“What difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset?”
Native N’awlins microbiologist, Ted Breaux, has been working on debunking the bad reputation of Absinthe, as well as producing the best tasting, authentic Absinthe made in a century, one molecule at a time. Absinthe, long suspected as the cause of “criminal dementia” due to its key ingredient, bitter leaves of Artemisia absinthium, or Wormwood, may not be so bad after all. Plus, its lovely green hue and anise flavorings are romantically alluring, and help even the most mundane feel artsy and sophisticated.
Breaux begins to prepare it in the traditional French manner, a process as intricate as a tea ceremony. First he decants a couple of ounces into two widemouthed glasses specially made for the drink. A strong licorice aroma wafts across the table. Then he adds 5 or 6 ounces of ice-cold water, letting it trickle through a silver dripper into the glass. “Pour it slowly,” he says. “That’s the secret to making it taste good. If the water’s too warm, it will taste like donkey piss.”
The drink turns milky, and a condensate floats to the top. This is called the louche, a word that’s come to mean “disreputable.” Breaux hands it to me and tells me there’s no need to stir away the louche or add sugar to an absinthe this fine. I take a sip. The flavor is subtle, dry, complex. It makes my tongue feel a little numb. “It’s like an herbal speedball,” he says. “Some of the compounds are excitatory, some are sedative. That’s the real reason artists liked it. Drink two or three glasses and you can feel the effects of the alcohol, but your mind stays clear – you can still work.”