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Conju

So why hasn't absinthe recovered in the market?

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Is it really a price point product? Lack of culture? Lack of craft support? Personal preference?

 

Hard to understand, given the events of the 00's... I truly expected a bit more of a 'Renaissance'.

 

This of course to say nothing of forum activity, which is practically nonexistent...

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Except for never-say-die oldtimer Nostrils like us, Bruddah!

 

 

Oops, wrong forum...

 

 

Great to 'see' you, Conju.

 

 

Btw, what is this 'absinthe', of which you type? :unsure:

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This of course to say nothing of forum activity, which is practically nonexistent...

I see you are also on feeverte. Now, that is the real ghost town, I subscribed some months ago, but my subscription never completed, I can't post anything. I sent messages to the admins and no one answered. I'm a newcomer to absinthe, but I'm realising that we are at the end of a cycle, at least in forums. BTW the product offering is now very rich. This is not an area where brave new things can keep coming and keep people excited.

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You hit the nail right on the head, Carlo.

 

Now, beer, on the other hand... B) ;)

Edited by Absomphe

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Now, beer, on the other hand... :devil:

In any case, something costing so much per bottle (though not as much per glass), and that requires a ritual like dilution with spoon and fountain, has any hope to be appreciated in the current consumer landscape? Think of beer and flavoured vodka...

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Except for never-say-die oldtimer Nostrils like us, Bruddah!

 

 

Oops, wrong forum...

 

 

Great to 'see' you, Conju.

 

 

Btw, what is this 'absinthe', of which you type? :unsure:

Likewise. You should check your sig for moar info. I'm not even sure I understand it. WierdTM... :arrr:

 

 

This of course to say nothing of forum activity, which is practically nonexistent...

I see you are also on feeverte. Now, that is the real ghost town, I subscribed some months ago, but my subscription never completed, I can't post anything. I sent messages to the admins and no one answered. I'm a newcomer to absinthe, but I'm realising that we are at the end of a cycle, at least in forums. BTW the product offering is now very rich. This is not an area where brave new things can keep coming and keep people excited.

 

 

Cogently stated and pleasure to meet you. I would add and ask though, if the offerings truly are there, then why are we seeing little in the way of local market penetration? I go to my local liquor store and it is a small miracle if I see a bottle of Kübler on the shelf. It suits me just fine, although I can almost hear the keyboard groans for saying such of a 'pedestrian' La Bleue.

 

It had been my sincerest hope that in a post-ban era, we would see a cultural restoration akin to that of early 20th century Europe, or at least something approximating it.

 

Maybe, and I say this hoping management would abide the impending pseudo-political talk just this once, we're simply too tied up here in the US on farm subsidies for herbs used in the creation of absinthe to make economic sense for the consumer. While I take the argument that a bottle is 'expensive', it would seem that a liter of absinthe could conceivably be distilled for far less than it is.

 

The other side of the coin there is demand of course, and taking the forums as indicators could mean that it simply isn't there, which could infer a cultural problem, a lack of interest or simply a lack of desire.

 

Maybe its just as simple as the troglodytes arrived first and soured anyone who could conceivably be involved on the experience. The movie 'Euro Trip' comes to mind.

Edited by Conju

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I think there are a number of factors here, but first, let me say that as a noob who's read a lot of the archives, it's good to see a post from someone I've only seen on very old posts before. There's not a ton of activity around here, but it feels like maybe it's picked up a little bit in the last month or so. Or perhaps I'm imagining things.

 

One of the things I think we need to take into account is that human psychology often plays as large a role in what we end up liking or disliking, as actual level of quality. It also has a big hold on what we are willing to try. Familiarity, especially, is really key - advertising works off this principle all the time, but simply having heard of something before is enough to predispose a large % of people to a more favorable opinion, and absinthe, despite being more well-known now, is not at all well-known in general, in the U.S. Consumers also have a tendency to lapse into habits that are convenient/comfortable - getting people out of their rut to try something different can sometimes take a long time. About eight years ago, I was trying to talk a good friend of mine into giving up the Coors Light and trying some "real" beer, but he was highly resistant. Eventually, using Sam Adams Light as a gateway beer, myself and other friends of his worked on him so that maybe about six years later, he was finally exploring craft brews and trying different things.

