What is an Absinthe Spoon?
An absinthe spoon is a specialized utensil used in the preparation and consumption of absinthe, a highly alcoholic beverage with a distinct anise flavor. Absinthe spoons are designed to hold a sugar cube, which is placed on top of the spoon and then dissolved into the absinthe with ice cold water.
Absinthe spoons are typically made of metal, such as stainless steel, silver, gold – even platinum, and feature a perforated or slotted bowl-like section at one end. The spoon is placed over a glass filled with a measure of absinthe, and a sugar cube is positioned on the spoon. Ice cold water is slowly dripped onto the sugar cube, which then dissolves and drips into the absinthe below, sweetening and diluting the beverage.
The spoon’s perforations or slots allow the water to pass through, ensuring a controlled and gradual dilution process. Some absinthe spoons also have notches or ridges on the handle, allowing the user to rest the spoon securely on the rim of the glass. This technique, known as the louche, creates a cloudy effect in the absinthe as the water mixes with the high alcohol content and the essential oils present in the drink.
Absinthe Spoons are considered part of the traditional ritual of preparing and serving absinthe. They come in various styles and designs, ranging from simple and utilitarian to intricate and decorative, often featuring ornate patterns or motifs. Today, absinthe spoons are sought after as collectibles and can be found in specialty shops or online for enthusiasts of the drink and its history.
Antique perforated spoons for use with absinthe are prized collectors items. There are hundreds of variants, some issued to commemorate historic events like the opening of the Eiffel Tower in 1889, some representing intertwined absinthe leaves, others with engraved advertising for one of the famous brands of the day.
Almost all have been exhaustively catalogued by the leading French authorities on absinthe and absinthiana. There are numerous books on the subject of Absinthe. We offer an ever-increasing range of fine replica spoons, with models to suit every taste and budget.
The quintessential Absinthe accoutrement, Absinthe Spoons come in a bewildering variety of forms. Search our inventory of rare and unique Absinthe Spoons.
What is Absinthe?
Absinthe is the French word for wormwood. It’s pronounced ab´- sant. Wormwood is a plant, or to be more precise, a number of plants classified within the genus Artemisia.
Liquid preparations made from the Artemisias have been used as medicines and tonics for as long as human history has been recorded. Once such medicine, based upon the plant Artemisia absinthium – known to the French as grande absinthe, literally, tall wormwood, but usually given in English as Common Wormwood – came to be so greatly appreciated in France and Switzerland in the 18th and 19th centuries that people took to drinking it for pleasure.
That elixir, a distillate of wormwood and other herbs in alcohol, was called extrait d’absinthe (wormwood extract), or, less formally, absinthe. An ever-growing demand for this medicine turned aperitif as the 19th century rolled into the 20th engendered an enormous absinthe industry in Switzerland and France.
Absinthe became an emblem of Belle Epoque France, and was intimately associated with the explosion of literary and artistic activity that characterized the era. The industry and the era ended with the prohibition of absinthe manufacture and sale in Switzerland and France, in 1910 and 1915 respectively.
It should be noted that contrary to the frequent misuse of the word liqueur as applied to absinthe, it is not today, nor was it ever a liqueur as defined by the liquor industry in the 1800s in France: an alcoholic beverage with relatively low alcohol content, sweetened with sugar before bottling.
Absinthe is rather an extremely high-proof herbal liquor, with no sugar in the bottle, traditionally drunk before dinner as an aperitif, rather than, like most liqueurs, after dinner as a digestif.
What Does Absinthe Taste Like?
Absinthe is an anise-based drink. Anise always makes up the greatest portion of its herbal ingredients, therefore, it should come as no surprise that all absinthe (properly made) has an anise flavor. Absinthe is often described by the less perceptive as licorice-flavored.
Although licorice may be an almost insignificant ingredient of some absinthes, the flavors of anise (the seed-like fruit of the plant Pimpinella anisum) and licorice (the root of the plant Glycyrrhiza glabra) are not the same. The other herbs in absinthe, and even the alcohol used, can and do influence the flavor of the liquor, but generally speaking, if you don’t like anise, you won’t like absinthe.
