A visit from the green fairy not a harmful experience in moderation

11:00 p.m Monday, March 16, 2015 Austin360 Eats

Absinthe once was the drink of choice for many of the French in the late 1800s — a fact that can be hard to believe now thanks to the poor reputation the anise-flavored spirit has suffered there and around the world since the early twentieth century, when French lawmakers first made it illegal. The U.S., on the verge of Prohibition anyway, followed suit not longer after.

Both the U.S. and many European countries believed, incorrectly, that absinthe causes hallucinations. That’s a side effect of one of its ingredients, wormwood, but its quantity in absinthe isn’t high enough to be a problem, Peche bartender Cameron Garrett said. Another allegedly harmful ingredient was the chemical compound thujone, present in absinthe in trace amounts and also not a danger to people. But the damage to absinthe’s good name was done in the U.S. until 2007, the year lawmakers finally legalized it again.

Since then, bartenders and other absinthe lovers have been trying to restore absinthe’s prominence on the bar shelf. Among them is Peche, a bar in downtown Austin with a French-focused menu for both its dishes and drinks and, yes, absinthe in many of the cocktails. Peche even has an absinthe drip featured in plain view on one side of its long bar.

Newcomers to absinthe should try it just like Peche serves it: cut with the water that pours out of an absinthe drip. This age-old method of serving absinthe pulls out subtle flavorful notes otherwise muted within absinthe, Garrett said.

Then, try it in a classic cocktail like the Sazerac, a New Orleans creation that relies in part on absinthe’s heavy anise character for its bold rye taste.

1 part Pernod Absinthe

1 part simple syrup

1 part of fleshly squeezed lime juice

4 parts water

Thinly sliced cucumber wheel

Build in a Collins glass or a punch bowl over ice. Garnish with cucumber slices.

½ parts of Pernod Absinthe

1¼ parts of Rye whiskey

2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

½ sugar cube

Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice. In another glass, muddle the sugar and bitters, add the rye whiskey and some ice and stir until chilled.

Remove the ice from the original glass, rinse with Pernod Absinthe, then strain the cocktail into the frozen glass. Garnish with lemon peel.

— Pernod Absinthe

View full experience