio

Certain individuals might opt for a higher water-to-absinthe ratio, such as 5:1 or even 6:1, to further dilute the spirit and make it more palatable. In contrast, some may favor a lower ratio, like 2:1, to craft a more potent and flavor-intense drink. Ultimately, the ideal ratio of water to absinthe depends largely on personal tastes and preferences, and the key to discovering the perfect balance lies in experimentation.


An alternative method to ascertain the optimal absinthe-water ratio involves using a tasting spoon to sample the spirit at varying dilution levels. This process begins with minimal absinthe, to which water is progressively added. This allows you to taste the spirit at different dilution levels and determine the point at which the flavors and aromas reach their peak balance and complexity.

Irrespective of the method employed, it’s crucial to use cold water when diluting absinthe. This is because warm or hot water could cause the herbs and other constituents in the spirit to break down and diminish in potency. Furthermore, it’s also important to avoid using carbonated water or soda, as the bubbles can negatively affect the flavor and aroma of the absinthe.

In conclusion, the ideal absinthe-water proportion largely depends on personal preference and can be determined through experimentation and tasting. While traditional ratios range from 3:1 to 4:1, some individuals may prefer higher or lower proportions to suit their unique tastes. Regardless of the chosen ratio, it’s vital to use cold water and refrain from carbonated water or soda, ensuring the full development of the absinthe’s flavor and aroma.

How to serve absinthe

Absinthe has a rich and storied history, and the proper way to serve it has been refined over centuries. Here are some tips on properly serving it for a truly authentic and enjoyable experience.

  • Choose the proper glassware: The traditional glass for serving absinthe is the Pontarlier glass, named after the town in France where it was first produced. It features a tall, narrow bowl with a reservoir at the bottom to hold a measured amount of absinthe. However, tall, narrow glass with a reservoir at the bottom will work.
  • Select an absinthe spoon: An absinthe spoon is a flat, perforated spoon used to hold a sugar cube while adding water to the absinthe. Many decorative and ornate absinthe spoons are available, but an essential, plain spoon will work just as well.
  • Add the absinthe: Pour a measured amount into the glass, usually around 1-2 ounces.
  • Place the sugar cube: Place a sugar cube on top of the absinthe spoon and place the spoon on top of the glass, with the sugar cube resting on the rim.
  • Drip ice water over the sugar cube: Slowly drip it, allowing it to dissolve and trickle into the absinthe.

More water

After the sugar cube dissolves, add more water to the absinthe to adjust the taste. The traditional absinthe water ratio is around 3:1 or 4:1. However, this can be adjusted to personal preference.

Sip slowly and savor the complex flavors and aromas. Preparing it is an enjoyable ritual for many. Take your time and enjoy the experience.

Absinthe can be enjoyed in cocktails like the Absinthe Frappé. It’s made with absinthe, simple syrup, and water over crushed ice. However, the traditional method is still the most popular way to enjoy it.

Absinth and sugar

Absinthe is served with sugar to balance the bitterness. Use a sugar cube or simple syrup. It makes the drink more palatable. Especially for those new to the spirit. Add more water if needed.

Traditional method of serving

Place a sugar cube on a spoon over the glass to serve absinthe traditionally. Add ice water, which dissolves the sugar and creates a louche effect as the oils mix. Some modern absinthes are already sweetened, so taste them before adding sugar.

Mixers like fruit juices, bitters, and beer can be added to absinthe. Be aware purists prefer it with just water and sugar. Absinthe is a high-proof spirit, so drink it responsibly and slowly to enjoy the complex flavors and aromas. Savor the unique experience of absinthe, but always consume it in moderation.

Absinthe equipment

Here are some of the key items you will need to enjoy it to the fullest:

  • Absinthe glass. Traditional glass is a narrow glass with a reservoir at the bottom to hold a measured amount of absinthe. The glass is often decorated with a dose line to ensure the correct amount is used.
  • Absinthe spoon: A spoon is a flat, perforated spoon used to hold a sugar cube while adding water. The spoon is placed over the top of the glass, and the sugar cube is rested on the spoon.
  • Absinthe fountain: A fountain is an ornate glass carafe with multiple spouts for serving several glasses at once. It drips the ice water over the sugar cube to dilute it.
  • Ice water is used to dilute it to a drinkable strength. It is typically added slowly, drop by drop, until the desired strength is achieved.
  • Absinthe key: A key is a small, flat tool to hold the spoon on top of the glass. It is inserted through the spoon’s handle and rests on the rim of the glass.
  • Absinthe brouilleur. A brouilleur is a small glass or metal device to hold the sugar cube while adding water. It is similar to a spoon but with a different design.


  • Sugar cubes. Sugar cubes are used to sweeten it and help to balance the bitterness of the herbs. They are placed on the spoon and dissolved in water.
  • Water carafe. A water carafe is used to hold the ice water. Water is slowly dripped over the sugar cube to dilute it. Traditional absinthe fountains are ornate glass carafes with multiple spouts for serving several glasses at once.

