Explore: Bohemian Rhapsody
Once imbibed by artists and banned by governments, absinthe returns to its place at the bar. We highlight the top spots to sip this potent spirit trend in St. Louis.
Few liquors have quite the mythology surrounding them that absinthe has. Credited (some say with much exaggeration) with hallucinogenic properties thanks to the wormwood used to make it, and favored by artists, writers and various badass bohemians in the 19th century, absinthe became the scourge of temperance touters and prohibitionists and was demonized and eventually banned for decades in many countries, including the US. The suppression of the spirit on these shores was lifted in 2007, and since then, absinthe has made its way back into the mixologist’s toolbox.
Despite its usual green color, high alcohol content (usually about 120 proof or so) and distinct licorice flavor, absinthe mixes surprisingly well and lends itself to a bevy of cocktail applications, according to Matt McMullin, bar manager at Lola. He should know; McMullin has created an entire drink menu based on the spirit for Lola’s new absinthe bar. In addition to offering nine kinds of straight absinthes, McMullin has also created a series of absinthe infusions using fresh botanicals and a variety of spirits that he employs in six distinct cocktails, all named after famous creative types who were rumored to have enjoyed the charms of the Green Fairy. According to McMullin, the infusions are a great way to become slowly acquainted with this intensely-flavored libation (500 N. 14th St., Downtown, 314.772.3600).
Robert Griffin, self-described “drinkist” at The Royale, keeps the Sazerac and the Corpse Reviver Two in regular rotation. These classic pre-Prohibition cocktails call for just a small portion of absinthe; the Sazerac has an absinthe rinse of the glass, and the Corpse Reviver has just a dash of the brew. Because of absinthe’s strong flavor and shady reputation, Griffin finds “some people are still a little bit afraid of it” (3132 S. Kingshighway Blvd., 314.772.3600).
Taste By Niche
At this intimate Benton park spot, bar manager and mixologist Ted Kilgore mixes several original
absinthe concoctions, including the Mata Hari Jewel, which features mint, sugar and absinthe topped with champagne, and the Mata Hari Mist, which combines sloe gin, absinthe and lime juice. Kilgore uses Mata Hari brand absinthe in these drinks (hence the names) because he says it’s a little lighter in flavor and a bit more accessible for those new to the effects of the wormwood juice (1831 Sidney St., 314.773.7755).
TJ Vytlacil, mixologist at this French-inspired restaurant, does a riff on the classic Sazerac with his Amedee Sazerac, an homage to bitters pioneer Antoine Amedee Peychaud, which adds cognac to the traditional rye, bitters, sugar and absinthe combination. He also mixes an Absinthe Silver, where absinthe is the base spirit and then combined with egg whites, lemon juice and simple syrup, all of which help soften the flavor (1535 S. 8th St., 314.436.2500).
Mata Hari Mist at Taste by Niche
The Carondelet Sazerac at The Royale
Mata Hari Mist at Taste by Niche
The Silver Bohemian at Franco
Photo credit: Photos by Jonathan Pollack