Saturday, 7 December 2013

Seasonal gifts and cocktails for the absinthe lover

The Christmas and New Year season brings out the best in us .. but also can be a difficult time. In the run-up to Christmas, there's the present-buying frenzy, and then there's all that drinking over the holidays. 

Because absinthe has only become available in the last few years, it is not seen as a natural part of gift-giving or of celebrations (at least not in the same way as a single malt or a glass of champagne). That fact makes absinthe an even more unusual gift or celebration drink for the person "who has everything," so I have scoured the shops to bring you the best gifts, and then I'll consider what to drink.

Those who've read my blog before will know I'm commercially involved in the absinthe sector, and I'll include some products I work on. Since it's the season of goodwill, I'll also include a wider range of products, including several made by my industry colleagues.

Absinthe Gift Guide Part One - Bottles

Lots to choose from but among the most interesting are:-

Butterfly Classic Absinthe, 
numbered and signed by the distiller (US only, limited edition of 1902 bottles available at DrinkUp New York, Hi-Time, Julio's and other good stores in California and Massachusetts). Unsigned bottles are available in Europe (including UK and France) and in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

Ridge Absinthes from Montana,

a rarity since the branding will soon be changed to Vilya (available at DrinkUp New York, Catskill Cellars, some branches of BevMo and other good stores)

Marteau Master's Reserve from Seattle, 

which is a relatively new offering, currently in limited distribution in the Pacific North West and via DrinkUp New York and Catskill, and

Jade's 1901

which is available online in Europe and in Jug Shop in San Francisco; other US stockists coming soon for this.

Locally made craft absinthes can now be found in California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, South Carolina and Washington, as well as in Suffolk and Leicestershire in the UK. I haven't tasted all of these, so you may want to check the reviews before you buy.

Small bottle stocking fillers make great presents; these include La Clandestine and St. George 200 ml bottles in the USA (BevMo and Massachusetts) and from Whisky Exchange in the UK (Whisky Exchange and The Drink Shop in the UK have big absinthe selections). A 200 ml mixed set of Artemisia Absinthes 

is available from, who also offer a wide range of smaller samples as do Masters of Malt in the UK. The latter even offer a Dramvent Calendar of 24 x 3 cl absinthe samples!

In case you cannot find what you are looking for in your State or country, remember that you may be able to purchase online for shipping within the USA (DrinkUp New York, Catskill Cellars and Hi-Time seem to offer the widest range of States) while in Europe and Liqueurs de France have big assortments, including accessories, which they can ship to many countries. In the USA, Absinthe Devil has the widest range of absinthe accessories, including glasses, spoons and fountains.

All the online shippers are very busy in the run-up to Christmas, so check their delivery timings.

Absinthe Books and Films

Absinthe lovers will also love the great range of books and films available.

it's definitely one of the top absinthe gifts for this year.

remains the best book about absinthe cocktails, although it seems to be in short supply.

The ultimate absinthe book gift is

Chris Buddy's 

Absinthe: The Movie (reviewed here) is available on DVD, or as a download.

Posters and other memorabilia

Absinthe Posters has an excellent of historic posters and postcards

Steampunk artists have created some interesting works with absinthe, notably

San Diego's Winona Cookie. She has a wide range of absinthe pictures available as prints and cards.

Some of David Nathan-Maister's personal collection is available, including photos from the personal archives of the Pernod family 

and a very rare Swiss clandestine distiller's alembic from the 1930's or 40's

Distillery Visits

Several US distilleries advertise tours (notably St. George and Philadelphia Distilling) but many of those who don't advertise tours will be pleased to help. In Europe, Artemisia offer distillery visits via Smartbox.


Absinthe Cocktails

So once you've finished buying and wrapping presents, it is time to prepare and enjoy an absinthe cocktail or two.

Many people have their own favourite egg nog recipes, so it may be presumptive to suggest another, but this one looks good. Substitute absinthe (I suggest a blanche) for the cognac. Alternatively go to Sage at Aria in Las Vegas for an exceptionally good kitchen-made absinthe egg nog.

Of course Christmas is a time for sparkling drinks. Absinthe and champagne make the classic Death in the Afternoon, but, however bad your Christmas lunch was, that doesn't sound like the right drink for the occasion. I prefer the White Christmas (created for me by Adam Schuman of the Fatty Crab, New York in March 2009):

1/2 oz La Clandestine Absinthe
1/4 oz Simple syrup
1 oz Grapefruit juice
3 dashes St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters can be used instead)
Top up with Prosecco

Adam Schuman's brilliance lies in inverting my suggestion of falling snow with the rising bubbles of the Prosecco, but this is more complex and more interesting than the Death in the Afternoon. Great job, Adam!

So with a cocktail book/video/poster/antique in one hand and a White Christmas cocktail in the other, I'd like to wish all my readers Season's Greetings!

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