Absinthe – Hardly any other spirit has such a fabled reputation as the famous, usually green wormwood spirit. Many people first think of Van Gogh’s ear (though the exact circumstances of the famous self-mutilation are not really clear), hallucinogenic effects or perhaps of the famous painting “The Absinthe Drinker” by Viktor Oliva which can be seen in the Café Slavia in Prague and on which the “green fairy” appears to an Absinthe drinker. (provided test products)*
Only few people will first think of the French city of Pontarlier on the Swiss border when it comes to Absinthe. But indeed this city even has an own museum dedicated to the matter and the history of Absinthe. The museum is operated by the Pierre Guy distillery, which is a peculiarity on its own as it is one of the few distilleries that were traditionally rooted in the Absinthe production that found ways to economically survive during the time Absinth became outlawed throughout Europe at the turn-of-the-century (in France, Absinthe became outlawed in 1914).
So while in the 1990s it was possible to observe a veritable hype surrounding the revival of Absinthe, in Pontarlier you probably will encounter an unchanged, more traditional point of view. Different variants of Absinthe from the Guy Distillery are directly imported and sold by the German distributor Lion Spirits. Today I would like to present three different spirits from this distillery: an Absinthe, an Anisée (a French type of spirit which gained popularity especially as a result of the ban on Absinthe – it does not contain wormwood) and a fir needle liqueur.
La Pontissalienne (56% vol.) – Absinthe:
It is a very beautiful Absinth with aromatic anise and a fine and dry character. Wormwood, some chamomile and a subtle honey sweetness round off the picture.
Pontarlier Anis Ponsec (45% vol.) – Anisee:
Compared to the La Pontissalienne I did not notice the genre difference as fast as I would have expected. The anise note is of course immediately present and is a really nice one. With an ABV of 45% to 56% there is of course a difference also in terms of alcoholic strength resulting in a differing intensity of aromas carried by the alcohol. It is slightly less complex, but clear, spicy and consistent.
Le Vert Sapin (40% vol.) – Fir needle liquer: That really is a very interesting liqueur: sweetish, almost fruity with a full bouquet of fir needles and forest associations. In addition there is a fine lemon note, floral tones and fine herbs.
Two cocktail ideas have come to my mind when I thought about using these nice spirits. On the one hand, I opted for a variant of the White Negroni by Wayne Collins, which I have just called “Green & White Negroni” and on the other hand I chose to use the La Pontissalienne in the Green Fairy cocktail by Dick Bradsell (I slightly reduced the water content since the La Pontissalienne is a little bit weaker than many Absinthes are).
Recipe “Green & White Negroni”:
3.5 cl French Old Tom Gin (for instance Citadelle No Mistake Old Tom)
2.5 cl Lillet Blanc
2 cl Le Vert Sapin fir needle liqueur
0,5 cl Pontarlier Anis Ponsec
1 Barlöffel D.O.M. Benedictine
Preparation: Add all ingredients to a glass filled with ice cubes and give it a stir.
Garnish: small fir branch
Recipe “Green Fairy”:
4.5 cl La Pontissalienne Absinthe
2.5 cl of water
3 cl lemon juice
1.5 cl simple syrup (2:1)
½ egg whites
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Preparation: First add all ingredients without ice to a shaker and do a “dry shake” (or froth with a milk frother). Then shake again with ice cubes and strain into your pre-chilled glass.
Glass: martini / cocktail
Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online
*The fact that these products have been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.