Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Where can I buy real absinthe?


A Master List for the USA. (includes retailers who ship nationwide)

A Master List for the Rest of the World (Canada, Europe, Asia Pacific)


There are now many real absinthes available in all major cities and most, if not all of the USA. Some European companies not yet selling their products in the USA may falsely claim that absinthe sold in the USA is a watered-down version of absinthe sold in Europe: writing, however, as someone who sells his absinthe across Europe, North America and Asia, I can categorically refute that point. The only significant differences are different labelling and bottle sizes!

For those wanting to buy in the USA and who have problems finding quality absinthes in their town, Drink Up New York and Catskill Cellars provide the best options, both for those in New York City and Upstate NY, and for those shipping to those other States where there are fewer choices. They both allow prospective purchasers to browse by country or by continent of origin, and Drink Up New York also has customer reviews for each of the brands available. General absinthe forum concensus is that Drink Up New York and Catskill offer the highest quality ranges in the USA, with only one artificially coloured absinthe and no pre-sweetened absinthe in these two stores.

Astor Wine and Spirits (photo immediately above) in Manhattan probably has the best range available to downtown Manhattan shoppers.

On the West Coast, BEVMO offers a wider selection in more stores than anyone else, as well as on-line through several Western States, including California and Arizona. In the past some may have commented that their selection is weaker on quality than on quantity, but now that they have exhausted stocks of some of the more notorious lower quality absinthes (e.g. Le Tourment Vert), there are clear signs that they are upgrading their selection.

In New England, Julio's Liquors, Westborough and Yankee Spirits, Sturbridge both have a big selection, while closer in to Boston several branches of Kappy's as well as Menotomy Wine have a good, more focused selection.

In Kentucky, Party Source is definitely the go-to resource for absinthes.


Probably the best US bar for absinthe is Brooklyn's Maison Premiere with more than 25 high quality absinthes served the classic way and a great absinthe cocktail list. Other top bars for absinthe in New York include the famous PDT and the much less well-known William Barnacle, both in St. Marks's Place, Manhattan, the Swiss-owned Trestle on Tenth, while further uptown L'Absinthe Restaurant and Pigalle are well worth a visit.

In California, Los Angeles and San Francisco both have some great absinthe bars. In the former the Edison Downtown, the Onyx Lounge and Seventy7 Culver City all have a very good selection. In San Francisco, visit Dixie.

In Boston, the ArtBar at the Royal Sonesta leads the way, while the Seaport Hotel, Craigie on Main, and Blue Inc are among the best in their respective areas.

Elsewhere, we love the Chinatown Coffee Company in Washington DC (wouldn't it be great if Starbucks offered absinthe in every outlet!), the Bitter Bar and Absinthe House in Boulder, Colorado, 4 Olives in Kansas, Peché in Austin, Texas, and Cure in New Orleans. On the subject of New Orleans, the Old Absinthe House is a must-try, although there have been reports that they try to burn absinthe. Tell them not to!

There is a more up-to-date list of US stores and bars stocking La Clandestine and other good absinthes here.


Premier in Halifax, Nova Scotia offer the best selection in the Eastern seaboard provinces. And now, the SAQ offers Quebec consumers a choice of La Clandestine, Kübler and Taboo absinthes: the first time Canadians have had such a wide quality choice. And, as of February 2013, the LCBO offers Lucid, Vieux Pontarlier and La Clandestine!


Dieu du Ciel, Sarah B at the Inter-continental, Le Lab and L'Assommoir are among the best in Montreal. Clive's Classic Lounge is one of the best in BC.


There are many shops and bars across Europe selling just one or two absinthes. Knowing that my readers might want the opportunity to talk to well-informed shop staff, the opportunity in some cases to sample some absinthe, and a broader selection of absinthes, then I have listed shops which satisfy those criteria.


Soho Wine.
Vintage House.
Bar Nightjar, London: probably the biggest and best range in the UK. Served the classic way and in several amazing cocktails!
Purl, London.
Brompton Bar and Grill, London
Montgomery Place, London
Worship Street Whistling Shop
Dach and Sons
Zetter Town House

Outside London:
The Larderhouse, Bournemouth
Haus Bar, Bristol
12a Cambridge
Bond No. 9, Edinburgh.
The Moorings Bar, Aberdeen.

Vert D'Absinthe.
Caves du Roy.
Cantada 11.

Absinthe Bar, L'Entreacte

Maison du Pastis.

Antibes Absinthe Bar


Absinthe Bar, Fleurier.
Chapeau de Napoléon, Saint-Sulpice.
Neuchâtel: Au Fin Palais. A good selection of beers too!

Die Grune Fee, Solothurn.

Heidelberg: Grüner Engel.
Berlin: Absinth Depot.
Leipzig: Sixtina and La Petite Absintherie.


Tunes at the Conservatorium, Amsterdam

Barcelona: Spirits Corner (shop as well as internet supplier).


