La Clandestine Absinthe Superieure
Right on the label, La Clandestine boasts of using herbs from the Val-de-Travers, which I must admit makes me pretty excited being as it’s the homeland of absinthe and wormwood. Apparently, the recipe used by distiller Claude-Alain Bugnon is rumored to have been used since the 1930s, and his spirit first circulated through less-regulated means during absinthe’s prohibition, which is not a bad urban legend for a company to start about liquor whether or not it’s true. That, my friends, is a well-done bottle description! I’m raring to try this elixir, and the multiple fantastic reviews for it only raise my expectations.
Its appearance is completely clear.
I appreciate the whimsy of La Clandestine’s blue bottle, but I appreciate them not adding coloring to the absinthe even more. The nose is fantastic. Anise hits me right off the bat as well as whipped sugar, pine, and grass. The alcohol heat is present but not overwhelming. Moderate to thin legs, so I’m thinking it’ll be a little sweet, perhaps just enough to enjoy it straight. Sipping proves that to be true — I could take a shot if needed, but boy would my mouth be on fire. The alcohol turns up as a punch of cinnamon. Anise lingers once the burn subsides.
After the louche, La Clandestine is smooth but full of personality.
Anise is the star as it should be. An underlying sweetness makes it easier to drink – probably all from my sugar cube. My mouth pleasantly tingles all over with it. Cinnamon is barely there with a hint of its woodsy bark, offering extra oomph like it to does to hot chocolate. La Clandestine doesn’t have the earthiness I expected from the nose, but I don’t mind those dashed expectations because this is what absinthe should be at its simplest. It only takes a few sips to put a smile on my face and for that happy float of an absinthe buzz to kick in.
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Ridge Distillery Absinthe Blanche
This absinthe is completely clear, as I’d imagine the blanche designation indicates. It has few legs to speak of when swirling it in the glass and is a completely blank slate based on appearance. Its particular anise smell reminds me of the thick, black, candy bites of licorice mixed with a dose of peppermint oil. There is no notable alcohol heat when sniffing, which is a good thing for me.
Sipping it straight is all cinnamon, a Red Hot without the sweetness. The missing alcohol heat from the nose is in full effect: you taste cinnamon, feel a wave of heat, then feel your tongue tingle. In other words, I would not recommend drinking it prior to the louche unless you’re looking for a stiffer version of Goldschlager.
After the louche, no color changes occur except the expected milkiness. Thankfully, the anise flavor that was imprisoned by the straight sip has been released. However, all other potential flavor enhancers are now subdued. Almost all I taste is sugar (I used one cube during the louche) and very subtle anise. That’s not enough to warrant this bottle’s price tag for me. Perhaps there is a difference in style for crafting a blanche absinthe that I need to read up on…and avoid. This was my first.
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I tried this intriguing cocktail during my first show at the Great American Music Hall, which is an intimate space for a concert. Even the back of the venue doesn’t feel far removed from the musicians. Plus, the gorgeous architecture is worth a visit all on its own — if only they allowed SLRs into a show, I could prove that to you.
But this post is about the liqueur, not the ornate chandeliers or the music. This drink is only one of many options on the GAMH’s long list. Boy, do I love a proper cocktail list at a rock venue.
The Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder is made with Kubler Swiss absinthe, Crater Lake gin, simple syrup, and rose water all shaken up and topped off with Domaine de Martinolles Vergnes Blanquette champagne. The coloring is an attractive lemon yellow that looks awesome tinged with the glow of blue stage lights. Bubbles take over the first sip, followed quickly by the alcohol heat. Surprisingly the gin takes a back seat to the absinthe and champagne. The rosewater is barely noticeable – I’d double it to make an impression. Overall the drink’s ingredients seem at odds with each other. Drinkable but in need of further refinement.
Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Great American Music Hall
Reviewed 2 October 13.