Absinthe is a complicated spirit experiencing a resurgence. There are a surprising number of choices when it comes to absinthe brands. And, because of the way this complex liquor is made, every brand has a distinctive–and very different flavor.
What is the best absinthe?
Choosing an absinthe is really a matter of taste. It is made from a blend of botanicals, which vary from maker to maker, though all absinthes are made with a regulated maximum of wormwood. The resulting products vary wildly, both in color and flavor. But here’s a look at some of the most popular brands of absinthe available today.
A note about traditional absinthe
Note that all of these products are labeled and marketed as absinthe and are made using the traditional distillation process. However some would not qualify as “traditional” because they contain added sugar or other sweeteners or coloring or do not contain wormwood as the main ingredient.
Brands of absinthe available in the US
These absinthe brands are all imported from Europe but are available across the U.S. They represent some of the best absinthe brands with wide availability. But you may find a little known absinthe in the US that can compete with these quality, popular absinthe brands.
Mata Hari absinthe review
One of the most subtle and refined absinthes I’ve tasted, Mata Hari can easily be enjoyed on its own without the addition of sugar – or even water! Aromas are of uncooked brownie dough mixed with cinnamon. When louched, it barely turns cloudy and the complex array of fruity and nutty flavors finish with a hot cinnamon kick.
Probably my favorite of the absinthes I tasted for this feature, Kubler is one of the Swiss La Bleue absinthes. Pale aqua in color, it is also one of the prettiest absinthes in the tasting. Slightly sweet on its own, it needs no sugar. (It, like the Mata Hari, is without the bitter licorice notes so prominent in the most widely available brands). And while the alcohol is strong enough to give you what I like to call the “tequila goosebumps,” there is no harshness on the palate.
Pernod absinthe review
This is one of the “weedier” absinthes in the tasting, full of herbal aromatics and flavors. Offering no perceptible sweetness on its own, it is one of the absinthes in the tasting best suited for louching. However, you should be warned that, once louched, it turns an alarmingly fluorescent green.
One of my least favorite absinthes in the tasting, Versinthe is one of the more medicinal absinthes on the market. Its flavors are a combination of anise and Mylanta, (although my parents, who remember Imodium’s predecessor insist that it much more closely resembles Paregoric).
Versinthe La Blanche absinthe review
Strangely, while I found Versinthe barely palatable, I think the Versinthe Blanche is one of the more attractive absinthes on the market. It has that bitter bite so common among the more harsh absinthes, but here the bitterness merely lends to the complexity rather than overshadowing the sweeter, fruitier flavors. With a refreshing hint of licorice, it makes a refreshing after dinner drink.
Grande Absente absinthe review
I am happy to report that Grande Absente is far more attractive than its appearance makes it seem. (Its color bears a striking resemblance to hydraulic fluid). It is one of the more intense absinthes, with a straightforward licorice flavor and a hint of sweetness. I prefer it without sugar, finding the drink’s natural sweetness to strike just the right balance.
Le Tourment Vert absinthe
It did not surprise me to learn that this absinthe was created for blending in cocktails. Its up front licorice and floral notes combine with its perceptible sweetness, it is more suited to blending into interesting drinks than it is for sipping on its own. Its color, not dissimilar to Aqua Velva, is disarming at first, but makes for rather pretty mixed drinks!
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