Lisbon: Garrafeira Nacional

Absintherie, Prague.
Black Angels Bar, Prague.
Hemingway, Prague
Red Rabbit Bar, Prague


Bliss, Copenhagen.


Floris Bar, Brussels


Cimiteria Horror Pub

In some of the European shops and bars (notably those outside France and Switerland), there are also a number of novelty items stocked. However all these retailers are well-informed: tell them you want to buy real absinthe, and they will know what you mean.


There are good vendor guides on both the Wormwood Society and on Fée Verte, which are the two pre-eminent absinthe resources on the internet.

Both these sites recommend absinthe-suisse.com, as well as Liqueurs de France.

Spirits Corner is also listed on both sites, although the Wormwood Society adds a comment to "Avoid the novelty products, such as mandrake liquor and cannabis absinthe." In fact, there are signs that Spirits Corner is adapting to the market and is increasingly focusing on higher quality, real absinthe brands. When I re-checked this on April 19th, 2007, I couldn't find any Czech "absinth" on Spirits Corner.

Fée Verte also lists Absinthe Classics (a good source which focuses on higher quality real absinthe).

Neither of the main absinthe information sites list the many selling sites that are heavily focused on Czech products. Generally if a site is focused on thujone content, it's a warning sign!


There are several newer online shops in Europe, notably Absinthes.com. Read about Absinthes.com's revolutionary Absinthexplore offerings here.



Skybar, KL


Bar Tram and Bar Trench.


The Blck Brd.


L'Absinthe Bar, Phnom Penh.


Absinthe Artisan


Absinthe Salon, Sydney


Guatemala: Bistrot Cinq!
Estonia: Lai V Bar.


I'm also asked about where to buy Absinthe Accessories and Absinthe Devil offers Americans a very wide selection available in the USA, and thus without high postage bills.

Friday, 23 March 2007

What is real absinthe? And what is not?

This posting is inspired by yet another newcomer to absinthe asking on a forum "what is real absinthe," and an old hand there saying "Go google it." While Google, Yahoo or other search engines may work in other categories, they don't work so well for "real absinthe." Here are some of the top results and some comments:

Absinth.com: Their main product is Logan Fils which sells for $209.90 and is labelled as having a Swiss recipe but is apparently made in the Czech Republic. I haven't had to taste this yet but here is one review:

Overall impression: 1/10
My head hurts... I'm going to go eat some crackers now as my tongue is currently yelling obscenities at me.
Nate scores Logan Fils 15 out of 100

Reading further, it appears that I run the risk of being sued if I use a picture of Logan Fils without using nice editorial!

Real absinthe? As the review suggests that it doesn't louche, then it would appear not to contain anise, so, according to the old manuals for making absinthe, it should not be called absinthe.

Greenfairy.org. Now here's a dilemma: a site selling something that looks like real absinthe (Oliva from the Czech Republic) alongside others that aren't: The Green Fairy (highest thujone ever) and Fruko Schulz. The site FAQ says:

Is your absinthe "real" absinthe?

A. The Absinthe we sell is not only genuine absinthe, but the best of all the genuine absinthe available.

Sorry: not true. A lot of what is sold on that site is simply not real absinthe. No anise, not absinthe.

Bullz-Eye: One of many sites that acts as a front for King of Spirits and King of Spirits Gold: one of the most notorious products in the eyes of the absinthe community. Here's what Wikipedia says about such products:

"There are a few Czech products that claim to have levels of thujone, which would make them illegal to sell in Europe, as well as the rest of the world. Some of the most expensive Czech products go to the extent of macerating wormwood in the bottle quite similar to an absinthe kit. There is no historical basis for a high thujone level which in fact lends an overwhelming bitterness. Absinthe connoisseurs consider these drinks to be overpriced marketing gimmicks with no historical relationship to real absinthe." Read the Fee Verte article for further information.

On the positive side, there are some results such as ReasonOnline which gets the facts right, links to reputable absinthe vendors such as absintheonline.com, and to other good websites such as Markus Hartsmar's absinthe.se. Yahoo has my blog as a Top 10 result for "real absinthe" too, so the search engines don't get it all wrong!

So back to the original question: what is real absinthe? Look at the old nineteenth century texts for a direct answer. Real absinthe should contain the so-called holy trinity of wormwood, anise and fennel as well as other plants. The best real absinthes will be distilled with no artificial colourings added, albeit other absinthes which don't meet that criteria could still be considered real (just not as good). On a side note (for a later article) only Switzerland has laws insisting that absinthe made and/or sold in Switzerland is distilled and that it has no artificial colourings: the French do not have such a law in place.

If that is too complicated, then stick to the vendors recommended by the Wormwood Society and you won't go wrong.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Liquor Snob reviews La Clandestine Absinthe

A major American drinks blog has just reviewed two of our favourite absinthes. Extracts from the reviews follow:


We enjoyed the louche because it let us watch this clear liquid go suddenly opaque, traced with blue and what one intern called an "octopus fight" in the oils tracing the top. After the addition of the water, the absinthe was creamy white with a slight bluish tint in a halo around the top.

