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Absinthe Tasting Party Inquiry


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#1 Maredudd

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Posted 11 December 2011 - 09:25 PM

Greetings Folks!

It looks like I will be hosting an Absinthe Tasting Parlor at an upcoming gathering so I have been contemplating how best to implement it and would like everyone's thoughts.

I currently have three brands available and plan on picking up at least one more, and maybe two beyond that. I am planning on sitting four folks at a time in an area set aside and separated by curtains to keep out the general revelry going on around us. You see, this will be taking place over New Years weekend at an SCA event where the Steampunks of the group have been given permission to commandeer the hall and throw a Steampunk Ball.

Once the tasters are seated I will begin. My general process will be to mix a glass, using a small carafe, of each brand available, with a 4 to 1 ration of water to ansinthe and including sugar, demonstrating the louch and the olfactory presence of each brand. I will then, one brand at a time, pour no more than an ounce into a small glass, one each per taster, and will let them taste it. I will then repeat the mixing, pouring and tasting for each of the other brands available. Once all brands have been tasted I'll close that particular round and prepare for the next.

Now for some specific question:

1) I currently have Lucid, Pacifique Verte and Ridge Verte. I want to get Jade NO, but that's rather expensive, but I'm also interested in Ridge Blanche. What others would you folks recommend?

2) When beginning, what kind of intro would you folks recommend? I have no problem trying to educate the tasters, as I suspect many of them will have no clue that absinthe is even legal for consumption, but what do you folks feel would be appropriate?

3) How does the actual tasting part sound? Does it flow well, especially considering that I am breaking up the initial mixing to demonstrate the louch and the actual tasting? How would you change it if you were doing it? How would you like it to run if you were one of the tasters?

4) What kind of glasses should I use for the tasting? I picked up a few small glasses today to try out. One is a tulip shaped tumbler, one is a small pilsner glass, and the third is a small brandy sniffer. All of them hold three ounces or less.

5) I have also picked up a small carafe, that holds 8oz, to mix the absinthe in though I'm thinking I might need to pick up a number of Ponterlier glasses so that the experience is as close to ideal as I can. What do you guys think?

6) How would you recommend I close each round?

7) I'm also thinking about having something available to write some of their thoughts for each absinthe tasted. Good idea? Bad?

I am currently looking at an apothecary jar, that I found at World Market, as a ice-water dispenser. its cheap and looks good, though I may need to swap out the spigot for a beefier one.

I look forward to your comments and thoughts!
- The question isn't if you CAN do it . . .
- The question is should you . . .

#2 Père Ubu

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 05:10 AM

For the amounts, try using the calculator.
I'm not sure about sugar for the good ones.
Ridge Blanche would be an excellent addition. Louche it relatively strong.

#3 Père Ubu

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 05:13 AM

Maybe making a lot of drippers with measuring cups, or onion savers, might be more practical.
Also, make sure to only use glassware for serving (bad experience).

#4 buddhasynth

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 01:39 PM

bland tasting crackers and maybe some brie or another not-too-strong tasting cheese will go a long way toward "cleansing the Palate" in between brands as well.
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#5 crow

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:02 PM

Funny, I'm having an absinthe tasting party this week. Just a small gathering of friends though... about 8 of us. I'm planning to serve VC and V Pontarlier (because I have about half bottle of each and I consider them expendable), Ridge V (because I have a brand new bottle I want to break in), and probably some Walton Walters or Duplais Verte.

I plan to make a small pitcher of each and let the guests taste at will. I will begin by demonstrating the proper way to louche with a Pontarlier glass, sugar cube, and absinthe spoon. If most people are satisfied with a few small glasses, but a couple others exhibit signs of the beautiful obsession (as my husband calls it), I might ration out a couple tastes of St. George, MoL, or Pacifique, which I am hording a bit as I'm down to half bottle of each to last me through the holidays.

Food: a simple pasta, a salad, baked stuffed clams, marrow bone, and a simple roast beef tenderloin.

