Recently my old friend Jeff asked me how to properly order absinthe while at a bar. Specifically he asked, “How do you order/drink Absinthe? I am a man of limited experience. I drink scotch neat, but not much else. However, I’m thinking of giving absinthe a try.”
At first, I pointed him to a resource on the Wormwood Society website: Serving Absinthe. That tells you everything you need to know, from people who are the experts.
But Jeff specifically wanted to know, “If I order it in a bar, what do I ask for if I don’t want to come across as an idiot?”
I had to think about it, and so, from my experience, I told him it’s usually a four-step process because a surprising amount of bartenders still think it’s illegal. But here is how I do it:
Ask the bartender, “Do you serve absinthe?” That usually results in a blank look or an “Uh, no.”
If the answer is yes, then ask, “What kinds do you serve?” If they offer Absente then decline. It’s not real absinthe. But if they offer Lucid or Pernod (you have to make sure the Pernod bottle actually reads “Absinthe Superieure”) these are usually the two most common, and you’re in luck. If they have more than one type, or especially if they have something like Jade or Pacifica, then you are most likely at a bar where they know what the f*ck they’re doing, and you’re in good hands.
There is no step three.
Ask, “Can I get it properly louched?” If they give you a blank stare then say, “I’d like it the traditional way, with ice water and a sugar cube.” If they make any move to light it on fire, decline. Never never light good absinthe on fire. You’d be wasting money and good absinthe. If you want a flaming drink order Everclear and a fire extinguisher.
If you are curious about absinthe and want to learn the truth about this often maligned drink, I urge you to go to the best source, which is the Wormwood Society website