spiritsby JOEY GOTTESMAN

The bohemian spirit is back and more sophisticated than ever.

Absinthe has officially returned and is becoming more and more popular, as the rising popularity of the cocktail culture is gaining ground on every level. The esoteric nature of this once-outlawed spirit is finding its way into the educated bartender’s arsenal of cool items to learn about and master.

If you’re not too familiar with absinthe, it ranges from 90 to 148 proof and it tastes primarily of licorice or anise. It will always contain fennel and the very dangerous “grand worm wood,” which, in truth, is neither dangerous nor is it even wood.

As the three main botanicals are always present in absinthe, it will also contain proprietary and medicinal herbs that can give absinthe a range of colors ranging from none at all, to bright green and many in between. As a primary spirit in a cocktail or to the mere essence of a rinsed absinthe glass, the herbaceous and over-fortified nature of this infamous spirit makes it an ideal candidate to turn a mundane cocktail into a highly prized, must-have libation.

Experiment with an absinthe-infused cocktail at home if you please, here are a few labels to try. Fortunately, drinks made with absinthe are also available at some of Honolulu’s favorite watering holes.

ABSINTHE ORDINAIRE – 92 PROOF

Aside from its craft pizzas, V-Lounge (953-0007, www.vloungehawaii.com) has a well-stocked bar-Absinthe Ordinaire included. One of the best-value absinthes to hit our state since absinthe was legalized in late 2007, it was created by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire in 1792 in rural France. Some believe that this is the original absinthe. It is not overly complex, but it does have all of the requirements that one looks for in a true absinthe. I would suggest making this your starting point as you journey into the world of absinthe. Try making fie Vesper and the Fairy.

Components:

1 oz. Absinthe Ordinaire
1/2 oz. Fennel Infused
Handmade Tito’s Vodka
1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc

Glass: Martini
Method: Build in a mixer glass fllled with ice and lightly shake the contents, strain up into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a fresh piece of charred aromatic fennel.

VIEUX CARR̩ ABSINTHE Р120 PROOF

This absinthe is intensely aromatic, slightly sweet and full of anise, menthol and herbal spice. Gastropub Pint + Jigger (744-9593, www.pintandjigger.com) has several bottles, and Dave Newman will make you a beautiful whiskey cocktail with absinthe notes.

Components:

1 1/2 oz. Templeton Rye 1/2 oz. Amaro 1/2 oz. Antica Carpano Sweet Vermouth 1 dash of Peychaud’s Bitters (1 dash Vieux Carré absinthe-rinsed rocks glass)

Glass: Vieux Carré absinthe-rinsed rocks glass
Method: Measure components into a mixer glass 1/2 fllled with ice and stir the contents, strain up into a Vieux Carré absinthe-rinsed rocks glass and garnish with a fresh lemon swath.

ST. GEORGE ABSINTHE VERTE – 120 PROOF

For absinthe the way it’s been served for centuries, head for Trump Waikiki (683-7777, www.trumphotelcollection.com/waikiki). fie bar has the water decanter and slatted spoon absinthe cocktail device-watching the drink being made is fun and it’s even more enjoyable to consume.

fie flrst legal American absinthe released after the U.S. ban was lifted in 2007, St. George Absinthe Verte opens with spicy black licorice and then slowly evolves into citrus and grass proflles with a dose of sarsaparilla. Because of the abundance of essential oils, it’s rich and viscous on the palate. Go the traditional route with a classic absinthe cocktail.

Components:

11/2 oz. St. George Absinthe Verte
1 sugar cube
3 oz. ice cold water

Glass: Footed crystal cordial
Method: Slowly drip water over a sugar cube resting on slatted spoon into 1 1/2 oz. St. George Absinthe Verte, the sugar will dissolve and the cocktail is ready to enjoy.

Joey Gottesman CSS, Spirit Specialist/Mixologist has helped develop some of Hawai’i’s top bar programs. His dynamic approach to teaching mixology and ergonomic beverage engineering earned him the opportunity to make an impact with programs like the Four Seasons Manele Bay, The Ritz Carlton, Kapalua, The Westin K.O.R., Roy’s, The Hyatt Regency Waikiki, The Kahala Hotel and dozens of other notable restaurants around the state. He can be reached at joeygottesman@gmail.com.