To make absinthe is not that difficult, you just need a measure of absinthe, a glass, and ice cold water! The important thing to remember is that absinthe is a concentrate and should never really be taken neat.
Adding iced water to absinthe releases the herbal oils in the alcohol and out comes the hidden flavours and the effects. The key to all of this is to let the water slowly drip into the green liquor and not rush it. There are many devices such as absinthe fountains, drippers, and specialist absinthe pitchers that are designed to deliver the water at a slow constant rate and create the clouding that absintheurs appreciate called the louche. The absinthe spoon is used when the drinker chooses to sweeten the drink and is designed to hold a sugar cube. The optimum ratio is about 1 part absinthe to 4 parts water and in the old days there were even absinthe professors on hand in bars and cafes to teach the novice..
What is an absinthe professor?
I am sorry to disappoint you but no University has been known to offer a Chair in Absinthe Studies, an absinthe professor is an all-together lowlier figure that belongs to absinthe’s poetic past. The absinthe professor was a habitué of the cafes and bars of 19th Century Paris and, lurking in the shadows, was always on the look out for a new student. The students were those that didn’t know how to make absinthe (correctly pour an absinthe) - it was not the done thing to have a waiter do it for you!
One writer, called Balesta, remarks that
“the absinthe professors put themselves on the trail of the novice drinkers, teaching them to raise their elbow high and frequently, to water their absinthe artistically.”
Whether it was an art or a science is open to question! Controversy concerning the correct ratio of water to absinthe, which as I say is now generally accepted to be 1:4, was one subject on which the absinthe professor might deliver his lecture to the drinkers, but all in all the professor was a show man & the louche, the swirling dance of herbal oils that clouds the glass, was the show! The absinthe professor’s fee for the advice he dispensed at table side, during the mystical transformation? Why, a glass of absinthe, of course!
Many fads and fashions were thereby created - at one time there was a stunt that involved standing on a chair and dripping the chilled water into the drink from on high! Absinthe culture in the high times of 19th Century Paris also developed slang all of its own. Absinthe professors are sadly no longer with us as they formed part of the eclectic mix of misfits, poets, drunkards, and demi-monde that made up the café society of late 19th century Europe. Getting to know these famous, and not so famous, absinthe drinkers is all part of the attraction of this unique drink.