 

One of the reasons why it took so long relates to another point, which is that American, mainstream culture tends to embrace consistency and regularity of product over idiosyncrasy and uniqueness, and more people seem to be looking for a very direct, straightforward, "hammer to the head" kind of experience, as opposed to something perhaps more subtle or nuanced. Thus, for my friend, drinking beer was simply a question of being able to drink a lot of it on a regular basis, without feeling heavy, so that he could get really drunk. The "really drunk" part was the end goal. Although many craft beers are not heavy, his experience with them was that they were heavier, and not as session-able, which conflicted with the main goal of getting really drunk. It took time, but through experiencing a number of other types of beer, he gradually came around to enjoying beer as a taste and mouthfeel experience as much as for getting drunk.

 

How does this affect absinthe? Well, for one, the aspect of absinthe's image most likely to appeal to a mainstream crowd in this country is the false image of mind distortion, hallucination, etc. And because real absinthe, served properly, is not going to even get someone smashed (unless you're drinking a lot of it, as with any booze), let alone trip balls, and because that sort of straightforward, "booze is for getting hammered" mentality is what predominates here, absinthe is at a disadvantage. I would guess that most of the time, most/none of us are drinking to get wasted, specifically, though we may be looking for a bit of a "relax". Absinthe is like craft beer - there's a lot to savor, flavor and aroma-wise, that gives it most of its appeal. This kind of positive trait is wasted in the mass culture arena, where subtlely and nuance are an impairment to finishing the drink and starting another.

 

In other threads, I've also seen other people mention the importance of cocktails to American drinking culture, and I would agree that it seems much more common to mix booze with other ingredients, than to consume them straight. And while properly-prepared absinthe is not straight, and is a "cocktail" of a kind, I don't think that's how it's perceived. More market penetration in the bar/cocktail scene would likely be helpful, but I don't really know anything about that or how it might be going. Fpb?

 

Then there's the question of the flavors and aromas themselves. Getting people to understand that absinthe doesn't really taste like licorice is tough. I've tried with some friends, and I'm not making a lot of headway. I personally hate black jelly beans and black licorice, but I love absinthe, so clearly there's a difference, but you have to get people to overcome some of those other things I mentioned earlier - their familiarity with absinthe is as a "licorice booze"; they are comfortable with what they are drinking already, why try something they think they will hate? Just yesterday I was visiting with a buddy of mine and brought a bottle of Absinthe du Centenaire along - he'd tried Lucid back when the ban was originally lifted in the U.S., and had mentioned considering a bottle of VC, so I thought he'd be a good target for some quality absinthe. I could tell from the way he drank it, he didn't care for it much - too many different herbal things going on, almost "like tea", he said, which is interesting, given the distiller in question.

 

Lastly, there's the question of time - it's not even been ten years since absinthe was made legal in the U.S., and the number of folks consuming it illicitly beforehand would not have been large, I don't think (though many of them are on this forum, l.o.l.). How long did it take the craft beer industry to start breaking through and becoming a real "thing"? That's an actual question - I don't know, but I'm guessing some of you do. But, of course, craft beer and absinthe are not 1-to-1 analogues - even if it's craft beer, it's still beer, and beer is already hugely-integrated into American culture, so it's likely had a quicker upswing. I think that all or at least many of the above issues I mentioned can be conquered with time, but it is going to take time. The most important thing is that individuals keep suggesting it to friends and coworkers, organizations like the WS keep doing publicity work, and that we continue to support the brands that are around so that we can keep the bottles on the shelves. If it's not available at all, in easy-to-reach locations, most people aren't going to pursue it. Online ordering is more prevalent now than in the past, yes, but I don't think an "absinthe revolution" would come via mail-order. It needs to be available in places where, having had it suggested to them once by a friend, they can try or buy it on a whim.

