PW challenges four local bartenders to create cocktails using the green fairy.
Last December, Philadelphia Distilling did something that hadn’t been done on the East Coast in over 100 years. The Northeast-based boutique boozier best known for its citrusy Bluecoat gin crafted Vieux Carré absinthe, a spirit that was banned in the U.S. in 1912 for the alleged psychoactive properties of wormwood, one of its primary ingredients. (Read more on page 19.) Nearly a year later, the cradle of liberty has become the cradle of the absinthe revolution. But while we imbibe absinthe with Wilde abandon at the city’s best bars, la fée verte can be a bitch for the home bartender that doesn’t know how to charm her.
We defer to the professionals. Below, four absinthe-minded professors guide the way with their best absinthe recipes.
“I think the Corpse Reviver #2 is an ideal drink. While it uses a mere dash of absinthe, it shows just how powerful it can be. Without it, the Corpse might sit up, but it won’t get up and dance. This drink is a lost classic that was recently brought back into the repertoire of any serious cocktail bar. While it is a fairly simple, straightforward drink, preciseness is a must. Especially the absinthe.”
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc
3/4 ounce Cointreau
3/4 ounce lemon juice (Fresh is a must!)
4-5 drops Vieux Carré absinthe
Garnish: cherry (Somewhat superfluous but it looks good.)
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
“[This is] a toddy-esque digestive winter warmer reminiscent of mulled wine, inspired by the Prohibition-era Phoebe Snow Cocktail ( Savoy Cocktail Book , 1930). This is one you want on your side after failing to turn down that last slice of pie.”
1 ounce Vieux Carré absinthe
1 ounce Dubonnet Rouge (a French fortified wine)
1 ounce of your favorite brandy (Laird’s Bonded Applejack works nicely.)
1/2 teaspoon of blossom honey
3-4 ounces of boiling water
Garnish: flamed orange peel and a pinch of grated nutmeg
Pour 1 ounce each of Vieux Carre and Dubonnet Rouge, along with your favorite brandy into an Irish coffee-like mug. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of blossom honey, topped up with boiling water. Garnish with orange peel and nutmeg.
“This drink isn’t quite as dry as a true martini, but is a good way to introduce absinthe and its herbal flavors into your usual repertoire of cocktails. It makes for a very tasty and refreshing aperitif to get your appetite up before dinner.”
1/2 ounce Vieux Carré absinthe
2 1/2 ounce gin or vodka of your choosing
1 ounce Lillet Blanc (a French fortified wine similar to vermouth)
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1 dash orange bitters (Fee Brothers or Angostura Orange bitters, available at DiBruno Brothers)
Optional (for a sweeter drink): 1 teaspoon simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar dissolved together) or Agave nectar (available at Whole Foods)
Garnish: Fresh lemon twist or mint sprite
Pour absinthe into a cocktail/martini glass and rotate to coat the inner surface. Pour excess into an iced cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients (except for the garnish) and shake vigorously.
Strain into glass. Remove a strip of peel from lemon, taking care to remove only the yellow peel and none of the white pith.
Point the twist over the glass, peel side facing the drink and fold the peel in half lengthwise, spraying the surface of the drink with oil from the peel. Rub the rim of the glass with the peel side of the twist and drop twist into the drink.
“The idea behind the cocktail comes from trying to fill my void for the Last Word, a cocktail made with gin, green Chartreuse, lime juice and maraschino liquor.”
1 1/4 ounce Russels Reserve rye
3/4 ounce Vieux Carré absinthe
1/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 orange peel
Mix all ingredients into shaker except peel, add ice and shake. Strain into old-fashioned glass over new ice and add a twist of orange peel.
Luckily for Philly, Rob Cassell found a way to get past early challenges to start turning out Bluecoat Gin in April 2006. That blue glass bottle has become ubiquitous wherever mixologists turn out labor-intensive cocktails.
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