Relatively few people in the United States truly understand absinthe. A ban on the spirit (well, a misunderstood ban) from 1912 to 2007 is largely to blame, yet stories about green fairies and wild hallucinogenic properties persist nearly 10 years after the ban was lifted. But there’s good news: Absinthe is very much alive and well.
The craft cocktail movement has brought back some classic absinthe drinks, as well as the traditional method of serving with a sugar cube and cold water — although it’s not a spirit that you should have more than a few of (the alcohol by volume ranges from 45 to 74 percent). The main question is where to start. Here are nine of the best brands of absinthe that are available in the United States.
St. George Absinthe Verte
St. George was the first legal American absinthe to hit the shelves after the country got its head on straight about the spirit. The company recommends avoiding drinking the absinthe with sugar, but to each his own. It also has the added benefit of being widely available across the states.
Leopold Brothers Absinthe Verte
Leopold Bros. uses 19th- century techniques to make its absinthe. In this case, that means using a distilled grape base (Chilean Pisco), and then adding the anise, fennel and wormwood after. The green comes from lemon balm and hyssop that is steeped in the mixture after it is distilled, perfect to drop into a Sazerac.
Tenneyson Absinthe Royale
Unlike the first two choices, which are verte (green), Tenneyson is a blanche (clear) absinthe. It’s fashioned in a Swiss style, and uses a beet distillate base. With Tenneyson, you can get away from the kitsch green labels adorned with fairies and just focus on the spirit itself.
Duplais Swiss Absinthe Verte
Absinthe may have shot into popularity with artists and writers in France, but it originated in Switzerland. Despite that, Switzerland banned it in 1910 and the country remained absinthe verte-less until 2005, when Duplais Swiss Absinthe Verte was introduced into the European Market.
Pernod stays true to form by using a recipe and formula based on one from the 1800s. Pernod was one of the most popular absinthe brands until 1915, when bans around the world started coming into place. Now, Pernod is once again one of the most popular brands, and it can be found in nearly any place that sells absinthe.
REDUX is an all-American absinthe straight out of Colorado’s Golden Moon Distillery. It’s made in small batches and modeled after absinthe recipes from the 1890s. It’s a traditional verte in that sense, but with an American twist.
Nouvelle-Orleans Absinthe Superieure
Nouvelle-Orleans is made by a New Orleans-raised distiller, and New Orleans natives know their absinthe. One of the most popular absinthe drinks, the Sazerac, comes from the Big Easy, after all. This is one of the more expensive absinthes on the list — around $100 — but capitalizes on a history and tradition of absinthe consumption in New Orleans.
La Clandestine is another clear absinthe, but this one’s recipe goes back to 1935. Just because it lacks the color doesn’t mean it lacks the flavor, but La Clandestine is a bit more accessible thanks to being slightly sweeter and slightly less bitter.
Vieux Pontarlier is a small- batch absinthe made in Pontarlier, France, which was once considered the “capital of Absinthe.” It uses a chardonnay grape distillate base and is made in an antique absinthe still using recipes and notes from before the ban.