Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure

Drink Reviews
Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure

Philadelphia Distilling’s Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure was the second absinthe on the market after its legalization in 2007, and as one of America’s first legally bottled boozes of its kind, it has set a precedent (and high bar) for craft absinthe distillers to come.

For those who don’t know much about absinthe, here’s a quick crash course. Absinthe is a spirit, and has its own liquor category, like vodka and whiskey. It was banned from the United States until 2007 because the Federal Drug Administration thought its key botanical, grande wormwood, had hallucinogenic properties in the chemical compound thujone. This means during its ban, all absinthe distilled in the United States wasn’t true absinthe since it lacked the wormwood ingredient. To be classified as an actual absinthe, the spirit must contain “the holy trinity” of principal botanicals, which are grande fennel, green anise and grande wormwood. After finding that the chemical compound thujone existed in other foods (sage and yarrow), the FDA legalized the distillation of absinthe in the U.S. and now craft and commercial distillers are bottling it for consumption. Yay!

Rather than using a base of eau de vie (white grape spirit) as a foundation, like traditional European absinthes, Vieux Carré’s base spirit is made from a mix of corn, wheat, rye and barley. Philadelphia Distilling takes this neutral-tasting liquor and re-distills it with herbs sourced from around the world — star anise from China, petite wormwood and genepi from Switzerland, anise seed from Egypt, fennel from Provence and grande wormwood from Croatia.

The raw botanicals (grande wormwood, green anise and star anise, fennel du Provence and lemon balm) are heated and soaked in a copper pot overnight. Then the spirit (which is still clear) is combined with the botanicals that give the absinthe its verdant color. Spearmint, lemon balm, hyssop and petite wormwood steep in the alcohol and release their chlorophyll coloring.

The color and flavor from all-natural botanicals sets Philadelphia Distilling’s absinthe apart from the mass-produced absinthes on the market that sneak in food coloring, giving them a mouthwash-green color.

At a high-alcohol content (120 proof), Vieux Carré is surprisingly smooth. Bright fennel and licorice-flavored anise dominate the taste up front, and following, you savor sweet notes of spearmint and the earthiness of the grande wormwood. Hints of saccharin spearmint sets Vieux Carré apart from other absinthes, which are primarily anise-based spirits

In the end, you get a full-bodied layered liquor with pops of herbal, earthy flavors, and a complexity that rivals other craft absinthes.

If you find absinthe’s anise and fennel flavors peculiar rather than palatable, give one of these five cocktail recipes a try. The effervescence of Champagne or fruity notes of pear brandy may just turn you onto this herbaceous spirit.

Death in the Afternoon

1 ounce of Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure
4 ounces of chilled Brut Champagne

Pour the absinthe and the chilled Champagne into a flute and serve.

Front Porch Lemonade

½ ounce of Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure
½ ounce of Cointreau
½ ounce of Penn 1681 Vodka
1 ½ ounces of lemonade

Combine the absinthe, Cointreau, vodka and lemonade and shake with vigor. Serve on the rocks in a highball.

Frappe Sunday

1 ounce of Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure
½ ounce of Cointreau
3 ounces of cold water

Pour the absinthe, Cointreau and cold water in highball with ice and stir.

Last Resort

¼ ounce of Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure
2 ounces of Massenez Poire Williams pear brandy
¾ ounce of fresh lime juice
¾ ounce of rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water)
1 egg white
Nutmeg, for garnish
Bitters, for garnish

Pour the absinthe, pear brandy, fresh lime juice, rich simple syrup and an egg white in a glass and stir. Garnish with nutmeg and bitters.

The Corpse Reviver No. 2

¾ ounce of Bluecoat American Dry Gin
¾ ounce of fresh lemon juice
¾ ounce of Lillet
¾ ounce of Cointreau
1 dash of Vieux Carré Absinthe Supérieure

Pour the gin, fresh lemon juice, Lillet, Cointreau and absinthe in a coupe and stir.

Distillery: Philadelphia Distilling
City: Philadelphia, Penn.
Style: Absinthe
Proof: 120 (60% ABV)

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