Good luck with your party! :cheerz:
"Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias!" ("A life lived in fear is a life half lived.") --Frangipani della Squeegeemop

#6 Père Ubu

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:17 PM

Careful using cheese, it can coat thepalate. I would also let people know sugar is a personal choice. I'm a sweet tooth, but IMHO sugar ruins Ridge Verte, and would likely ruin most of the absinthes I like. VC and Lucid are the only ones I use sugar with.

#7 baubel

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:17 PM

I'd steer towards the more affordable brands. Nothing like louching up a glass of one of the Jades you had to import from overseas only to find out the person doesn't like it.
As far as glasses go I think smaller clear glasses that can highlight the differences in louche is worth pondering.
I once did a small tasting party and we did sugared and non-sugared sample glasses. That doubles your quantity right there, so if you go that route you may already have enough brands.

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#8 Père Ubu

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:19 PM

what the mathematical fountain maker said.


Then again, I used Sauvage to introduce a bunch of noobs to absinthe, all of which loved it.

Edited by Miguel, 12 December 2011 - 02:19 PM.


#9 Evan Camomile

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 03:15 PM

I tried to answer your questions one by one. These are just my suggestions, as far as I know there's no formalized way of doing a tasting.

1) Since you don't have a blanche I'd go with Ridge Blanche, which just happens to be the best blanche in the world, or at least that's my opinion.

2) A basic rundown of what absinthe is (required herb bill, distilled, etc.) should be all that's necessary. I have spent hours educating people, but in a group setting keep it short. If they know what absinthe IS then it will be easier for them to spot what absinthe isn't. I'm sure you'll get a lot of one on one questions during and after the tasting to work out some of the finer details.

3) I would demonstrate each glass louching one after the other and then part them out to each of the guests. Breaking in between each absinthe might be "too formal" of a feeling. Just louche each one before you say a bit about it. Then part it out and let people talk and mingle between each brand.

4) Small glasses are good, try ones commonly used for digestifs, or maybe tall thin shot glasses. Champagne flutes do work but they feel large when offering sample sized pours.

5) Different glassware, spoons, etc. to show would be good so even if you aren't going to use something bring it along for a quick tidbit to talk about.

6) Walk around the table with #1, then #2, etc. etc. Give a tiny, tiny speech about each one when you get back to the head of the table and after it is louched but before you start serving it.

7) Paper binders and pens on hand would be good for notes if anyone feels like it but I'd just have them on hand, not in front of everyone. It's a tasting not a lecture.

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#10 Absomphe

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 03:53 PM

Wheat Thins™ as palate cleansers.

Yes, I'm Krinkles the Clown on an absinthe a beer bender.

You got a problem with that?


#11 Père Ubu

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 03:58 PM

I find whisky tumblers work well, so you can get a good whiff. The small diameter stuff makes it harder for the aroma to work its magic.

#12 Joe Legate

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 05:55 PM

Food: a simple pasta, a salad, baked stuffed clams, marrow bone, and a simple roast beef tenderloin.

Holy shit! :dribble: You cook. I'll bring more booze.

Lots of good advice.
I prefer making all the bottles available with ample snacks, sugar and whatever else will help your guests relax. Bypass formality and talk about anything pleasant including the drinks at hand. Avoid ranking or rating the drinks but discuss nuances, appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, etc... Keep the conversation light, friendly and positive. It sounds like a hell of a pleasant evening. :cheers:

#13 OMG_Bill

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 06:03 PM

All very good suggestions.

ScottM has done quite a number of tastings and I'm sure he's got some good ideas.

Good luck and of course......have fun.

Oh, take pics so we can see the smiling faces.

Cheers!
Some folks may cringe each time I use the term "Booze" regarding these high quality drinks.
I mean no offense. There are bottles of extraordinary booze out there. I've tasted a few. Relax.

#14 fingerpickinblue

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 07:22 PM

A couple more points, just to add more confusion!

1. I don't think glasses are really all that important. I'd use what is available, and not so big that it swallows up the absinthe. A smaller white wine glass would be perfect.