The scent before the louche was much more laced with fennel than anise .... Once we louched in the water, it opened up very nicely with a sweet wave of honey and a delicate floral back end. The smell became more balanced with the water as well, with both star anise and fennel making themselves known.

The mouth feel was .. without the oily roundness we've experienced in other absinthes ... it was silky smooth and warming on the tongue. The flavor maintained the delicate gentleness we got from the first whiff, along with the nice balance of anise and fennel flavors. There was less of the bitterness we'd have expected from wormwood, but it made for a nice smooth drink, and we're glad this fine absinthe is no longer the secret its name implies.


The louche .. had a nice bluish tint to it. The final product was an opaque bluish white, with a clear halo on top. Once we added the water, it opened up massively and had a similar scent to Clandestine, with a more herbal and even pepperminty smell.

The mouth feel was big and thick, with a solid, growing heat on the tongue that lasted for a surprisingly long time. The taste was largely anise up front, with a pepperminty finish. Or was it pepper? There was a spice we couldn't quite define, but we liked it nonetheless. We detected a bit more of the wormwood bitterness in this one, and all in all we found it to live up to its whimsical name.

One intern winked at us as he said "I can see myself sitting in a rocking chair on a Sunday afternoon, drinking this stuff and yelling at non-existent children to stay off my lawn." We're not sure exactly what he meant, but we're sure it was very profound as he spoke it.


We like both of these absinthes a lot, especially since they gave us a different experience than we had expected. Between the two, the Clandestine was the more popular, and as we tasted it we found we were much less inclined to set our glasses down to move on to the next bottle. We liked the Capricieuse for its minty back end and unpredictable nature, but we found we were returning to pour the Clandestine even after the official tasting was over.

The full review can be seen here. What do my readers think of the review?

As a foot note, it is interesting to see that Liquor Snob reviews Duplais too, and then finishes the week with an article about their favourite cocktail, the Sazerac. It is great for absinthe in general that such an influential trade blog should write so much about it!

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

True absinthe: just a click away!

Following the announcement of the USB absinthe spoon, the true absinthe experience is just a click away... and it's free via this site.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Absinthe Party - No charges!

Many of my readers will have read elsewhere about the raid of the Absinthe party in San Francisco in December. This was the latest in a series of parties where people could sample a number of different absinthes (including some that this writer would not consider real absinthe).

After two months, this case was due in court on March 1st. Well-informed readers will know that this was a highly auspicious date, given it marked the second anniversary of the Swiss re-legalisation of absinthe.

And following that good omen, Paul Nathan, the host of the party, reports on his blog:-

"We showed up in court this morning and no charges had been filed. The DA decided not to pursue the matter at all. So we have not been charged with anything. We didn't even walk into a court room.

Its a fairly anticlimactic ending which turned out to be the best ending we could have hoped for. No fines, no charges, nothing on the record."

Paul seems to hint in his blog that he may have to throw another party soon, but does not state whether it will be like the famous (or infamous?) parties of the past.

It will be interesting to see whether:-

a) Paul gets back his absinthe: it is legal to possess absinthe in the USA.

b) This heralds the start of further absinthe parties in the USA. Does the fact that charges were not made set any kind of legal precedent?

At the time of writing, there is at least one absinthe event being advertised on Live Journal and via MySpace. L.A., Tuesday March 6 (and every Tuesday, it seems).

Currently Paul's party website is still down, but I understand it will be back soon. Check back later.

If Paul and others do continue to take risks with their parties (and many social and business pioneers have taken risks over the years), it is hoped that they will focus more on the higher quality brands in future.

Friday, 2 March 2007

The first absinthe shop in the birthplace of absinthe

Claude-Alain Bugnon, the distiller of La Clandestine, has now opened the first absinthe shop in the Val-de-Travers, the birthplace of absinthe.

His shop, Fleur-Bleue, sells all the famous absinthes of the Val-de-Travers region (the same range as the Swiss absinthes sold on absinthe-suisse), absinthe accessories, Swiss chocolates and flowers. Mlle. Hélène Grandjean, the flower expert, will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the shop: good news for tourists and for absinthe lovers since it will allow Claude-Alain to devote his time to developing his award-winning absinthes.

Shop address: Grand Rue 32, in Couvet. Just in front of the Artemisia Distillery, home of La Clandestine.

Phone number: +41 32 8633646

Thursday, 1 March 2007

A USB Absinthe Spoon?

Free USB absinthe spoons?

Is this an elaborate spoof?

Or a great idea? Good to see that they are obviously recommending the REAL absinthe way of consumption since this spoon has holes and the Czech spoons don't need them. But is it a good idea to be getting water so close to all the data one has lovingly transferred to it?

At the time of writing around 300 people have asked for one on the spoon site, so they either think it's real or at least aren't totally writing it off as a spoof.

If it's real, and if the price is right, I know at least one absinthe vendor that might be interested to sell it.