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What are the Different Types of Absinthe?

Green absinthe is the more popular variety of the distilled spirit.
The herd wormwood is added to absinthe after distillation.
Rose, or rouge, absinthe uses hibiscus flowers to give the drink a red coloring.
Absinthe was first produced in Switzerland.
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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2014
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Absinthe is a high-alcohol spirit that contains the herb wormwood. There are many variations on the drink, differing in such things as color, louche, herbs used in production, and region of production. Before purchasing this spirit, consumers should themselves with the different varieties available. Absinthe is often classified according to the process of production as either "distilled" or "mixed." Green and white varieties are available, and certain regions of the world produce their own unique versions.

In the 19th century, absinthe was classified by an increasing scale of quality and alcoholic strength: ordinaire, demi-fine, fine, supérieure, and Suisse. Though these classifications, particularly the last two which denote the highest quality, can still be found on bottles, they are not of much significance today. Consumers should note that Suisse does not refer to the spirit's country of origin, but rather to its quality and production style. Traditionally, both supérieure and Suisse spirits were naturally flavored and colored and distilled.

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Today, this drink is available in distilled and mixed. Distillation is the traditional method of making it and is considered to produce a superior product. Mixed absinthes are made by cold mixing coloring and flavoring elements into a high-proof alcohol. Though many modern examples are made this way, some connoisseurs do not consider mixed varieties to be true absinthe. Consumers should keep in mind that the distinction between distilled and mixed is not the ultimate arbiter of quality, as other factors, such as the quality of ingredients, also have an effect on the final product.

The best known and most popular type of absinthe is called verte, the French word for "green." It traditionally gets its green color and distinctive flavor from herbs added after distillation, though some are artificially colored and still referred to by this name. If the coloring step used to make the spirit green is not employed, the result is known as blanche ("white") or la Bleu ("the blue"). La Bleu is simply an alternate term for blanche and not a blue-colored spirit. Rose or rouge uses hibiscus flowers after the initial distillation to produce a red color; this variety is rare, however, and only one historical example has been attested.

Both blanche and verte absinthes are made most often in Switzerland, the first country to produce the spirit, and France. Both varieties louche, or become cloudy with the addition of water. They are traditionally made with grande wormwood, green anise, and florence fennel, along with other herbs, depending on the particular recipe.

Some varieties are only produced in particular regions. Absenta, produced in Spain, is made with alicante anise. It is sweeter than French varieties and has a characteristic citrus flavor. Bohemian-style absinth, made in the Czech Republic, does not contain anise, fennel, or other herbs used in traditional varieties. It is typically made using the cold mixing method and tends to be more bitter.

Hausgemacht ("homemade") or clandestine absinthe is a bootleg, home-distilled variety, notably produced in Switzerland. These versions were first made during the Swiss prohibition of the liquor from 1910 to 2005. Blanche varieties were more popular, as they were easier to hide. Bootleg Swiss spirits were the first to be referred to as "la Bleu."

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vigilant
Post 6

Is it true that absinthe sold in America no longer has the wormwood in it? Does it still have the hallucinatory effect?

clippers
Post 5

@roser - I have had it before and I actually like it quite a bit. It is refreshing and unique. That being said, I can't drink more than one or two. It is one of those drinks that makes its presence known and then wears out its welcome. Also, it packs a real punch.

roser
Post 4

Hemingway famously invented an absinthe cocktail named after his book Death in the Afternoon, which is absinthe and champagne. Tastes awful to me, but to each their own!

Engelbert
Post 3

Most people know of absinthe as "the drink that gets you high", but I think these effects are largely exaggerated and most likely a myth. I'd say the main source of this myth is just extreme intoxication with this drink due to the high alcohol content. There's a Mitch Hedberg where he actually talks about drinking absinthe and trying to force the hallucinations to happen when he realized that he wasn't feeling anything particularly trippy.

It is quite a nice drink though, it has a kind of sweet taste to it. Just don't go overboard!

Illych
Post 2

My dad distills his own absinthe, and personally I think the rose or rouge absinthe is probably the best. I've also had green and blue, with green being second best and blue being not quite as good.

It's helpful to have a flat perforated spoon which you put a sugar cube on and then drop water over so it mixes with the absinthe. It's possible to drink it straight, but it's quite strong and bitter, especially for the uninitiated.

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