There’s a certain mystique that surrounds absinthe. Conversations about the spirit typically devolve into provocative debates about its legality or supposed hallucinogenic properties that earned it the nickname “the green fairy.” Rumors like this have been so distracting to drinkers that when the U.S. lifted its ban on absinthe in 2007, many people outside of mixologists were too focused on whether or not it would get them high to consider how to properly prepare it — or to even try drinking it at home.

Now that it’s been over 15 years since absinthe was reintroduced to American drinkers, we can safely say it’s time for at-home drinkers to look past the green fairy’s veil of mystery and dive deeper into how to optimize the absinthe-drinking experience. So if you’re looking to get serious about drinking absinthe, the one thing you should always do when preparing it may sound counterintuitive to its trip-inducing reputation: dilute it with water.

The wild myths about absinthe triggering hallucinations might not be true, but the drink itself is still incredibly strong: bottles usually ranging from 45 to 75 percent alcohol, and most of them land on the higher end of that spectrum. So while you don’t have to worry about leaving this plane of reality after a glass, the spirit should still be approached with caution. In addition to the above average ABV, the flavors in absinthe are also pretty intense. The liquid is made by redistilling a neutral alcohol with wormwood, anise, and fennel, which are considered the botanical holy trinity that must be included in every quality bottle. These potent ingredients create a seriously concentrated spirit, so diluting the absinthe with water not only helps control alcohol intake, but also ensures a more pleasant drinking experience.

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So what’s the correct way to dilute your absinthe? First, there’s the traditional way: When the French spirit was first popularized in local cities, it would be served using the proper “absinthe ritual.” The practice involves a special apparatus that slowly adds cold water and sugar to your absinthe, making it more palatable. More specifically, you would pour one ounce of the spirit into a specialized absinthe glass, then delicately lay an absinthe spoon across the top of the rim and place a sugar cube on the spoon. Then, you’d steadily pour ice-cold water onto the sugar so that the sugar cube begins to dissolve into the drink. This is typically continued until a dilution ratio of 3 to 5 parts water to 1 part absinthe is reached, or until the spirit transforms from clear to opaque — a scientific phenomenon otherwise known as la louche. There are also ornately designed absinthe fountain sets that you can use to dilute with a more dramatic flare. This method helps to dilute the potent spirit, bring a chill to the final drink, and unlock some of the absinthe’s complex aromatics.

Since many of us at home don’t have access to these special contraptions, you can try to copy the apparatus’s technique by placing the sugar cube on a large fork or basic slotted spoon and slowly dripping cold water over that to achieve dilution. You can also enjoy its anise-y flavors in cocktails like the Corpse Reviver No. 2 and the Sazerac, in which it’s used sparingly to add a bright, aromatic lift and temper its own intense concentration. Even if you’re using miniscule amounts of absinthe, the pros still suggest mixing with some water or stirring with ice to tamp down its strength. Bartenders will also employ tools like the absinthe rinse or an atomizer to introduce enough of the spirit to add complexity to the drink without overpowering it. William Elliot, bar director at Brooklyn-based absinthe bar Maison Premiere, mentions that he even goes as far as diluting the absinthe he uses to rinse the glass with.

Now that you know the one thing you should always do when drinking absinthe, it’s probably time to revisit the spirit with the proper approach — just don’t expect a green fairy to show up.