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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Vraie Absinthe tasting at St. Jack in Portland for PDXCW

Pernod has announced the re-launch of its original Absinthe formula, and hosted a comparison tasting of the two products at Portland Cocktail Week (PDXCW) Monday.  After Absinthe was outlawed in the early twentieth century, the “real deal,” when it could be found, was known in France as “la vraie Absinthe.”  Absinthe was reputed to have hallucinogenic powers due to the presence of wormwood and would be banned for almost a century.  In reality, Absinthe is not any more dangerous than other distilled spirit, although its high ABV (as high as 74%) probably made it popular among alcoholics who might have been prone to hallucinations anyway.  It is also true that the French wine industry wanted it banned because people were drinking more Absinthe and less wine.  (Learn more of the history of Absinthe on Wikipedia.)  Within a few years, the Pernod company had a pastis available that contained less alcohol and no wormwood (as did other makers) and that’s how things remained until almost the present day.

Around the turn of the century it was found that many countries did not have a formal ban on the ingredients in Absinthe because none of them were harmful, and a revival began.  More and more countries began to allow Absinthe and brands proliferated.  Pernod released a new Absinthe, but there was a demand for the original formula. 

Pernod has expended some effort researching the recipe from original documents and trying to make the product as authentic as possible.  The base spirit will be wine-based (not grain), made with grapes from Languedoc as it was in the original.  The wormwood will be cultivated in Pontarlier, France, the historical home of Pernod Absinthe, and the Absinthe will be naturally colored through maceration of green nettles.

The tasting was held at St. Jack restaurant in suburban Portland.  This small, French restaurant features French café food, and their cocktail hour is called “The Green Hour” in a nod to the Green Fairy, Absinthe.  You will be happy to hear that Pernod’s effort has paid off.  The new “original formula” compares well with the current product.  It seems slightly sweeter, but also more mellow.  The taste of wormwood and anise, combined with other herbal notes, is what Absinthe is all about.  Absinthe aficionados will want to give this one a try. (ABV 68%, $68)

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