First - what is Absinthe? Wikipedia will go into far more depth than I but in essence it is this: an often frighteningly green spirit with a high alcohol content (50-70%). It was always a bit of a mysterious drink, reputed to have been used and abused by artists, writers and a whole list of well-known bohemian devils ("Ernest Hemingway, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie and Alfred Jarry were all known absinthe drinkers"- W).
The drink has Artemisia absinthium leaves and flowers in it (also known as the grand wormwood), anise, fennel and other herbs and spices. The Grande Absinthe that I had here ended up tasting like black jelly beans (this is the anise and the sugar cubes) and the second and third and fourth glass of it that I had I didn't end up using the sugar at all.
And then there is THE LOUCHE. The Absinthe starts as a clear green drink; with the addition of water "those components with poor water solubility (mainly those from anise, fennel, and star anise) come out of solution and cloud the drink. The resulting milky opalescence is called the louche" - W.
In steps, here is how Tina and I enjoyed a glass of Grande Absinthe:
- We poured a glass about 1/5 full (saving room for the ice water).
- We placed the slotted spoon on the rim of the glass, then put a sugar cube on it.
- We poured a little more absinthe on the cube to saturate it.
- Using a lighter we lit the cube on fire.
- We allowed the cube to burn until the sugar started to bubble or caramelize.
- We slowly poured the ice water over the cube, dousing the flame and allowing the disintegrated sugar cube to flow into the drink (the ratio is about 1:4 or 1:5 with water)
- We allowed the Absinthe to louche, turning milky green.
- And the we enjoyed!
Note: having done all this we discovered, at least with the Grande Absinthe brand, that we didn't really need the sugar and stopped using it after the first drink. Also note that Absinthe is a strong alcohol; you should always drink responsibly and know your limits and stay within them. And some other stuff about being the legal age to drink and so on.