Absinthe: More than a Sazerac’s green fairy elixir


Absinthe is a liquor with a storied, but often misunderstood, past. While the green fairy elixir is well known as a Sazerac’s ingredient, it is more than that single cocktail.

Many liquors have strong histories, stories and other legends associated with them. Absinthe is one of those liquors. After being banned in the United States, the often misunderstood liquor made its return in 2007. Still, the mystique surrounding absinthe still lingers.

Absinthe: More than a Sazerac’s green fairy elixir, photo by Cristine Struble

Looking through history, absinthe has long been associated with many literary greats and well-known artists. Artists, like Van Gogh and Toulous-Lautrec believed that the liquor had hallucinogenic powers. Hemingway had believed that the green fair elixir opened the mind. While these artists were positive of the liquor’s mind altering powers, the truth is far different. Absinthe doesn’t cause hallucinations.

Still, the great stories have made this liquor quite famous. Over time, people have wanted to try it because of the great tales. Now, that the liquor is readily available, everyone can partake in the mysterious green fairy elixir.

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The term green fairy comes from the liquor’s color. While some absinthe is colorless, many varieties have a green tint. The color comes from the whole herbs that are used to make it. No additional coloring is added to make it.

Lucid, Absinthe liquor, photo by Cristine Struble

The liquor’s flavor is quite potent. Made from the herb, Grande Wormwood, the flavor is quite herbaceous. The predominant flavor is anise, which is a licorice flavor. Overall, the taste is quite strong and mostly floral.

One of the most well-known brands is Lucid. “Lucid is the first genuine absinthe made with real Grande Wormwood to be legally available in the United States in over 95 years.” For anyone who wants to try this complex liquor, Lucid is the brand to try.

As an introduction to this complex, herbal liquor, the most well-known cocktail using it is Sazerac. A basic Sazerac recipe includes the Lucid, rye, bitters and a sugar cube. The Lucid is used to flavor the glass slightly and adds depth to the cocktail. Since the Lucid isn’t the most forward flavor, the Sazerac is a perfect way to try it.

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When you become more comfortable with the Lucid flavor, the liquor can be used in many types of cocktails. More mixologists are finding interesting ways to incorporate the herbaceous flavors into modern cocktails. With savory-forward cocktails becoming more popular, Lucid is popping up all over.

Two cocktail ingredients work well with Lucid. One is champagne or sparkling wine. The licorice flavor often cuts through the dryness of the champagne. It tempers the sweetness and makes the cocktail more robust. Second, mint works well with Lucid. The brightness of the mint balances the potent licorice.

When thinking of a cocktail for Lucid, the best idea is to think what flavors work well with licorice. Just like in cooking, star anise is a bold flavor that works well in certain dishes or certain ingredients. For example, pairing Lucid with another herb-forward liquor would be counter-productive. The two flavors would fight against each other.

Citrus flavors work quite well with Lucid. Fresh lime and lemon juices or even lemon-lime soda are two good choices. Experiment and play with various combinations to see what flavor you like best.

Don’t be wary of the green fairy elixir, absinthe. A hallucination may not be in your glass, but a bold, intriguing flavor will be.