Origins of Absinthe
There is some debate amongst absinthe historians as to when exactly the traditional absinthe ritual originated. Certainly, there is no evidence that it was ever normal to drink absinthe neat, without water. Absinthe was drunk with the addition of both water and sugar from at least the 1850’s, and probably earlier. Absinthe was by no means unique in this respect – 19th century drinkers had a far sweeter tooth when it came to alcohol than we have today, and other drinks and cordials were also regularly sweetened with sugar.
They were usually served with a long cordial spoon or a kind of swizzle stick, to help dissolve the sugar. The use of a perforated spoon specifically for absinthe was a later development, which appears to have originated in the 1870’s and only became widespread in the 1880’s and 1890’s. From the 1890’s onwards, it seems, on the evidence of existing engravings and cartoons, almost all absinthes in bars and cafés were served with a perforated Absinthe Spoon.
What are the Ingredients in Absinthe?
Mostly ethanol (ordinary drinking alcohol).
There is a holy trinity of herbs in virtually all absinthe:
- Green Anise – Pimpinella anisum, not to be confused with star anise, which is Illicium verum.
- Wormwood – Artemisia absinthium and Artemisia pontica.
- Florence Fennel – various cultivars of Foeniculum vulgare.
Recipes vary. One distilled absinthe from Spain manages to make do with only wormwood and green anise. Hyssop and lemon balm (also called melissa) are often used, as is, especially in Spanish absinthes, star anise. A variety of other herbs and spices, such as tansy, coriander, veronica and angelica, were historically, but less commonly, used.
It’s ironic that the liquor named after wormwood contains a relatively small amount of the plant, compared to the total of other herbs used in virtually all recipes. Anise is the predominant herb.
How is Absinthe Made?
The herbal ingredients are crushed and macerated in a solution of alcohol and water, and the mixture is distilled to yield a colorless, fragrant alcohol that is later cut with water to yield the desired alcoholic content, anywhere from 45% to 72% (90 to 144 proof). It’s also possible to make absinthe by dissolving already prepared essences of the herbal ingredients (essence of anise, essence of wormwood, etc.) in potable alcohol – these are the oil mix absinthes.
It should be noted that these are the ONLY two ways of making anything that can legitimately be called absinthe. Any other protocols, instructions, or do it yourself kits such as proliferate on the Internet, will produce more or less noxious swill, but never absinthe – it’s simply not possible.
Why is Absinthe Green?
The colorless product that runs out of the still was traditionally fortified with additional herbs to strengthen its fragrance. These herbs transfer chlorophyll to the clear liquor, turning it green. The original intent was probably not to create a green color – this was likely just a happy accident – although one that has certainly contributed over the years to absinthe’s popularity.
The chlorophyll in the absinthe degrades with time and turns brown, just as leaves do on trees – the French call the result feuille morte, and the process is considered desirable. Very old absinthe is usually amber-brown. Depending upon the herbs used for coloration and the method, absinthe freshly colored with herbs may range from pale yellow to dark green.
A shade commonly compared to the gemstone peridot was apparently the color of the best absinthes of the Belle Epoque. We say apparently, because there was no color photography, and as noted previously, 100-year-old absinthe is no longer green. Therefore we must get our clues from period paintings and textual descriptions.
Absinthe producers who wanted to short-cut the delicate and tedious natural coloration process simply dyed the clear liquor green, which missed the point, but fooled the undiscerning or indifferent consumer.
The Absinthe Ritual
All true absinthes are bitter to some degree (due to the presence of absinthin, extracted from the wormwood) and are therefore usually served with the addition of sugar. This not only counters the bitterness, but in well made absinthe seems also to subtly improve the herbal flavor profile of the drink.
The classic French absinthe ritual involves placing a sugar cube on a flat perforated Absinthe spoon, which rests on the rim of the glass containing a measure or dose of absinthe. Iced water is then very slowly dripped on to the sugar cube, which gradually dissolves and drips, along with the water, into the absinthe, causing the green liquor to louche into an opaque opalescent white as the essential oils precipitate out of the alcoholic solution. Usually three to four parts water are added to one part of 68% absinthe.
