There are a lot of rumors and myths surrounding once-banned liquor absinthe. Seattle Kitchen host Tom Douglas had never tried it, so asked an expert to bring in some of the much-lored liquor for him to taste.
Mark Bernard, of Pacific Distillery in Woodinville, tells the Seattle Kitchen staff that Washington has a very good climate for making absinthe.
“Wormwood is actually kind of an Alpine, Mediterranean plant that’s become kind of naturalized much over the world,” says Bernard. “There is lots of escaped wormwood that is all over Eastern Washington. I went along the Spokane River one time in downtown Spokane and saw lots of wormwood growing. It made me want to get out my sheers and start culling it to bring it back and turn it into absinthe.”
Bernard explains absinthe is made of three main ingredients: wormwood, green anise and fennel.
“They’re distilled together in a traditional copper pot still, and that resulting product is known as absinthe. It further is given more herbs afterwards which lends it the green color.”
While the drink is high in alcohol – Pacific Distillery’s absinthe is 124 proof in the bottle – Bernard says the stories about the drink being a hallucinogen are false.
“It was a myth started way back when, 100 years ago, when the wine lobby began losing market share to absinthe in France and they teamed up with the prohibition lobby, and they started a smear campaign, and it worked. It ended up getting absinthe banned.”
Absinthe is no longer banned in the U.S. but Bernard says that doesn’t mean everyone is on board yet.
“The flavor of absinthe is kind of a unique and different one for the American palette to try and grasp,” says Bernard. “The main flavor of course is anise seed and fennel. And many Americans don’t have an appreciation for that flavor.”
But as more and more people are introduced, they do see the market growing. “We go to events and people taste it and people realize, this tastes really good.”
Many people mix the liquor with sugar. A special spoon, or a fork if you don’t have the spoon, is held over the glass, and water is poured over the sugar. When the sugar and water mix with the absinthe, it goes from a clear green to a milky white color. For those that don’t have as much of a sweet tooth, Bernard says it also tastes good with just water and ice.
Tom Douglas took his first taste in the traditional way, mixed with the sugar. He says the mixture is “delicious.”
More tips for how to serve absinthe can be found at Pacific Distillery’s website.