Absinthe is herbaceous, light and delicate, as well as ultra-complex. It’s bottled at a very high proof (120 on average vs 80-90 of most spirits), making it one of the most potent spirits available; and why it’s often used sparingly and/or diluted.
It has a historical reputation for causing hallucinations and illicit behavior.
Oscar Wilde famously said of absinthe, “After the first glass you see things as you wish they were. After the second glass you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”
Wormwood contains a chemical called thujone; this is the ingredient that gives absinthe its mind-illuminating reputation starting in the early 1900’s. No worries today, as none of the potency of the thujone can survive the modern-day distillation process. There is enough of the chemical to give just a slight perplexing shift in perception, as well as clarity of thought.
We like it for its herbaceous and complex flavor, and decided to play with it on a recent recipe testing day, when winter citrus and Mango Lavender Honey Nectar were the main muses. Ginger Lemon tea is a favorite around here so it kind of slid right into this final recipe.
The sweet Mango Lavender Honey Syrup, (made with mango pits) pairs perfectly with the non-sweet potency of the absinthe; and because we’re ALWAYS trying to celebrate and include Mexico, we got the bright idea to add a smoky and powerful mezcal. Playing of the comingling of strong and delicate, as is the essence of each of these spirts.
The smoke, florals and botanicals comingle and play with a soft, feminine strength that is delicate and yet powerful.
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For the Ginger Lemon Tea
3 lemons, sliced
3-4 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin ( peel on is fine)
2 cups water
For the Mango Lavender Honey Nectar
2-3 mango pits, with some flesh left on
1 big handful fresh lavender flowers
1 cup water
½ cup honey
For the drink
1 ½ ounces of mezcal
½ ounce of absinthe
1 ounce of ginger lemon tea
½ ounce of fresh blood orange juice (or regular)
½ ounce mango honey lavender nectar
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon absinthe
Charred lemon wheel garnish
Lavender flower garnish
For the ginger tea. Combine the lemon wheels, ginger and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Take off heat, cool, strain (discarding solids), bottle and refrigerate.
For the mango lavender honey nectar. Bring to boil, then reduce and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain while hot, then whisk in the honey until it melts into the hot liquid. Bottle up and refrigerate.
For the cocktail. In a cocktail-stirring apparatus half filled with ice (glass is ideal as it chills quicker than metal) combine the mezcal, absinthe, tea, orange juice and honey nectar, and stir using a cocktail spoon for about 45 seconds. A cocktail spoon is used by twirling the handle between thumb and index finger; this method leads to a gentle stir that not only blends the cocktail, but lightly dilutes the ice and merges the water into the drink, softly.
Strain the cocktail into the chilled glass filled with shaved or crushed ice. Top with a spoonful of honey, followed by a spoonful of absinthe. Garnish with a lemon wheel and lavender flower.
To make the charred lemon wheel garnish. Sprinkle the lemon wheels with a little sugar and, using a kitchen torch, gently char the lemons, placing particular attention to the peels so that they get charred. This creates a slight bitterness that will complement the drink especially on the initial nose and sip.