Historically, true absintheurs used to take great care in adding the water, letting it fall drop by single drop onto the sugar cube, and then watching each individual drip cut a milky swathe through the peridot green absinthe below. Seeing the drink gradually change color was part of its ritualistic attraction.
How to Use an Absinthe Spoon in the Absinthe Ritual
The use of a perforated Absinthe Spoon specifically for the absinthe ritual originated in the 1870’s and became widespread in the 1880’s and 1890’s. From the 1890’s onward, through the evidence of existing engravings and cartoons, is that almost all absinthe in bars and cafes were served with an Absinthe Spoon.
The Absinthe ritual is important – it’s part of the fascination of absinthe. No other drink is traditionally consumed with such a carefully calibrated kind of ceremony. It’s part of what lends absinthe its drug-like allure – for instance, one talks about the dose of absinthe in the glass, a term you’d never use with whisky or brandy.
From all historical evidence, it seems that absinthe was almost always drunk like this – even the poorest working man, in the roughest bar or café, would prepare his absinthe slowly and carefully. It was seldom drunk neat (except by the kind of desperate end-stage alcoholics who might also be drinking ether or cologne); the water was always added slowly not just sloshed in; ice was never added to the glass.
The water added to the absinthe dose must always be iced, as cold as possible. Part of the advantage of using an absinthe fountain was that you could add ice cubes to the water to keep it cold, and some carafes had a chamber for ice as well.
There’s a famous poem by the French author and absintheur Raoul Ponchon, where he says if you add tepid water, you might as well be drinking pissat d’âne ou du bouillon pointu – donkey piss or an enema broth. Paradoxically though, ice wasn’t added to the glass itself – the idea was to start with the drink as cool as possible, but let it slowly warm to room temperature as you drank it. Aside from historical considerations, it tastes better this way.
It’s essential to add the water as slowly as possible – drop by drop – particular at first, as the louche starts to develop. There are two reasons for this: it enables you to admire the gradual change of color, and it allows the aroma to develop slowly for maximum complexity and interest. Technically speaking, different essential oils precipitate out of the solution – and thus release their aromas – at different dilution percentages. By pouring very slowly you effectively get to appreciate them all individually, whereas if you just throw the water in everything gets released at once.
Holding the carafe in a relaxed and stylish way high above the glass, and letting the water slowly drip out drop for drop is harder than you’d think, and was a much admired skill at the time. Busy cafés had “absinthe professors” – professional absintheurs – who for a small sum would instruct a patron in the art, or assist him themselves.
A slightly easier but also historically accurate method to pour Absinthe you might prefer is as follows:
- Place a sugar cube on the Absinthe spoon.
- Drip a few drops of water on to the sugar cube, just enough to saturate it thoroughly.
- Then do nothing, just watch the sugar cube for a few minutes. It will spontaneously slowly start to collapse and drip into the
glass, eventually leaving only a few drops of sugared water on the spoon.
- Then add the rest of the water in a thin stream.
Sugar isn’t essential – it’s entirely a matter of taste. In their brochures, Pernod Fils suggested their absinthe could be drunk with or without sugar. There is – or certainly was – an ingrained French predilection for sweet anise flavored drinks, cultivated from childhood with syrups and cordials.
Most Belle Epoque absintheurs added at least one, sometimes two or even three sugar cubes, and some added gum syrup as well. Today we’re likely to find this far too sweet. I’d suggest using half a sugar cube to start with, and then adjusting upwards or downwards according to preference.
The correct dose of absinthe is about 30ml – just over an ounce. Add three parts water to one part absinthe and then taste. For casual drinking ( as opposed to tasting a rare bottle) you might prefer to add a little more water, bringing the ratio up to 4:1 or even to 5:1.
Overall, it’s worth taking the trouble to prepare an absinthe in the traditional way like this. The slowness and care required help put one in the right frame of mind to appreciate the subtleties of the drink, and it undoubtedly tastes better this way as well.
Indulge in the Enchanting World of Absinthe – Unleash Your Inner Creativity and Embrace the Mystique!
Are you seeking an extraordinary drinking experience that transcends the ordinary? Look no further than absinthe, the legendary spirit that has captivated artists, poets, and free spirits for centuries. We think you should try the absinthe ritual for yourself.