2. I would try to have someone to assist with the preparation. You will not believe how many questions will arise, and you will want to be freed up to address them.

3. Print up some of these to hand out.

4. I might try to have a decanter or carafe for each, prepared by your assistant while you demonstrate just one in a glass. That way, you can move through the tasting readily, without time consumed for preparation. If you do this, an ice water bath to set them in is helpful.

5. I always show absinthe in tastings without sugar, and have on hand a couple of dasher bottles of simple syrup for those who want to try sugar. That way, everyone has the opportunity to try it both ways, and with increasing degrees of sugar, if that is their thing.

Have a great time. I wish I could be there. :cheers:
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#15 crow

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 04:23 AM

Good idea to start off with no sugar and provide simple syrup, though I might have one pitcher with sugar to show the difference.

Joe, if you bring the Ridge, I'll cook a banquet!
"Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias!" ("A life lived in fear is a life half lived.") --Frangipani della Squeegeemop

#16 Jack Griffin

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 06:37 AM

At the Catskills event in 2010, based on the advice I was given by some here, we served in little 2 oz. shooter glasses with a slight flare at the top. They worked very well. Prepping it in an actual absinthe glass with no facets will demonstrate the best louche, and if it is narrower at the bottom like an East or Egg glass, it will give a dramatic smokey show that will dazzle many. (As will a Pontarlier glass with no facets). The simple syrup works well as folks have said. Nothing however, is more tactile and draws folks in, as prepping absinthe themselves. As the evening progresses, encourage folks to have a glass of what they liked best, (at this point if they liked sugar, they can use a cube and a spoon) and prepare their own glass. This is the initiation that will hook them and connect it all together, for those who want to explore further.

Have fun! Be careful... you may wind up doing this a lot and making all kinds of new friends.

#17 Alan Moss

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 09:19 AM

Taste any blanche first. The herbaceous nature of some vertes may make it more difficult to appreciate a blanche if the order is reversed.

Sometimes it is interesting to put one of the more one dimensional vertes (cold mix, artificial coloured) towards the end. Since some of them are in better distribution than the better artisanal brands discussed here, it's important to demonstrate the difference.

I love to add a simple cocktail at the very end. It shows that absinthe can be much, much more than a lot of people assume, and it opens the door to a lot of other drinks. My favourite is the Clandestino (like a caipirinha, but with La Clandestine instead of cachaca), but then I am biased. The Absinthe Frappée works well too.
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#18 crow

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 12:50 PM

I like the idea of making some cocktails. Frappe is easy. I'll look for some others too. Also like the idea of letting people louche their own if they're interested. Thanks. Going to be a good night I think, and thank goodness I don't have to work the next day!
"Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias!" ("A life lived in fear is a life half lived.") --Frangipani della Squeegeemop

#19 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:10 PM

Hi Baubel!

I'd steer towards the more affordable brands. Nothing like louching up a glass of one of the Jades you had to import from overseas only to find out the person doesn't like it.

If I end up picking up Jade it will be more for me as opposed for the tasting party, though I would likely also include it as well in the party. I'm doing a bit of tasting on my own and as I have yet to meet anyone else near me that is a fan of absinthe my only chance to try other producer's stock is to buy it myself . . . :-)

As far as glasses go I think smaller clear glasses that can highlight the differences in louche is worth pondering. I once did a small tasting party and we did sugared and non-sugared sample glasses. That doubles your quantity right there, so if you go that route you may already have enough brands.

All of the glasses I picked up to experiment with are clear glasses. I'll try to take some pics and post them.
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#20 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:13 PM

Hi Miguel!

Careful using cheese, it can coat thepalate. I would also let people know sugar is a personal choice. I'm a sweet tooth, but IMHO sugar ruins Ridge Verte, and would likely ruin most of the absinthes I like. VC and Lucid are the only ones I use sugar with.


I had been thinking about using cheese as I have seen it used for wine tasting parties, but I take your point. As for the sugar, I keep flipping back and forth. I don't take my absinthe sweetened myself.
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#21 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:31 PM

Hi Evan!

