Thursday, August 9, 2007

Absinthe Frappe

The best cocktail book I've come ever come across was published in 1998 and co-authored by Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead. At the time, there was a website called Cocktail Time, part of Wired Magazine Online. Each week the site would feature a drink with illustrations, the recipe, and a story about its history. Also included was a searchable recipe archive, descriptions of different ingredients, and instructional videos. Unfortunately the site no longer exists but the book, "Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century" continues to serve me well. If you want a copy of your own, however, you're pretty much out of luck. It has become a collector's item and sells on Amazon for upwards of $100.

My drink of the evening is the Absinthe Frappe, made with 1 ounce of Pernod and 1 teaspoon of simple syrup shaken with ice and strained into an highball glass of cracked ice. It's one of the few cocktail recipes in the book made with anise flavored liquor. (The Monkey Gland is on deck to try).

The Absinthe Frappe is not particularly complex - for fans of black liquorice, this will be a nice choice. It's sweet and spicy and obviously strong in anise flavors. But it's not transcendental. And because it's shaken it lacks the ceremony typically associated with drinking absinthe.

There seem to be two popular ways to serve absinthe - the French way and the Czech way. The French way goes back to the late 19th century in Paris with artists like Degas, Picasso, and my personal favorite, Toulouse-Lautrec. A shot of absinthe is poured into a glass. A special absinthe spoon is placed across the glass with a sugar cube sitting atop. Ice water is dripped on the sugar cube, melting it into the absinthe and causing it to cloud up. Drinking it this way is very deliberate and methodical - it's impossible to rush the melting of the sugar cube.

In the Czech mode, a sugar cube is dipped into the absinthe, then set on fire until it caramelizes. That burned sugar is then mixed with the absinthe and some water. Although it doesn't seem like it as you sip, absinthe is some really strong stuff - my bottle is 110 proof, easily the strongest bottle in the cabinet - so flaming should occur fairly easily.

The Absinthe Frappe, then, achieves much the same result. Sugar is added to the Pernod (which tastes strangely similar to Absente, the absinthe in my cabinet). Water comes from the shaking and the ice, and it ends up much colder than water dripped through a sugar cube. It also is stronger because it has far less water added. For the impatient or those not taken with ritual, the Absinthe Frappe may be a fine substitute for absinthe imbibed the traditional way.

No comments: