St. George Spirits of Alameda, the good folks behind Hangar One vodkas and all the amazing Aqua Perfecta eaux de vie, recently had me out to preview the long-awaited release of their absinthe. Lance Winters, the distiller, was the mastermind behind this delectable spirit, and he was kind enough to pour the better part of a bottle and talk about the product, its history and how it should be consumed.
As a minor collector of the stuff (see my modest collection, brought over in suitcases in the past few years from trips to Europe), I was very eager to hear what he had to say and to sample the stuff. I’d had small tastes in previous years when bottles of his bootleg trials would surface here or there and already knew I was a fan. But the real thing, which should hit stores later this month, was something to behold. St. George’s version—the first to be legally produced in the U.S. since 1912—follows on the heels of a couple of legal European versions introduced this year, Lucid from France and Kübler from Switzerland.
All the hype aside, absinthe will turn some people on and some people off, depending on how you feel about the taste of anise, fennel and other related compounds. Personally, I love the stuff, as good absinthe is one of the most complex and delicious types of spirits you can find. Does it make you hallucinate? No, but a nice absinthe buzz is like no other—you can feel the gentle hum of the alcohol while strangely your mind seems focused, clarified and beautiful. An absinthe high is a great thing, and the St. George version will bring it, as I discovered the other day.
In the photo of the glass with Lance in the background, notice the shades in the glass. A high-proof spirit, absinthe is best when diluted slightly. It turns a cloudy green (if the spirit was green to begin with, some absinthes like the Kübler are clear and just turn a milky white). The proper level of dilution is when just enough water is added to convert the whole amount cloudy, so this picture is of a portion not completely diluted. But a little water or perhaps ice is all you need.
See if you can find some for the holidays. You won’t regret it.