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Authentic Absinthe

Have you ever experienced the real absinthes?

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Throughout history absinthe (ab-sinth) has been misunderstood. It has been both wildly popular and completely banned for driving people “crazy,” including Van Gogh cutting off his ear.

Ted Breaux is an absinthe expert and producer. His mission is to educate the public about this spirit, encourage them to taste real absinthe, and stay away from its knockoffs. And while Americans had rather enjoy their cocktail hour than get a spirits history lesson, the absinthe story and Beaux’s role in it is a fascinating one.

In1993, this New Orleans native was working as a chemist in a research lab when absinthe was mentioned as “that green liquor that makes you crazy.” Curious Beaux looked to the Merck Index and found “Caution: ingestion of the liquor absinthe can cause hallucinations, convulsions, death.” Next he read everything available on absinthe, which evolved his curiosity to obsession and a trip to France seeking bottles of vintage, pre-ban absinthe. Here he found and chemically analyzed these bottles for thujone—the substance blamed for absinthe’s effects. He found only trace amounts, proving that absinthe can make you drunk but not crazy.

Before today I had previously tasted Beaux’s Lucid absinthe once at Cafe Dupont—in a drink made with the bar’s vintage absinthe fountain. Notes of anise, fennel, and herb are balanced with the sharpness of the wormwood, while sweetened with a minty flavor from the sugar melted into the glass. But there were no mind-altering effects. Its effect left me no more crazy than ever, and perhaps a little less. Thus the name Lucid, comes from Lucidty, for the aftereffect Beaux describes as “bringing a sense of clarity.”

Today we taste four other absinthes, from Beaux’s company, Jade Liqueurs:  Esprit Edouard Absinthe Supérieure, C.F. Berger, Nouvelle-Orléans Absinthe Supérieure, and Jade 1901 Absinthe Supérieure. Esprit Edouard Absinthe Supérieure was the first absinthe released by Jade. Reverse engineered from sealed antique bottles of the original liquor, Esprit Edouard is a reproduction of a famous pre-ban 72° absinthe, authentic in is delicacy of color, refinement of texture and aromatics. C. F. Berger is a recreation of the original C.F. Berger 65º absinthe verte, crafted by hand using select botanicals from the original regions, distilled in ancient copper absinthe alembics, and characteristic of the best Swiss style absinthes. It offers herbal notes, fragrant aromas, is full in body and has a rounded mouth feel. Nouvelle-Orléans Absinthe Supérieure was inspired by original absinthes that made the Sazerac cocktail and absinthe frappé famous. Its unique distillation of stimulating herbes toniques is the same as Belle Époque chimistes prescribed for various subtropical ailments. It is light and stimulating on the palate, with a delightful floral finish. And Jade 1901 Absinthe Supérieure is the second release from Jade Liqueurs, recreated as a tribute to a pre-ban absinthe from 1901. It is balanced, crisp, and offers herbal aromas. Experience authentic absinthes in any of these bottles.

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