Despite its deep history in the classic cocktail movement and delicious flavor, bartenders and consumers seem hesitant to play with absinthe in their cocktails. Even within craft cocktail bars, some bartenders shy away from it due to its high alcohol content and dominant flavor profile,

Last year we did a seminar on this topic with T.A. Breaux and Milo Rodriguez from Lucid Absinthe, and today we thought we’d partner with Lucid for a follow up piece to play with absinthe and see if we can’t dispel some of these hesitations.

By the way: this week’s article is sponsored by Lucid Absinthe Supérieure

Lucid Absinthe prides itself on being made according to authentic French methods dating from the 1800s. So it seemed the the perfect absinthe to use when experimenting with common cocktails.

Thanks again to Lucid Absinthe for supporting A Bar Above!

The Experiment:

Since absinthe was a fairly common ingredient before Prohibiion, there are quite a few great cocktails that already use it – the Corpse Reviver, Monkey Gland, and Tuxedo to name a few). We wanted to play with adding absinthe to other common cocktails and see what changed – as well as take some notes for the adjustments we needed to make for the recipe. The cocktails we chose?

  • The Margarita
  • The Mojito
  • The Old Fashioned

(I’m not sure it gets more common than these three!)

Cocktail #1: The Margarita

A simple “sour”, the Margarita seemed like a good place to start to set a baseline for our experiment. Chris started with his favorite basic Margarita Recipe:

  • 2.0 oz Blanco Tequila
  • 1 oz Agave Nectar
  • 1 oz Lime Juice

So now how do you incorporate the absinthe? If we just added it in, there’s a risk of the drink becoming unbalanced and overwhelming. And while we knew absinthe adds alcohol to the drink, we also learned (From Milo, in that same seminar last year) that absinthe also affects the acidity as well. Here are the adjustments Chris decided to make:

  1. Reduce the Tequila slightly to 1 1/4 oz, to account for the alcohol added by the absinthe and used a Reposado instead of a Blanco
  2. Reduce the lime juice slightly to 3/4 oz to account for the added acid (hat tip, Milo)
  3. Added the Lucid Absinthe Supérieure – a hefty 1/2 oz portion because… well, I love the flavor of absinthe!
So what’s the verdict?

The Absinthe Margarita definitely works.

It is unmistakably still a Margarita, but there’s no hiding the anise focus. It’s rich and aromatic and even more delicious when enjoyed with a salt rim. (Note: this is coming from Julia – someone who doesn’t typically care for a salt rim on my Margaritas!)

Cocktail #2: The Mojito

Now that we have the baseline and understand the basic adjustments required for a “sour”, Chris thought we’d try a slightly more complicated sour – the Mojito. It’s a “sour” with added flavor (via muddling) and soda water. Here’s the baseline recipe:

  • 2 oz White Rum
  • 1 oz Lime Juice
  • 3/4 oz Cane Syrup (or Simple syrup – but trust me, the cane syrup is unbelievably good in rum cocktails)
  • 8 ea Mint leaves
  • 4 oz Soda Water

Once again, you can’t just toss in some absinthe – Chris had to take a lesson from our Margarita and adjust accordingly. Here’s the adjusted recipe:

  • 1 1/4 oz Aged Rum
  • 3/4 oz Lime Juice
  • 1 oz Cane Syrup
  • 3/4 oz Lucid Absinthe Supérieure (It worked on the Margarita, so why not?)
  • 8 Mint leaves
  • 4 oz Soda Water

The first try:

Chris made a mojito using the recipe above, and it was delicious. But we both tasted it and agreed that the absinthe flavor was far more dominant than the mint – and in some ways completely overwhelmed it. I can’t say I’m too surprised – mint and absinthe are both very aromatic, and arguably absinthe more so. So Chris decided to make two more adjustments, throwing a bunch more mint at the drink and bringing the absinthe back a bit as well:

  • 1 1/4 oz Aged Rum
  • 3/4 oz Lime Juice
  • 1 oz Cane Syrup
  • 1/2 oz Lucid Absinthe Supérieure
  • 15 Mint leaves
  • 4 oz Soda Water

So what’s the verdict?

This Absinthe Mojito is so very good!

The absinthe is still very present in the cocktail, but the added mint keeps the flavor from being lost. By the way – I would also make sure to “spank” the mint you’re using for garnish, as it helps release the aromatics and gives the drink a fresher, more minty nose.

Cocktail #3: The Old Fashioned

It wouldn’t be very thorough to limit our experiment to “sours” so we thought we’d also try the quintessential spirit-forward cocktail: the Old Fashioned. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts about this one. But as usual, Chris was up for the challenge! Here’s our starting Old Fashioned Recipe:

  • 2 oz Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1/4 oz Rich Simple Syrup*
  • 2 Dashes of Bitters

*Rich Simple is made with 2:1 ratio of sugar / water, as opposed to the standard 1:1 ratio.

From our earlier experiments we know that absinthe adds alcohol and some acid, but this cocktail has no acid to replace. Most of the aromatics come from the bitters instead. (And the bitters help counteract the sweetness.) So Chris had the idea to attempt an Old Fashioned made with absinthe instead of bitters – just to see what would happen.

Here’s the adapted recipe:

  • 1 1/2 oz Bourbon
  • 1/4 oz Lucid Absinthe Supérieure
  • 1/2 oz Rich Simple Syrup

First Chris reduced the bourbon to adjust for the added alcohol from the absinthe. Next, he added 1/4 oz of rich simple syrup to account for the fact that 1/4 oz of absinthe adds more acidity than bitters would.

Final verdict?

Three for three. The Absinthe Old Fashioned is born!

I have to say I was a bit surprised on this one – but as it happens the inherent sweetness of the bourbon worked beautifully alongside the anise aromatics of the absinthe. And it wasn’t too sweet either. I will say that this cocktail absolutely benefits from an orange peel expressed across the top – the citrusy aroma adds a whole extra layer of aromatics and rounds it out beautifully.

Lessons Learned:

The key lesson here is that you can’t just throw absinthe in a cocktail and call it done. (This really shouldn’t come as a surprise…) When adding absinthe to a recipe or creating a cocktail with absinthe, consider the following:

  • Absinthe adds alcohol. You’ll probably want to reduce your primary liquor slightly to adjust.
  • Absinthe adds some acid / counteracts sweetness. You may need to increase the sweetener or reduce other acid in the drink to accommodate.
  • Absinthe adds aroma and flavor. In the case of the Margarita and the Mojito, Chris used an aged spirit instead of unaged to add more richness to stand up to the intensity of the absinthe. There was a similar switch from a white rum to an aged rum in the mojito . Be careful not to overwhelm other flavors and aromas in the drink. (You may want to increase others accordingly)

Overall I’d say this was a delicious (and successful) little experiment!

Julia Tunstall

Julia Tunstall is the co-founder of A Bar Above and Chief Cocktail Taster. She's in charge of keeping things running smoothly around here, but you'll also find her stopping by on the Mixology Talk Podcast or hanging around the Craft Cocktail Club.