Chances are, if your local liquor store even has absinthe for sale they probably have a limited selection. And by limited, we mean one or maybe two different brands. Absinthe isn't cheap, so when you finally do take the plunge and add a bottle to your cabinet, it's nice to have several options given the wide range of international possibilities these days. Even if you do have several choices, it's not like shops are breaking out their selection to hold absinthe tasting for their customers. So, how to you choose? We were excited to find out that at least one online retailer is doing something about that.
If you start doing a little research you quickly realize that unless you know exactly what you want, buying spirits online isn't any easier than browsing a storefront full of sealed bottles. But the folks at Absinthes.com are trying to address this challenge by offering a unique product they call Absinthexplore. It's basically a customizable sample kit of various absinthe brands whereby the customer can assemble their own selection. Instead of taking a chance on a single bottle, the kit allows you to try out several different products in order to find your favorite brand before making an investment.
The kits come in sets of three or six, with suggested combinations or you can build your own. Our three-pack arrived with each vial held securely within an elegant, folded, black cardboard box tucked into a sliding cover bearing the product name. The whole package is reminiscent of fancy chocolates. The vials themselves are sealed screw top tubes with the names of each selection printed right on the glass. A swatch of foam padding protects the glass tubes during shipping and keeps the optional absinthe spoon from knocking around. There's also a nice information card explaining the proper preparation of an absinthe drip.
The beauty of this concept is that you get to test drive a number of absinthes before making your final selection, and these are more than just tasting samples. Each vial contains 50ml—more than enough spirit to make a drip, frappe, or something smaller to share. It opens up the possibly of having an intimate absinthe tasting party without spending thousands of dollars on full bottles. It's also a great way to introduce a friend to absinthe as a gift without locking them into one bottle or another.
We decided to try ours two ways. First, we opened one vial and made a traditional drip with some left over that we will put into a dropper bottle for use in Sazeracs and Corpse Revivers. The second vial went into an Absinthe Frappe.
1 oz absinthe
1 oz water
.5 tablespoon superfine sugar
Put everything into a blender and mix to dissolve the sugar. Then, toss in a few ice cubes and blend until smooth. Pour into a chilled glass.
It's important to note that there's more than one way to make this drink. At it's core, it's iced, sweetened and diluted. The sugar you add, which could just as easily be simple syrup, will depend on the absinthe. Some are sweeter than others, so this should be adjusted according to taste.
Absinthe is pretty strong in most cases, so adding water helps bring it under control. Some recipes call for seltzer which adds some effervescence. The water also creates the louche effect, turning the transparent spirit cloudy and aromatic as the complex herbal components can no longer remain in solution due to the lower alcohol content. Ice is important in a frappe. Here, we are trying to cool the drink very quickly, and blending ice does that while it also releases more water. This will bring the overall proportions closer to an absinthe drip, only you get to avoid the rigamarole of spoons, sugar cubes and chilling a carafe of water (or setting up a fountain—if you have one of those).
Could you simply shake this drink with crushed ice and get similar results? Of course, and the next time we make one that's exactly what we will do. When it comes right down to it, we think the Frappe is the easiest and tastiest way to drink absinthe, especially if you are evaluating or comparing the flavors of several brands.