No. 1<P>Absinthe Cocktail

The Original

“Put ½ gill of absinthe in a tumbler, add a little plain syrup of grenadine or anisette and fill up the balance with iced water, add the white of an egg and shake well, strain into a cocktail glass and serve.”

— KNUT W. SUNDIN, TWO HUNDRED SELECTED DRINKS


The Story

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Absinthe: A bright green spirit known more commonly as the “Green Fairy.” Notorious drinkers include Van Gogh, Charles BAudelaire, and Toulouse-Lautrec. The drink has a long history of being associated with beauty, art and madness.

First off, let it be known, I love herbal drinks. I love absinthe. I love the alcohol's association with the late 19th century and the artists of Paris. There is a certain mysticism that surrounds the spirit. Take this quote from a 1868 article:

...you seem to lose your feet, and you mount to a boundless realm without horizon. You probably imagine that you are going in the direction of the infinite, whereas you are simply drifting into the incoherent. Absinthe affects the brain unlike any other stimulant; it produces neither the heavy drunkenness of beer, the furious inebriation of brandy, nor the exhilarant intoxication of wine.
— American Journal of Pharmacy, 1868, Volume 40, p. 356-360

Seems like a good time to me.

It was said the mystic properties of Absinthe went far beyond that of mere alcohol. That it would encourage hallucinations and madness. These stories lead to pseudo-scientific research that resulted in the drink being banned in the United States and much of Europe. 
 
But, alas, it is all a myth. Absinthe is no more dangerous than any other drink. It does not cause hallucinations. It does not cause madness. But it’s history lends the drink a special aurora. The association with artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway give Absinthe it’s mystique. Hemingway even created his own absinthe cocktail called Death in the Afternoon (named after his famous book)!
 
In modern cocktails absinthe is used as an enhancer rather than a base liquor. To see a cocktail recipe with the spirit as a building block is intriguing. 

Okay let me read that again... with some emphasis.

Put ½ gill of absinthe in a tumbler, add a little plain syrup of grenadine or anisette and fill up the balance with iced water, add the white of an egg and shake well, strain into a cocktail glass and serve.
— KNUT W. SUNDIN, Two Hundred Selected Drinks

An ambiguous recipe if I ever did read one. A gill of this...and little of that...fill up the balance...Add some egg white...shake...serve.
 
First things first: "What the hell is a gill?"

I asked the almighty Google-Wizard and he replied:


Although its capacity has varied with time and location, in the United States it is defined as half a cup, or four U.S. fluid ounces, which equals 7.219 cubic inches, or 118.29 cubic cm; in Great Britain the gill is five British fluid ounces, which equals 8.669 cubic inches, one-fourth pint, or 142.07 cubic cm.

So...okay... it is either four fluid U.S. ounces OR five British fluid ounces.  There is a slight difference of about 4%. Not much.

Challenge in hand, here’s my first attempt at translating a cocktail from the book.


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My First Attempt

I decided to "cowboy it" with the information I had and the results were not good:

2 oz Absinthe
½ oz Grenadine
1 Egg-white
Wet Shake
Double Strain into a coupe
Garnish

The result was neither enjoyable nor drinkable. The herbal taste was too much and the texture was off.

Why was the texture off? Well, I forget that when using egg-white you should really "dry shake" before you "wet shake". A dry shake is merely shaking the ingredients without ice. Doing this helps the egg-white and other ingredients combine and give a more silken, frothy texture. 

Note: A good dry-shake is around 30 seconds according to "Tales of Cocktails"
Read More About Dry Shaking Techniques Here

Also, one should always double-strain a cocktail that utilizes an egg in its recipe. This will reduce any particles or clumped egg pieces from being present in the cocktail. Read more about double-straining here.

The use of the grenadine instead of the simply syrup gave the cocktail a beautiful coral hue. My plan was to experiment with both grenadine and simple syrup, but upon seeing the color of the first attempt I didn’t want to ruin a good thing.


My Second Attempt & Finishing Touches

Recipe Translation, Round 2
1 1/4 oz Absinthe
½ oz Grenadine
1 Egg white
 
Directions
Add the Absinthe, grenadine, and an egg white to a shaker. Dry Shake. Fill the shaker with ice and shake again. Double strain the cocktail into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an anise star.

This was a far more successful approach! Reducing the absinthe mellowed the drink and it balanced it more with the sweetness of my homemade grenadine. The dry-shaking helped bind the drink and created a smoother texture. The color is still an amazing coral hue.
 
I ended up further perfecting it by reducing the absinthe a little bit more, just slightly under 1½ oz - but the final "herbal-ness" is up to you.
 
Enjoy.


MODERN ABSINTHE COCKTAIL

1 1/4 oz. Absinthe
½ oz. Grenadine
1 egg white from a medium to large egg
 

Directions

Add the Absinthe, grenadine, and an egg white to a shaker. Dry Shake. Fill the shaker with ice and shake again. Double strain the cocktail into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an anise star.
 

J.B. is the founder of 200 Drinks. He spends most of his day working as a design leader at a large technology company but finds time in his schedule to enjoy a drink and write about it. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, son and pup.