Here's something to be thankful for in the wake of Prop 19's smoldering remains -- absinthe is still legal after three years. Which means you can serve a Green Fairy cocktail to your cranky aunt on Thanksgiving, just for kicks. You know, to see what really happens. Which cocktail? For starters you need to decide which book, as three new absinthe cocktail books were released this year. We all could use an absinthe cocktail book (a 100-year absence makes improvising a bit tricky), but we really don't need three.
Turn the page for our preferred book pick and a cocktail recipe that promises a "Thai hallucination." We're doing our best not to imagine exactly what that means.
You'll recognize the first book, The Little Green Book of Absinthe, by its cover -- green. The book, by Paul Owens, a San Francisco restaurateur, and Paul Nathan, founder of absintheology.com, is best for history geeks who happen to like cocktails. It takes an in depth look at absinthe history before getting to the real reason you bought the book -- those 100 or so classic and "modern" cocktail recipes like this Poison Apple Martini. Good to know that a cocktail made with neon green apple pucker is still considered "modern" in some absinthe circles.
The other absinthe additions to the 2010 book scene get right to the point: cocktail recipes, and those that we actually would classify as modern. Absinthe Cocktails: 50 Ways To Mix With The Green Fairy by Kate Simon, Imbibe magazine editor-at-large, begins with a buying guide to absinthe (with bottles typically ranging from $50 to $80 a pop, it's a helpful list to prevent buyer's remorse). Fifty recipes follow, more than half of those classics like the Sazerac, with another twenty new takes by mixologists today, including a tequila inspired absinthe cocktail from The Varnish. And the stunning photos put it in that great gift book category.
But for our home bar, we're going to have to go with A Taste of Absinthe as the slightly better sip. R. Winston Guthrie, publisher of absinthebuyersguide.com and co-author with James F. Thompson, a New York-based writer, get to the sixty five great cocktail recipes after a brief absinthe flavor and pairing guide (there is a buying guide here as well). Recipes by Eric Alperin of The Varnish are in this book, too. So what's the difference? We simply really dig the recipes. They're varied enough to keep us interested, but not too laborious to banish the book to the coffee table, like a classic Obituary (a dry gin martini with a splash of absinthe) and modern Black Fairy (absinthe, whiskey, lemon juice and tonic with mint and blackberries to garnish).
Plus, those sidebars on the history of absinthe interspersed throughout read like well-edited five minute PBS breaks. They're just long enough to share a few key facts on the media blitz that made absinthe illegal in the early 20th century, as well as the lobbyists who fought for years to make the spirit legal again 100 years later. And so in marijuana's recent legal defeat, this Thai Hallucination seems like a timely California substitute. It's light and bubbly, with a generous enough pour of absinthe to get those family hallucinations started on Thanksgiving.
From: A Taste for Absinthe. This recipe is from Jason Littrell of the Randolph at Broome in New York.
Makes 1 cocktail.
1 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 ounce absinthe
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1. Pour the liqueur, absinthe and fresh lemon juice into a cocktail shaker and shake well.
2. Strain the drink into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top the cocktail with guava soda and garnish with an orange peel. Serve.