 

Anyway, that's a lengthy-enough post for now. Hardly comprehensive, but that's a summary of what I think on this subject.

Edited by belewfripp

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I have pondered this same thought. These are some observations that I have made in various scenarios:

 

It's sophisticated; similar to but different from the type of sophistication of drinking wine.

 

It takes too long to prepare and requires too much effort; that doesn't work in a gathering of drinkers. The want to pop a beer can or pour some vodka in their Redbull or shoot ultra-sweet Fire Ball.

 

The niche is a "cult of oddballs". Typically, then and now, it is enjoyed by aesthetes.

 

The misconception by those that equate it to smoking marijuana. I have tried offering absinthe in gatherings, and as soon as I mention the word they look at me like "oh, you're a stoner."

 

The misconception by the ex college kids (that are now parents) that had shots or lit it on fire. See above.

 

Certain 'older' generations have never heard of it. Not willing to try something 'new'.

 

The intensely herbal flavor/s. A beer chaser doesn't work with it.

 

Difficult to serve in typical bars. Requires real estate for fountain. Busy bartender has to tend to the drip. This doesn't allow patron to appreciate the louche. Can't self-serve it like 19th century bistros; glasses, carafes, spoons etc. would disappear - too costly.

 

It's French.

 

These observations are obviously typical for U.S. environments. I can't speak to the attitudes in other countries.

 

And it may just need more time. In another interest that I am involved in, the subject is just recently starting to gain in recognition. I have been involved with it for over 15 years.

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I'd say, based on the explosion of the number of brand offerings, that we have certainly seen quite a bit of a renaissance. I'd also argue that the craft cocktail movement had a very big part in the resurgence. Practically every well respected bar has at least one cocktail on the menu that calls for absinthe, and the number of bars that offer absinthe service (with varying degrees of proper preparation) is growing daily.

 

That said, anise has never been a very popular flavor in the US, but it is certainly becoming more accepted.

 

I can say that the interest in absinthe has exploded. In 2007, I was doing education seminars for bartender's guilds and small consumer groups. That's steadily grown to where this month I have a small gathering of about 30 people, and then also another with between 400 and 500 people.

 

The interest and the number of brand offerings are there. We've made huge strides in the past 9 years. As Songcatcher mentioned, it only took about 100 years for it to reach prominence last time. :P

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Here I am, fpb!

 

1. Absinthe sales exploded everywhere it was legalised in the first 2/3 years following re-legalisation, much of that driven by people drinking absinthe for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way.

2. The thrill seekers were naturally disappointed not to find the green fairy, so dropped out.

3. Some retailers and bars thought that this was because consumers didn't like absinthe, so stocked fewer brands.

4. The effect of 2 and 3 together could have been as much as a 50% drop in sales from the first few years.

5. People drinking absinthe the right way(s) and for the right reasons then discover absinthe and the market starts to grow again.

 

This has happened in UK, USA, Canada, much of Europe, Australia etc. The negative aspects above were predicted here in 2009, as was the more positive side of cocktail consumption of absinthe.

 

I believe that the US market is growing right now, but there are probably a few too many local brands jumping onto the bandwagon, without getting the quality right. Obviously that doesn't apply to all of them. I estimate that around 30 - 40 of the c. 120 absinthes approved for US launch either never made it or have disappeared because they couldn't make money in a crowded market (Good news: that includes LTV. Bad news: that includes Obsello etc).

 

US distribution is not so easy either. Apart from Lucid, Kübler and Pernod, I doubt that there are many absinthes in more than 30 States.

 

Finally, I doubt if there is any other drinks category which has such a high proportion of sales in the USA that do not go via the normal 3 tier distribution system (importer/manufacturer > distributor > retailer or bar). That's not a criticism: it's a fact, partly caused by local retailers not satisfying local demand.

Edited by Alan Moss

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Lots of thoughts here. I suppose like any of you, there are some points that ring a little louder to me than others.

 

Familiarity, especially, is really key - ...Consumers also have a tendency to lapse into habits that are convenient/comfortable -

 

In other threads, I've also seen other people mention the importance of cocktails to American drinking culture...


