Feb 14, 2008

Kübling away the green hour: Absinthe Part 3

It's been a month or so since I last wrote about absinthe; since then the "Green Fairy" has been busy, you can now find absinthe in many liquor stores in the Maryland area. And in that same time, I have made my peace with Lucid. I drink it several times a week now. It remains an interesting experience and I find it goes well with cogitation. It goes well with pork rinds too (but don't tell the connoisseurs I said so).
The other day, I found a bottle of Kübler Absinthe Superieure at Midway Liquors (another great Route 40 institution; if you can't find it at Midway, you won't find it anywhere else 'round here.) Kübler is manufactured in Switzerland by a company that made it way back before Absinthe was banned, in one of the first great episodes of drug hysteria of the 20th century. It is a blanche absinthe meaning that, according to the Wikipedia, it "is bottled directly following distillation and is unaltered. It is a clear liquid which contains the distilled oils of the herbs used in its production." (Lucid is a verte absinthe meaning that, according to the Wikipedia, it "begins as a blanche. The distillate is altered by the 'coloring step' whereby a new mixture of herbs remain in contact with the clear distillate. This process greatly alters the color and flavor, imparting an emerald green hue and a heavier, more intense flavor.")
My first glass of Kübler was mixed in my usual 1:3.5 ratio of absinthe to water, even though the bottle recommends 1:5. "I could drink this all day," was my first thought. It was my second thought too. My third thought was that while Lucid invokes the dark mysteries of the Belle Époque, Kübler evokes a more pleasant occasion. One can easily picture a happy group whiling away a sunny afternoon drinking Kübler.
After all, Belle Époque translates as "the beautiful era," not the murderous rampage era; equating that time with Jean Lanfray is like thinking the 60's was all about Charles Manson. By 1913 France was consuming 60 liters of absinthe per inhabitant a year, it wasn't 'til after the ban that we all started slaughtering one another - the era we call World War One, not to mention the rest of that psychotic century. (Perhaps our own Beautiful Era has already come and gone, that short breather between the Cold War and the War On Terror? Hope you had fun - I did.)
My second glass was prepared in the recommended 1:5 ratio and was surprisingly good. I say surprising because Lucid, to me, tastes best at a 1:3.5 ratio, no more and no less; it is an exacting substance. The Kübler has a bit more of an anise flavor than Lucid, but much less than the Absente brand. Kübler also seems to lack the peppery aftertaste of both, which is unfortunate, but not unexpected as it is not a verte. Is Kübler my new favorite? I'm not sure. While Lucid is by far the most interesting drink of the three, I don't always want my drinks to be interesting. Nor do I want all my drinks to be unrelentingly pleasant. Absente, probably best classified as a pastis (but who really cares?), still beckons me with its rich licorice flavor. I think I will keep all three on hand to fit my mood - at least for now.

Illustrations courtesy of The Virtual Absinthe Museum and Wikipedia.


wvgirl said...

Thank you for NOT writing about Marilyn "the Poser" Mason's absinthe.

I cannot wait to skedaddle over the state line to score me some of the green 'shine y'all got. ;-)

falmanac said...

Lucid seems to be everywhere in Maryland these days, Kubler less so, but they are both good and both the "real thing."
Funny you should mention moonshining; absinthe never quite disappeared in Switzerland, where it was made clandestinely until the ban was lifted there in 2005. I was just saying this morning, that it could be fun to get some American & Swiss moonshiners together for a party.
As for Mansinthe, I'll probably test a bottle if one comes my way. It got some bad press from Epicurious the other day, but if you read the other reviews about absinthe posted there, you will see that they don't seem to be overly fond of any absinthes - not sure why they bother with the stuff. I think one may be better off following the reviews posted at the Wormwood Society, though in the end it comes down to personal taste. And cultural tastes too, perhaps.
I've heard a rumor that Absente is working on a new grand wormwood formulation for the American market. I'm looking forward to testing that too. Anything to further the cause of historical research, ahem.
Speaking of which, here's a cocktail recipe from 1900, courtesy the Wormwood Society:

LARGE BAR GLASS.—One pony absinthe, two
ponies water, four dashes gum.* Fill large cocktail
glass to the brim with shaved ice, fill with above,
dash cherry cordial on top and serve.

* Syrop Gomme, or simple syrup.

From Mixed Drinks and How To Make Them
The Bishop and Babcock Co., 1900.

Rick said...

WVgirl - call first. I bought the last bottle of Kubler at Midway on Saturday, and the Lucid was already gone. Stan, one of the owners, is an aficionado, so they will be back soon.

Below is a recipe for a Sazerac, possibly the first American cocktail. Angostura bitters can substitute for the Peychaud's if necessary. Bourbon can NOT substitute for Rye.

Sazerac Cocktail Recipe

Crushed ice
1 teaspoon absinthe, Pernod, or Herbsaint liqueur
Ice cubes
1 teaspoon sugar, 1 sugar cube, or 1 teaspoon simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
3 dashed Peychaud's Bitters
1 lemon peel twist

Chill an old-fashioned glass by filling with crushed ice or refrigerate or freeze for at least 30 minutes. Add the Herbsaint, absinthe, or Pernod to the glass; swirl it around to coat the entire sides and bottom of the glass. Discard the excess. (NOT)

In a cocktail shaker, add 4 or 5 small ice cubes, sugar, rye whiskey, and bitters. Shake gently for about 30 seconds; strain into the prepared old-fashioned glass. Twist lemon peel over the drink and then place in the drink.

Makes 1 serving.

falmanac said...

Is there still such a thing as a "Maryland rye?"

Rick said...

I don't think so. The last of the breed, Pikesville, was bought by one of the biggies a while back.

I find Jim Beam to be pretty tasty stuff, though, and reasonably priced. (Same bottle style as their bourbon, with a bright yellow label.) Makes a fine Mint Julep as well.

I have noticed the recent appearance of super-premium ryes at Fallston Liquors, but I'm afraid I'll have to reserve judgement until the absinthe bill is paid, which may be never...