Return of the green fairy

The spirit that supposedly drove a generation of French artists mad is back in B.C., where distillers are reinventing absinthe

The traditional way to serve absinthe is by filling a fountain like this one at Botanist with ice water, then dripping it through a sugar cube on a spoon into the spirit, where it creates the cloudy effect known as the louche. Dan Toulgoet photo

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an ear. Vincent Van Gogh’s escapades might have delivered the final cut to the fashionable, anise-flavoured spirit absinthe, invented in Switzerland in the late 18th century and favoured by Belle Époque bohemians. Seen as highly addictive and dangerous, it was banned in the U.S. and much of Europe for nearly a century, until 2007.

Likely the poor quality or high-proof base spirit—not the relatively small amount of hallucogenic thujone, naturally found in absinthe’s bittering agent, wormwood (Artemesia absinthium)—was responsible for absinthe-attributed naughtiness. But its reputation as the bad boy of the spirits world persists, as does its role in cocktails, particularly of the French-influenced New Orleans school, such as the Sazerac, Corpse Reviver No. 2 and La Louisiane.

Here are five local absinthes to try, from newcomers to B.C.’s standard-bearers.

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Absinthe Mojito

Jeremie Dyck photo

Okanagan Spirits’ anise-flavoured take on the Cuban classic.

• 1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
• 1 tbsp sugar
• 6 mint leaves
• 1 oz Taboo Absinthe
• 1 cup crushed ice
• Sparkling water
• Garnish: 1 lime wheel

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Bohemian Mule

Jakub Janco photo

At Arbutus Distillery, they use their own house-made ginger beer, but any good commercial one would work as well.

• 1 oz Baba Yaga Absinthe
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
• Ginger beer

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The Green Beast

istockphoto.com photo

This modern take on an absinthe frappé was invented about a decade ago by French bartender Charles Vexenat for Pernod Ricard. At Pemberton Spirits, they make it with The Devil’s Club Organic Absinthe instead.

• 1 oz simple syrup
• 1 oz absinthe
• 1 oz fresh lime juice
• 4 oz water
• Garnish: 4 slices cucumber

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The Alchemist Summer 2019

Keep cool: The summer issue of The Alchemist is out this week.

The Garden’s Keeper G&T by Jeff Savage of Botanist. Dan Toulgoet photo

The 12th edition of B.C.’s only magazine dedicated to cocktail and spirits culture returns with everything you need to quench your thirst this summer.

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A spirited selection at the BC Distilled 2019 Audience Favourites Awards

Odd Society’s Prospector Rye Whisky was voted the audience-favourite whisky at BC Distilled. Gail Nugent photo

They came, they sipped, they chose their favourites, ranging from a delicately herbal absinthe to a boldly spiced rye whisky.

Some 600 people descended on the Croatian Cultural Centre on April 6 for the sixth annual BC Distilled festival, highlighting the best of the province’s artisan spirits. Some 180 spirits from 39 distilleries were poured over two tastings, and at the end of it all, the audience voted for their favourites in 13 categories.

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Sizing up the Sazerac

The mysteries of NOLA’s signature cocktail

Bartender Justin Taylor pours a Sazerac at The Cascade Room. Dan Toulgoet photo

What is it with absinthe? Every time the herbal spirit gets involved, confusion and controversy seem to follow.

Take the Sazerac, one of the world’s oldest and greatest cocktails and since 2008 the official state cocktail of Louisiana. For decades experts as revered as Dale de Groff, King Cocktail himself, traced the origins of the first cocktail to this anise-scented variation on the Old Fashioned. Sadly, it can’t be true, since the word “cocktail” first appeared in print in 1806 and the apothecary who allegedly invented the Sazerac was only three years old at the time.

Still. It’s a good tale.

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Sazerac

Sazerac. Dan Toulgoet photo

A great classic that belongs in every barkeep’s repertoire.

• 1 tsp (approximately) absinthe or pastis
• 1 cube sugar or 1 tsp simple syrup
• 3 or 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
• 2 oz Cognac, rye whisky, or a mix of both
• Lemon peel for garnish

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Apple Flip

At Olo, the Apple Flip is served with a side of Julien Fremont Calvados to round out the apple experience. Byron Smith photo.

At Olo, the Apple Flip is served with a side of Julien Fremont Calvados to round out the apple experience. 

INGREDIENTS:
• 2oz House Spiced & Solera Aged Honey Shine ‘Rum’ by Devine Vineyards
• 0.5oz Sea Star ‘Prose’ Riesling & Apple Dessert Wine
• 0.5oz Apple & Shiso Syrup
• One whole egg
• Okanagan Spirits Taboo Absinthe Spritz

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