Then there's the question of the flavors and aromas themselves. Getting people to understand that absinthe doesn't really taste like licorice is tough.

 

Lastly, there's the question of time - it's not even been ten years since absinthe was made legal in the U.S...

 

...craft beer and absinthe are not 1-to-1 analogues - even if it's craft beer, it's still beer, and beer is already hugely-integrated into American culture, so it's likely had a quicker upswing.

 

All really good points. Absinthe just got going again from a starting point of barely north of zero. Especially here in the US there's just no point of reference for most to even begin to build a way to think about it. Just imagine how difficult it would be to launch an unknown and similarly "new" idea in some other area where more conventional and/or popular competing alternatives are just accepted as being the default way to think about it... like maybe in the area of transportation. How many really remember and have a grip on the idea of the Segway, and how long has that been around?

 

While I take the argument that a bottle is 'expensive', it would seem that a liter of absinthe could conceivably be distilled for far less than it is.

 

I actually think a liter of absinthe is distilled for far less than the retail price. There is a significant premium added for it to travel through the tiers of distribution to the retail or restaurant shelf. But I'm not so sure price affects current market penetration all that much. There are plenty of other categories, currently enjoying huge success and popularity, that cost absinthe-like money. Just take a look at what's going on in the brown booze categories.

 

It's sophisticated; similar to but different from the type of sophistication of drinking wine.

 

It takes too long to prepare and requires too much effort...

 

Difficult to serve in typical bars. Requires real estate for fountain. Busy bartender has to tend to the drip. This doesn't allow patron to appreciate the louche. Can't self-serve it like 19th century bistros; glasses, carafes, spoons etc. would disappear - too costly.

 

More really good points. Yep, we want our drinking and we want it easy. In spite of everything you hear these days about the "cocktail revival" or whatever you want to call it, the vast majority of spirits consumed in this country are still consumed unmixed, or hastily, lazily, and mindlessly slopped together and thrown in front of the drinker. Given the fact that absinthe is a very forceful ingredient, and in mixed drinks can be a real bully, it's use in imprecise mixing just doesn't work. I'm not saying that it's use by the knowledgeable and sensitive will not help, but it will only serve to keep and spread some awareness. Without some kind of newer drinks that use any substantial volume, I don't think meaningful growth will happen. And I must say that, in my opinion, most of the modern, reasonably successful drinks that use any significant amount of absinthe are far beyond the motivation, desire, and abilities of the "don't know, don't care" bartending culture that predominates.

 

In his book Imbibe!, David Wonderich said that "By 1920, just about every technique, and major ingredient known to modern mixology was in play...". If you take a good look through the classic canon of mixed drinks, except for the traditional service and various variations on the frappe, almost all those drinks used absinthe in splashes, dashes, and rinses. Back in that time there were far more well-trained mixologists than we still have today, and they didn't manage to come up with other drinks that used higher volumes of absinthe. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I think it's highly improbable it will happen in any widespread manner anytime soon. So I think any revival, if it is to happen, will primarily depend on classic service and some frappes.

 

The niche is a "cult of oddballs". Typically, then and now, it is enjoyed by aesthetes.

 

You misspelled "assholes". :twitchsmile:

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Can't self-serve it like 19th century bistros; glasses, carafes, spoons etc. would disappear - too costly.

At the prices those places charge per glass...I kinda doubt it. And also, it should be self serve. A bartender, waiter, server doesn't give a tittle about getting your drink just the way you like it. The prep should be half the experience. A carafe, a glass, and a dripper is all you'd need. Little plastic disposable drippers if you're worried about theft.

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The niche is a "cult of oddballs". Typically, then and now, it is enjoyed by aesthetes.

 

You misspelled "assholes". :twitchsmile:

 

I'll just leave that right there. ;)

 

 

 

 

A carafe, a glass, and a dripper is all you'd need. Little plastic disposable drippers if you're worried about theft.

 

 

I can see it now - plastic absinthe ware. :dry: Someone should jump on that idea quickly. The designs for spoons would be limitless! Don't forget the sugar dish.

