Absinthe is a curious thing -- and not just because of the supposed hallucinations it's purported to cause. It's powerful and pungent, herby and aromatic. Many cocktail recipes using absinthe only call for the barest amount; for example, the classic Sazarac merely calls for a glass to be coated, with any excess discarded. Accordingly, it was with some trepidation that we approached Lucid, the first legally available absinthe made with Grande Wormwood in the modern U.S.
Lucid, as with most absinthe, is pricey at $60 for 750 ml, but I will say this: a little certainly goes a long way. Lucid Absinthe Superiure is a green absinthe coming in a whopping 124 proof (62% alcohol). Compare this to Herbsaint, an absinthe-like spirit often suggested as a substitute, which is widely available in 90 proof (there is also the 100-proof "Herbsaint Original").
Again, Lucid is powerful; definitely a sipping spirit. Served straight in a room temperature glass, I found it too overpowering to be truly pleasing, but very, very interesting. When I served it using the traditional "louching" method, it was far more easily palatable and even more interesting; the flavor notes simply open up to reveal woody and anise flavors. It has much more of an herby quality than you might think if someone said "licorice liqueur." Lucid, when compared to Ouzo or Sambuca, for instance, makes the licorice flavor those other spirits seem cloyingly sweet and far too "on the nose." But at the same time, Lucid is far more powerful, and exhibits a far wider range of characteristics.
(Louching is basically dripping ice-cold water through a sugar cube, which is held by a slotted spoon, into the absinthe. It results in a clouding effect. See video below)
Lucid's also fine in cocktails -- as mentioned above, a little goes a long way. For instance, it leaves an indelible stamp on a concoction like the Corpse Reviver #2 (see below) despite the glass just being "rinsed" with the absinthe.
Corpse Reviver #2 (Courtesy www.drinklucid.com)
1 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz Lillet Blanc
In a cocktail shaker, add ice, gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, and Lillet Blanc. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe rinsed with Lucid Absinthe.
On balance, I'd say Lucid absinthe is a spirit to enjoy when you have time to make a fussy cocktail, or the peace of mind to sit and really thing about the flavors dancing on your tongue. It's probably not my choice for a daily go-to spirit, but certainly rewarding -- and possibly impressive -- for a special occasion.
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