Best way to drink absinthe

The best way to drink absinthe is a matter of personal preference. It can vary depending on the quality, the individual’s taste, and the occasion. However, there are some general guidelines.

glasses on a table
glasses on a table highlight the role drinks have on the dining experience

Choose high-quality absinthe

Look for absinthes that use traditional ingredients like grand wormwood, green anise, and fennel. Avoid variations that are artificially colored or flavored.

Chill the absinthe

It is traditionally served chilled by placing the bottle in the refrigerator or using a chiller like a metal fountain.

  • Use a glass and spoon. The traditional way to serve absinthe is to pour a measure into a glass. Then, place a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon. Finally and slowly drip ice water over the sugar cube into the glass. This process helps to dilute the absinthe and brings out the subtle flavors and aromas.
  • Dilute with ice water. The ideal water-to-absinthe ratio is usually between 3:1 and 5:1. Start with a small amount of water and taste as you add more until you find the right balance.
  • Don’t rush it. Sip slowly and savor the complex flavors and aromas. Allow the louche to form, and watch the transformation of the absinthe as the water mixes with the herbs.
  • Experiment with different serving methods. While the traditional method is the most authentic, other ways exist to enjoy this spirit, such as in cocktails or mixed with fruit juices or sodas. Experiment with different mixers and serving methods to find your favorite.

Enjoy in moderation: It is a high-proof spirit, so it is essential to drink it in moderation. Sip slowly and savor the flavors, and always drink responsibly.

By following these guidelines, you can enjoy it to the fullest.

Absinthe taste

Absinthe has a unique and complex flavor profile that is difficult to describe. A bitter, anise-like taste characterizes it. The added sugar’s sweetness and the botanicals’ complexity balance this. Some common tasting notes include:

  • Anise: The predominant flavor is anise, which gives it a sweet licorice-like taste. This flavor can be overpowering in lower-quality absinthes, but in higher-quality varieties, it is balanced by other flavors and aromas.
  • Wormwood: Wormwood is the ingredient that gives it its name and contributes to its distinct flavor profile. It has a slightly bitter, medicinal taste that can be earthy and floral.
  • Fennel: Fennel is another important ingredient, and it contributes a slightly sweet, herbal flavor that complements the anise and wormwood.
  • Herbs and spices. Many different herbs and spices are used in the production. These can contribute various flavors and aromas, including mint, coriander, and cinnamon.

When absinthe is properly diluted with ice water, it should have a smooth, creamy texture and a balanced flavor profile. The louche that forms as the water is added should be thick and milky. This has a pleasant aroma and a complex flavor that evolves as you sip. Overall, absinthe has a unique and complex flavor. It is unlike any other spirit and is well worth exploring for anyone interested in fine spirits.

Absinthe in las vegas

Absinthe has recently become increasingly popular in Las Vegas, with many bars and restaurants serving this iconic spirit. Some of the best places to enjoy absinthe in Las Vegas include:

  • The Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan: This iconic bar features a three-story chandelier that serves as the space’s centerpiece. The Chandelier Bar offers many absinthes and classic and modern cocktails.
  • The Peppermill Fireside Lounge: This classic Las Vegas lounge is known for its retro decor and cozy atmosphere. The Peppermill offers a variety of absinthe cocktails and a selection of classic and modern drinks.
  • Sage at Aria Resort & Casino: This upscale restaurant features a unique absinthe service, where a server brings a cart tableside to prepare absinthe traditionally. The service includes a variety of absinthes and premium accouterments, like artisanal sugar cubes and crystal glasses.
  • Herbs & Rye: This classic cocktail bar is known for its extensive selection of spirits, including various absinthes. Herbs & Rye features a vintage-inspired atmosphere and an extensive cocktail menu with classic and modern drinks.
  • Velveteen Rabbit. This trendy cocktail bar in downtown Las Vegas offers a selection of absinthes. Velveteen Rabbit also features live music and a cozy atmosphere, making it a popular spot for locals and visitors.

Absinthe fountain

An absinthe fountain is a specialized piece of equipment used to prepare absinthe traditionally. It consists of a large glass or metal container. This holds ice water and one or more spigots that allow a slow, steady pour.

Absinthe fountains are used to dilute it with water. They are useful when serving a group of people. Multiple glasses can be filled simultaneously and at the same dilution level.


To use a fountain, it is poured into a glass, and a spoon is placed on top of the glass. A sugar cube is then placed on the spoon. Then, ice water is dispensed from the fountain onto the sugar cube, slowly dissolving and dripping into the glass. As the water is added, it will turn cloudy, known as the “louche,” indicating that the drink is properly diluted.

Fountains are typically made of glass or metal and range from simple, utilitarian designs to ornate and decorative ones. They can be beautiful and elegant.


When selecting a fountain, it’s essential to consider the number of spigots it has, the capacity of the water container, and the overall design and aesthetic. With the right fountain, preparing and enjoying it can be an immersive and enjoyable experience that adds a touch of old-world elegance to any occasion.

Find Your Perfect Drink

If you’re in the mood for the perfect cocktail, head over to the cocktail finder to quickly and easily find the perfect drink.  Filter by ingredient, alcohol, flavor, or occasion.  The easiest way to find a drink.

Join the Drink Mix Artist community now and receive new drink ideas straight to your inbox! Subscribe today and elevate your beverage game.

photo credits