I tried to answer your questions one by one. These are just my suggestions, as far as I know there's no formalized way of doing a tasting.


Thank you, and everyone else, very much for taking the time to answer my post. I am taking it all in and will end up with what I know will be a much better experience for all of the folks who stop by the parlor! :-)

1) Since you don't have a blanche I'd go with Ridge Blanche, which just happens to be the best blanche in the world, or at least that's my opinion.


I am planning on adding at least that one, even if it is the only other one. That way I have a non-verte. My wife wants me to find one of the red absinthes . . .

2) A basic rundown of what absinthe is (required herb bill, distilled, etc.) should be all that's necessary. I have spent hours educating people, but in a group setting keep it short. If they know what absinthe IS then it will be easier for them to spot what absinthe isn't. I'm sure you'll get a lot of one on one questions during and after the tasting to work out some of the finer details.


Good point. I was already planning on taking a stack of copies of the absinthe flyer available on this site. I will likely also re-familiarize myself with the FAQ, as it will likel contain many of the questions I expect I'll get.

3) I would demonstrate each glass louching one after the other and then part them out to each of the guests. Breaking in between each absinthe might be "too formal" of a feeling. Just louche each one before you say a bit about it. Then part it out and let people talk and mingle between each brand.


That is my plan. I will have a carafe for each absinthe I will be serving and will produce one 'glass' for each group of tasters. That glass will then be shared between those seated by pouring something less than an ounce of each absinthe for each taster, going through them one at a time.

4) Small glasses are good, try ones commonly used for digestifs, or maybe tall thin shot glasses. Champagne flutes do work but they feel large when offering sample sized pours.


I'll post some pics of the ones I'm thinking of. My wife favors a tulip shaped glass (3oz) and I prefer a mini brandy sniffer (3oz). I'm still looking though . . .

5) Different glassware, spoons, etc. to show would be good so even if you aren't going to use something bring it along for a quick tidbit to talk about.


This is something I hadn't really thought of yet. I'll cogitate over it!

6) Walk around the table with #1, then #2, etc. etc. Give a tiny, tiny speech about each one when you get back to the head of the table and after it is louched but before you start serving it.


That might be a problem. I know the space I will be allowed and, though its not real tight, it is a little restrictive in walking space. I might try to bring in a short table, a la coffee table, and use it as the work surface, allowing those around the table to see, and freely talk to each other.

7) Paper binders and pens on hand would be good for notes if anyone feels like it but I'd just have them on hand, not in front of everyone. It's a tasting not a lecture.


Yeah. I'll provide something, even if it is a pre-printed pamphlet with each absinth listed and space to write notes.
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- The question is should you . . .

#22 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:34 PM

I find whisky tumblers work well, so you can get a good whiff. The small diameter stuff makes it harder for the aroma to work its magic.


This is why I like the mini brandy sniffers. They provide a wider opening than the other glasses I've looked at so far, and have the added advantage that the belly of the glass is wider even then the opening allowing more surface area for the aroma to escape.
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#23 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:42 PM

Hi Joe!

Lots of good advice.
I prefer making all the bottles available with ample snacks, sugar and whatever else will help your guests relax. Bypass formality and talk about anything pleasant including the drinks at hand. Avoid ranking or rating the drinks but discuss nuances, appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, etc... Keep the conversation light, friendly and positive. It sounds like a hell of a pleasant evening. :cheers:


I think my next party will follow that model as it will certainly be in my home with a lot fewer folks in attendance. The theme there will certainly be that of a relaxing evening with friends, none of which have ever had absinthe! :-)

This first one, and it may yet not happen, i will be taking place, for all intents and purposes, in the middle of a wild New Years party! Being Steampunk themed, there will certainly be folks there who will desire to portray the very model of the Victorian Gentleman or Woman, but then they may all be airship mechanics on leave for the holiday! :-)
- The question isn't if you CAN do it . . .
- The question is should you . . .

#24 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:44 PM

Oh, take pics so we can see the smiling faces.