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Observation from a sort'a newbie:

 

Absinthe is sufficiently alive in the market in my current area (Monterey, California) and the area I just moved from (Orange County, California) that some of the major/expected brands aren't too hard to find. In Orange County, Total Wine and in both areas, BevMo, carry Lucid, Kübler and La Clandestine... Mansinthe, La Sorciere Verte, and Leopold Bros were on some of the shelves-- tryin' ta remember if one or more of the other decent brands was on the shelves down in Orange County (there were some of the decidedly lesser brands also out on shelves too).

 

In Monterey, the better liquor stores also carry a few bottles of Absinthe in their selection-- in addition to the predictable ones (Lucid, Kübler, La Clandestine and some cheap'n'nasty brands I shall not list by name here), I've seen Mansinthe, Leopold Bros, both varieties of La Sorciere, Butterfly, Vieux Carre, at least one of the Ridge distillery bottles, and two varieties of Jade. So, it may be a niche market compared to other products, but it's doing well enough to be stocked and sold around here instead of being run out of town and ignored.

 

It's also worth noting-- I picked up my first bottle of Leopold Bros and my second bottle of Lucid back in 2013 from a local liquor store that carried them in Kansas (specifically, in Junction City), back when I was stuck there for a job from 2012-2014. If it's made it to Kansas, it's got better market penetration than folks might be giving it credit for.

Edited by M_Glenn

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I'm not sure if expecting a mass revival of absinthe consumption is realistic. I think that it's important to keep in mind that the popularity of absinthe during its heyday was due to a perfect storm of sorts. (I know that everyone here is more than aware of this, but still)French troops returning from service in the 1800s provided a large customer base with a real taste for the drink and the decimation of the French wine industry due to pests pretty much funneled the populace towards the drink. Absinthe is such a unique and acquired taste that with today's immediate-gratification-society I can't see a large shift of people giving their palates time to understand such a drink, especially when it's so much more expensive than their $30 or so bottle of whiskey or vodka.

Edited by DanPatrick

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I'm sure it's largely due to where I am, but in the Seattle (Western Washington) area, I've definitely seen it bloom. I use that word in particular because it was a fairly slow and deliberate rise. Liquor stores carry plenty of options, and those operating them are happy to learn of more. The one closest too me usually has a stack of printouts of the Wormwood Society one-pager. More and more bars are keeping decent stuff in stock and know how to make cocktails well without explanation (just ask the guy that made me three Sazeracs the other night :drunk: ).

 

Crack a rib or revitalize a 'lost art' - true recovery isn't a quick big fix, it's a fairly long slow arc based on proper treatment and commitment.

 

From my perspective, it's recovering quite well.

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I'm a little late to this thread, but I'll throw in my two cents.

 

A large majority of the consuming public is still ignorant about absinthe. The best you can hope for is the usual "hallucinations?" or "isn't that illegal?" reaction. The opportunities for improving awareness are limited. Absinthe isn't given the acres of prime shelf space that vodka gets in the liquor store, so the consumer likely doesn't even notice it. Very few restaurants offer absinthe, much less prepare it in the traditional fashion. So the most likely place to run across it is in a cocktail, and then it's often just a "rinse".

 

We are trying to spread the word a bit in the Virginia / DC area. For restaurants that buy our absinthe and agree to prepare it properly we are offering free fountains and glassware. The response has been pretty good so far. The more people that see absinthe being prepared, the more may try it. Even then, I run across situations like one in a large hotel in downtown DC. The management was excited about offering absinthe in their restaurant. I delivered a few fountains and met with the bar staff. I could sense eyes rolling as I talked about the preparation . . . Slow drip, hey, why not bring the fountain to the table so the customer can participate, here's how to make your own sugar cubes so they aren't boring cubes, etc, I didn't gat a warm fuzzy that they were as excited as I was about bring absinthe to the masses.

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Big boys aren't that interested in developing absinthe market because:

- level of alchohol is higher (resulting in higher excise costs)

- production costs are higher (due to herbal bill)

 

Just like big boys preffered lager to double-ipa beers. They must hate increased costs of hops.

