The first time I had absinthe after I came of age, I thought it was a gimmick. After all, absinthe wasn't even legal until three years before, so how am I supposed to take it seriously?
"Ohh, we're totally bohemian right now guys. Let us go to the Moulin Rouge and sing like Kurt Cobain," I joked with my friends in my faux French accent as I louched my first rocks glass. Little did I know, I really, really like anise-flavored spirits.
That brings me to St. George Absinthe Verte, my current favorite. See, while I was busy becoming 21, the distillers at St. George were busy perfecting their recipe, despite the fact that they couldn't legally sell what they were making.
They do their absinthe the proper way, redistilling already distilled alcohol (in this case, brandy) that's been mixed with a mash of herbs and spices (in this case, wormwood, fennel, and star anise). After that distillation finishes, they do a second herb infusion to add more flavor (and chlorphyll for the tell-tale green color), this time with mint, tarragon, opal basil, lemon balm, hyssop, meadowsweet, and stinging nettles.
The result is a pleasantly sweet, aromatic absinthe. It's fresh and opens with the standard black licorice flavor before washing away into a mix of herb-y, sundrenched goodness. If you try hard enough, you'll taste just a hint of raisins on the finish thanks to the brandy (other absinthe producers just use plain grain alcohol). St. George doesn't need any additional sugar, and is smooth enough almost to drink straight (which you shouldn't, because it's 120 proof). Louche with some water to bring it down to your desired alcohol level, and it's just wonderful.
But, if you want a treat, drink like Hemmingway. Instead of loucheing absinthe with water, louche it with champagne, three parts champagne to one part absinthe. It's called a "Death in the Afternoon," and Hemingway would drink four of them before he started writing (I can only drink two and a half before I call it a night). It's deceptively light and will get you "durnk" after one drink. Seth at Little Sparrow made my group two one night off of just a description, and they were the best I've ever had. They do indeed have St. George behind the bar, so if you don't want to buy a $60 bottle, head there. But if you do, you can find it at Hi Time.