Thanks for mentioning it! I'll find someone to tag for pictures! That way I can focus on the tasting! :-)
- The question isn't if you CAN do it . . .
- The question is should you . . .

#25 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:53 PM

Hi Fingerpickinblue!

A couple more points, just to add more confusion!


Thanks for your input!

1. I don't think glasses are really all that important. I'd use what is available, and not so big that it swallows up the absinthe. A smaller white wine glass would be perfect.


Something like that is what I am leaning towards. I'll post some pics later.

2. I would try to have someone to assist with the preparation. You will not believe how many questions will arise, and you will want to be freed up to address them.


I think my wife might want to help but I'm not certain that would actually help. She's ADHD and would end up talking more everyone else than helping in the preparation. Fortunately, I can multitask faily well and have some experience in answering questions while performing the tasks required to prepare the absinthe. I also plan on restricting the tasters to no more than four seated at a time, so that will limit how many folks can ask questions. I will have someone on duty to keep the looky-loos from popping in to 'get a drink'.

3. Print up some of these to hand out.


Yep! Planned on it!

4. I might try to have a decanter or carafe for each, prepared by your assistant while you demonstrate just one in a glass. That way, you can move through the tasting readily, without time consumed for preparation. If you do this, an ice water bath to set them in is helpful.


I will have a carafe for each type being tasted and will prepare a new batch for each group.

5. I always show absinthe in tastings without sugar, and have on hand a couple of dasher bottles of simple syrup for those who want to try sugar. That way, everyone has the opportunity to try it both ways, and with increasing degrees of sugar, if that is their thing.


I actually like this approach!

Have a great time. I wish I could be there. :cheers:


I'll bring a report back after the affair! :-)
- The question isn't if you CAN do it . . .
- The question is should you . . .

#26 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 01:59 PM

Hi Scott!

At the Catskills event in 2010, based on the advice I was given by some here, we served in little 2 oz. shooter glasses with a slight flare at the top. They worked very well. Prepping it in an actual absinthe glass with no facets will demonstrate the best louche, and if it is narrower at the bottom like an East or Egg glass, it will give a dramatic smokey show that will dazzle many. (As will a Pontarlier glass with no facets). The simple syrup works well as folks have said. Nothing however, is more tactile and draws folks in, as prepping absinthe themselves. As the evening progresses, encourage folks to have a glass of what they liked best, (at this point if they liked sugar, they can use a cube and a spoon) and prepare their own glass. This is the initiation that will hook them and connect it all together, for those who want to explore further.


I have so far talked about using a small carafe but I have also been considering using an actual absinthe glass. I don't currently have any so it is something will need to pick up. I have found them fairly inexpensively on a few sites and will likely order a few in the next week.

For those that like what they taste, I will most certainly encourage them to prepare their own! :-)

Have fun! Be careful... you may wind up doing this a lot and making all kinds of new friends.


And that is never a bad thing! :-)
- The question isn't if you CAN do it . . .
- The question is should you . . .

#27 Ambear

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 02:01 PM

I am planning on adding at least that one, even if it is the only other one. That way I have a non-verte. My wife wants me to find one of the red absinthes . . .


Good luck...they tend to be difficult to track down, particularly in their still-red condition, unless you went for Serpis. It's tasty for sure, but artificially colored, and would have to be ordered from abroad (as far as I know.)
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#28 Maredudd

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 02:02 PM

Alan and Crow!

Good thought. I'll look into that and see about adding it to the program!
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- The question is should you . . .

#29 thegreenimp

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 05:20 PM

Lot's of comfy chairs, preferably recliners.

And one of those little 2 ounce OXO measuring cups.
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#30 fingerpickinblue

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 07:54 AM

One more thought. Be prepared with a good, logical response to the question of setting absinthe on fire. At the first couple of demos I did, I couldn't believe how often this came up. It actually was the most common question that I didn't expect. The people that have proffered it as an "authentic" practice have done an unbelievable job of selling it. Start here, here, and here for some info.
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