While the most popular—and the most finessed—method of enjoying absinthe requires a slotted silver spoon, a sugar cube, and a slow drip of distilled water, the once-controversial spirit can be equally enjoyed in cocktail form. For guidance on the topic, we sought out the expertise of Neal Bodenheimer and Rhiannon Enlil, two mixologists commonly found behind the bar at Cure, a forward-thinking New Orleans establishment that is deeply rooted in the city’s classics but also committed to cocktail experimentation.
“I love absinthe independent of cocktails,” says Bodenheimer, “so I generally have to convince myself not to put too much absinthe in drinks. It’s an acquired taste for many palates, but it’s a profile that many palates make their way to eventually, so we always like to sneak a little in when possible.” Emphasis on the word little. As Bodenheimer explains, absinthe is a great secret ingredient that can add complexity to basic cocktails, while an absinthe spray can do wonders for a libation’s aromatics. But because of its aggressive flavors, a restrained amount of the spirit goes a long way.
“Understand the proof, style, and ingredients featured in the bottle of absinthe that you want to use,” Bodenheimer advises. “Proof will help you determine your desired dilution and how much or how little absinthe you will want to use. The style of absinthe will determine the color and taste profile of your outcome. Last but not least, you will want to pair your ingredients with the ingredients featured in that particular brand of absinthe.”
Bodenheimer’s colleague, Enlil, held true to those principles when she created the Expense Account, a gin-based cocktail accented by absinthe, Becherovka—a clove-forward Czechherbal liqueur—and lime juice. “Anise goes great with clove, so the harmony of absinthe and Becherovka works pretty naturally,” she says. “When used judiciously, absinthe can really round out other complex components in a cocktail—anything from a dash to even three-quarters of an ounce, so long as it is not paired with flat or neutral flavors.”
Enlil has left her mark on other contemporary absinthe cocktails, like the Start and Finish, but for those hankering for something a little more classic, The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930, offers a dozen different absinthe-featured recipes. Click here for details on how to make Enlil’s Start and Finish, the Expense Account, and a few of the most popular absinthe cocktails that were once commonly ordered at the Savoy.