 

Absinthe growth will be fuelled by craft distllers. They don't mind increased costs as margin is stil ok. On the other hand absinthe requires less aging and provides better usage of capital. It also presents opportunity for differentiation. But prices will fall. Moderatly, because of excise and distribution costs

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I have pondered this same thought. These are some observations that I have made in various scenarios:

 

It's sophisticated; similar to but different from the type of sophistication of drinking wine.

 

It takes too long to prepare and requires too much effort; that doesn't work in a gathering of drinkers. The want to pop a beer can or pour some vodka in their Redbull or shoot ultra-sweet Fire Ball.

 

The niche is a "cult of oddballs". Typically, then and now, it is enjoyed by aesthetes.

 

The misconception by those that equate it to smoking marijuana. I have tried offering absinthe in gatherings, and as soon as I mention the word they look at me like "oh, you're a stoner."

 

The misconception by the ex college kids (that are now parents) that had shots or lit it on fire. See above.

 

Certain 'older' generations have never heard of it. Not willing to try something 'new'.

 

The intensely herbal flavor/s. A beer chaser doesn't work with it.

 

Difficult to serve in typical bars. Requires real estate for fountain. Busy bartender has to tend to the drip. This doesn't allow patron to appreciate the louche. Can't self-serve it like 19th century bistros; glasses, carafes, spoons etc. would disappear - too costly.

 

It's French.

 

These observations are obviously typical for U.S. environments. I can't speak to the attitudes in other countries.

 

And it may just need more time. In another interest that I am involved in, the subject is just recently starting to gain in recognition. I have been involved with it for over 15 years.

What I've noticed in my experience here in Wisconsin are two main factors, in addition to those you have mentioned:

 

1) The massive, MASSIVE amount of ignorance and myth burying the truth about absinthe: I just came back from a Christmas visit with my cousins, one of whom is in her mid-20's. She told me she sampled a shot of it--undiluted--and some of the Czech crapsinthe to boot!-- and (naturally) found it to produce nothing but a horrible burning sensation. I had to explain to her "that's not how you drink absinthe; you dilute it with water" and then proceeded to tell her all about the Wormwood Society website and how to get herself educated on absinthe consumption and history. I was glad to clear up her misconceptions, but as much as young people surf the 'net regarding everything else, you'd think people would spend 5 lousy minutes to do a little research into how to consume absinthe, if they're in a frame of mind to try it... evidently not. The problem sadly seems to be, for many, is that they prefer the fiction over the truth. Whether it comforts them more, or justifies their rationalizations more, or just is more exciting than the truth, the average American psyche--especially among our youth--seems to be VERY hard to penetrate in that regard.

 

2) The average American, especially the average Wisconsinite, has little desire for anise/licorice, especially in alcoholic beverages. When describing absinthe to my friends and family, and offering to give them a louched-up sample, the offer is almost universally declined on the basis of "I don't like licorice/anise and I can just drink Jägermeister/Anisette/some other anise liqueur if I were really that into it". It's very hard to explain to a population who has never tasted anything made with actual green aniseed that it is different than licorice or star anise. The VAST majority of all "licorice" candy is actually flavored with star anise--even that which can be bought through the Internet from overseas (I've looked). The little Flavigny aniseed mints are available here through the Internet (and they are good, BTW), but that's about all I've found. Nothing seem to be made anymore with actual licorice root extract, so the idea that licorice, star anise and aniseed actually taste differently from each other is lost on the American public. What Americans also don't understand is that the other herbal oils in absinthe contribute to the overall flavor of the drink so that the anise taste is made more subtle and balanced by the other flavors. Those whom I've convinced to try a sample still can't seem to get past the anise flavor. Yet they will throw all kinds of money away on consuming some of the most atrocious swill--alcoholic or otherwise--ever to be peddled in a can or bottle. :poop:

 

I believe it was H. L. Mencken who said, "No one ever lost money underestimating the tastes of the American public." :dry:

Edited by KaiserFrazer67

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