Two years after its legalization in the United States, absinthe—the high-proof liquor favored by the likes of van Gogh, Baudelaire, and Hemingway—has become a fixture at local bars. The anise-flavored spirit’s many appearances on cocktail menus—a far cry from its days as a banned drink—has prompted a backlash, with some trendsetters already calling it out of fashion.
Disregard the detractors and the forbidden aura surrounding the drink. Absinthe is best enjoyed when approached as what it is: a spirit, not some magical elixir.
At the Tabard Inn, bartender Chantal Tseng makes a Sazerac by using Kübler, a Swiss brand of absinthe, to rinse the inside of the glass before adding whiskey, bitters, simple syrup, and lemon zest. For his Dawn Over Manhattan, a twist on the classic Manhattan, Tom Brown of Cork mixes absinthe into the drink. Brown’s brother Derek, drink master at the Gibson, makes the colorfully named Étouffer un Perroquet (Strangle a Parrot)—an absinthe-Champagne-and-brandy cocktail. The restaurant 1905 in DC’s U Street neighborhood serves absinthe using a special fountain that dilutes the high-alcohol spirit with water.