Absinthe has a rich and storied past, filled with intrigue and allure. It was the preferred drink of choice for bohemian artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway. When drinking absinthe, you become part of a long-standing tradition of creative and unconventional minds.
Absinthe’s nickname – The Green Fairy – is no accident. Its vibrant emerald hue and fragrant aroma instantly transport you to a world of imagination and inspiration. Prepare to be seduced by its alluring presence, allowing your creativity to flow freely.
The preparation and serving of absinthe are rituals in themselves. As you slowly drip ice-cold water over the absinthe spoon and sugar cube, you witness the mesmerizing louche, where the liquid turns opalescent, creating a visual spectacle. This ritualistic experience adds a touch of mystery and anticipation to your enjoyment.
Absinthe is made from a complex combination of herbs, including wormwood, anise, and fennel. This blend imparts a distinct flavor profile that is both bold and herbal, with hints of licorice. The intricate herbal notes create a taste sensation unlike any other spirit, setting absinthe apart from the rest.
Absinthe has long been associated with unlocking creativity and stimulating the imagination. Many artists and writers throughout history have attributed their bursts of inspiration and artistic breakthroughs to the effects of absinthe. By sipping this mystical elixir, you may find yourself delving into uncharted realms of creativity.
Embrace the allure of absinthe and allow yourself to be transported to a realm of creativity, mystique and indulgence. Discover the drink that’s ignited the minds of artists and free thinkers for generations. But remember, drink absinthe responsibly, savor its enchanting qualities, and let the Green Fairy guide you on a journey of inspiration.
House of the Absinthe Spoon In the French Quarter
The French Quarter of New Orleans is renowned for its vibrant nightlife, where revelers seek unique experiences and timeless traditions of yesteryear. Nestled within the Quarter is a place called House of the Absinthe Spoon. This exquisite bar transports patrons back to the belle époque era with its elegant ambiance and the artistry of its exceptional absinthe ritual. Step into a world where the past and present collide, as the bar serves up a mesmerizing experience that celebrates the rich history of absinthe.
Absinthe Spoon captures the essence of New Orleans with its sultry and mysterious atmosphere. Antique furnishings, dim lighting and vintage artwork adorn the walls instantly transporting guests to the Bohemian quarters of 19th-century Paris. The commitment to authenticity is apparent at every turn, ensuring a memorable and immersive experience for all visitors.
At the heart of Absinthe Spoon lies its remarkable rendition of the absinthe ritual paying homage to the traditional preparation of this iconic beverage. Expert mixologists skillfully guide patrons through the ceremony, artfully showcasing the preparation process.
The experience begins with the delicate placement of a sugar cube atop custom designed, antique absinthe spoons, poised over an elegantly crafted glass of the emerald green elixir. The ritual culminates as ice cold glacier water is gently dripped over the organic Louisiana cane sugar, gradually dissolving it and creating a mesmerizing louche effect — the magical transformation that absinthe aficionados eagerly anticipate.
Absinthe Spoon boasts an impressive selection of authentic and high-quality absinthes sourced from around the globe. From classic French varieties to rare and exquisite labels, connoisseurs and novices alike can explore the diverse flavors and complexities of this iconic spirit. The knowledgeable staff is always on hand to offer recommendations and share their expertise, ensuring that each guest finds their perfect match.
While absinthe is undoubtedly the star of the show, Absinthe Spoon also offers a thoughtfully curated menu of artisanal cocktails and an extensive selection of spirits, wines and craft beers. Pair your absinthe with delectable small plates inspired by New Orleans culinary heritage, tantalizing the taste buds and enhancing the overall experience.
The Absinthe Spoon stands as a captivating addition to New Orleans vibrant bar scene. Its meticulous attention to detail, evocative ambiance and expertly executed absinthe ritual make it a must-visit destination for those seeking a unique and immersive experience. From the moment you step through its doors, you embark on a journey through time, savoring the rich history and indulging in the pleasures of this iconic spirit.
Raise a glass at the Absinthe Spoon and let the enchanting flavors and rituals transport you to a bygone era. Visit AbsintheSpoon.com to learn more about Absinthe, the Absinthe Ritual and the World of Absinthiana.