Known since ancient times but apparently invented, in its modern recipe at the end of the XVIII century by a French doctor, Pierre Ordendire, this mixture of Swiss officinal herbs and the plant of the wormwood finds fame and fortune in France towards the end of the nineteenth century. At the time, Paris, the ville lumiere, was the center of the world and opened to the first nocturnal cafés, populated by writers, musicians, painters in search of inspiration. Absinthe, consumed by many famous artists with rituals and oddities, became an integral part of the bohemian life of the time. It is not difficult to find paintings by Picasso or Tolouse-Lautrec whose protagonists are drinkers of this powerful distillate. But the enormous success of this drink was consumed in a short time by little more than a decade: in 1915 it was banned in France because it was considered a powerful hallucinogen, and soon disappeared from the premises of all Europe. Today absinthe, less alcoholic and more aromatic than it used to be, is experiencing a new happy season, thanks also to the many brands it produces and to a renewed image that is certainly indebted to the sinister fame of the past. Let’s look at some of the most interesting.
How to recognize good quality absinthe
First of all in the case of a product like absinthe (in which in the market it is strongly contaminated by the presence of fakes), it is necessary to make sure to choose an absinthe that is true absinthe and not some bad surrogate.
Whether you are in a store or on the internet, there are a few points to pay attention to to avoid rip-offs:
- Presence of dyes. The authentic absinthe DOES NOT CONTAIN DYES.
- Sugar. The authentic absinthe NEVER CONTAINS SUGAR.
- Gradation. Beware of products that are too high or too low. The authentic assents have an alcohol content of between 45 and 75 degrees.
- Thujone. Beware of products that contain thujone content, which refer to “high tujone content”, “maximum tujone content” or generally any reference to absinthe as a beverage with particular psychotropic properties.
- Price. A high price does not guarantee that a wormwood is of quality, but a price too low guarantees that it is not of quality.
- Anise and classic atypical VS
The classics considered are usually characterized by a rather intense anise profile, which translates into a dense louche, and a profile that is creamy and velvety in the mouth. The classic assenzi can also possess an extraordinary aromatic complexity by virtue of ingredients of exceptional quality, but the number of herbs present in the recipe is usually quite low. Classic assent are often those that never get tired, and that are more versatile in all circumstances. Classic for example are Guy and Un Emile (in An Emile the profile of anise is rather delicate), Verte de Fougerolles, the absences of the Les Parisiennes line, the Jade and L’Ancienne.
Gil “atypical” assent are characterized by the use of herbs not typically found in classic recipes, and often have a less pronounced anise profile (sometimes in order to better appreciate delicate notes that would otherwise be dominated by an intense anise), more translucent louche , light and feminine in the mouth, or spicy and exotic. For example, the Montmartre, the Akveld, the Italenneenne and the Grenouille, the Maîtresse Rouge, the Nouvelle Vague, the Un Emile Sapin are atypical.
- Verte, Blanche and La Bleue
The vertex type assent, unlike the blanche and the la bleue, are characterized by a further maceration after distillation, which gives the color and additional aromatic notes. The assenzi verte have more or less intense herbaceous notes (coming from the maceration / coloring), in some cases very masculine and overbearing, in others more delicate. Wanting to generalize the vertexes are more “complete” and complex.
Blanche, on the other hand, are often delicate, floral, simple and fresh.
The La Bleue are a world apart from the blanche: at the level of aromatic profile the La Bleue are usually distinguished by their rustic and artisan character, and by a particular aromatic note reminiscent of hay; their louche is usually fast and intense (sometimes thanks to the use of small amounts of star anise). Wanting to make a parallelism, we can say that the La Bleue are comparable to the peasant’s wine: they do not possess the refinement and complexity of the Barolos or the Brunellos, but they are far better than the five-euro-per-bottle wines found at the supermarket.
In the past the alcoholic gradation allowed to distinguish the higher quality assent from the fine, semi-fine and ordinary ones. Today this distinction no longer exists (due to the lack of norms anyone can bottle the most disgusting concoction and call it superior absinthe) and there are false assents with very high gradations, and authentic and quality products with very low alcohol content (below 60 degrees ).
So what does alcohol mean today for an absinthe?
First of all it is good to know that a higher gradation (65-68-72) helps an absinthe to keep the color longer, and consequently it is easier to find high-grade assent among the verte, compared to that between the blanche and the bleue . Keep in mind that the gradation never exceeds 80 degrees (and in this case we speak of brut d ‘alambic, because the distillate is bottled as it comes out of the still without being diluted).
Assists with higher gradation are usually more aggressive on the palate, while those with low alcohol content are more delicate; this however does not depend directly on the gradation, but on the fact that the absinthe drinker tends to always operate the same dilution to which he is accustomed, and consequently if he is accustomed to drinking an absinthe at 65 degrees he probably will not add enough water in a wormwood to 72 degrees, and vice versa, if it is used to a wormwood at 72 degrees it will probably water a wormwood at 45 degrees.