In the spirit of Halloween (pun intended), it feels only appropriate to dedicate this next review to the Goths, by drinking the most Goth beverage in existence: absinthe.
Before we get into the review, it’s vital to cover some basics about absinthe, which I will do in the form of a “frequently asked questions” section:
Q: Will absinthe make you hallucinate?
A: No. Absinthe is just strong alcohol with funky botanicals (more on these in the tasting notes). It will not make you hallucinate more than any other similar proof drink would.
Q: What is absinthe?
A: Absinthe is a high-proof spirit that is essentially just the maceration of botanicals (traditionally anise, wormwood and fennel) in beetroot liqueur (or in this day and age, brandy, which is just any distilled fruit). The chlorophyll leaks into the brandy, which is what gives absinthe its distinctive green color.
Q: Isn’t absinthe illegal?
A: I mean, I bought it at my place of work, a licensed liquor store, so I’m gonna go ahead and say no.
Q: Is absinthe really green?
A: Yes, although the absinthe that I tried was a darker shade of green, as opposed to something like Osterweis, which is fluorescent green.
Now that we’ve answered any pressing questions (if anything still confuses you, look it up on Wikipedia. I’m here to tell you about how drinking absinthe the wrong way knocked my socks off, not to write a research paper about its history), it’s time to get into the actual tasting! Now, according to my manager, Tom, and this handy dandy little widget, I learned that I was actually supposed to drink this absinthe (St. George Absinthe Verte, 120 proof) with one part absinthe to four parts water. Naturally, I did two tastings: consuming it straight (the incorrect way), for giggles, and diluting it 4:1 water to absinthe to a 24 proof milky green beverage (the “right” way).
Tasting Notes for the incorrect method of tasting:
Nose: Pungent fennel aroma, hints of anise (which smells like fennel but a little… spicier?), good Lord it smells like licorice. So herbaceous.
Palate: Fennel. Anise. Fennel. Anise. The two flavors hit me with a one-two punch to the rhythm of Edith Piaf’s iconic Non, Je ne Regrette Rien. This is also weirdly spicy and made my mouth feel very warm. In other words, this was hot. I didn’t really taste the 120 proof so much as I experienced it. Vague sweetness, maybe mint? Some of the bitterness from the wormwood definitely made it through.
Finish: My mouth is very warm. It is also unbelievably wet. Wetter than it’s ever been. And I’ve had a mouthful of water before. I have discovered that the reason this happens is because ethanol makes you salivate. Breathing out revealed some residual spicy notes from whatever was going on in the palate. It was strange but enjoyable.
I realized this why you’re supposed to dilute absinthe! That was unbelievably strange, and I can now unequivocally say that it’s the weirdest thing that’s ever been in my mouth. Did I hallucinate? No. Did I have an out-of-body experience because it tasted so weird and it was so strong? Yes. Did the fact that the bottle looked like something out of a seventeenth century apothecary’s shop have anything to do with the experience? Almost certainly.
In between tastings, I drank a glass of ice water to cleanse my palate and looked at the bottle to try and figure out what was spicy… Oh. It was stinging nettle. Sounds about right.
Tasting notes from the correct tasting method:
Nose: The fennel and anise still definitely come through, but they are a lot fainter, and the dilution gives all the other botanicals more room to breathe. I could smell some of the lemon that was used in the distillation process. The mint that I vaguely experienced in the first tasting (in which my brain felt like it was being run over by a Ferrari stolen from a billionaire by a child skipping school on a sunny Thursday in Paris) comes through in the nose!
Palate: Hello wormwood, my old nemesis. Don’t let the milky green color fool you, this concoction tastes absolutely nothing like the Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s with which it shares a hue. I cannot stress how much more prominent and unpleasant the wormwood is this time around, and I understand why people traditionally melt sugar into it. The notes of fennel and anise are still there, as is the stinging nettle and lemon. I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had had sugar cubes in my house.
Finish: The wormwood definitely lingers on the tongue, and your very first breath out will carry an effervescent lemon aftertaste (very nice!) that might convince you to take another sip. My mouth was definitely still wet after a few sips of the “correct” dilution of absinthe.
Happy early Halloween, folks! Absinthe is crazy and awesome, and I still have so much to explore. Drinking it straight is the wrong way to do it, but if it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. It felt almost sacrilegious sipping straight absinthe out of a tulip glass I thrifted for a dollar at Global Thrift, but sometimes, embracing chaos can dramatically enrich your life.
Author’s note: I get my information by constantly asking my managers at Gordon’s questions while I’m stocking shelves, making pull lists or counting my drawer. I don’t know where they get their information, and I don’t particularly care. They have certifications and adult responsibilities, and if I trust them as experts in their fields, you should too. Also, follow me on Twitter @hpbeatsoff for more content and follow me on Medium here for uncensored, unfiltered zero-accountability alcohol reviews that do not overlap with The Brandeis Hoot.
Editor’s Note: The writer is of legal drinking age in the United States of America. Please drink responsibly and do not drink underage. This is the second article in the series “No mom, I don’t have a drinking problem.”