8 Essential Absinthe Cocktails

Here are the absinthe cocktails you need to know. So strong they'll box your ears.

Sazerac Cocktail
The Sazerac | Photo by Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper.

Some of the names here are in themselves instructional: Death in the Afternoon , the Third Degree, Corpse Reviver, and one that has the same name as a famous general who razed his way from Atlanta to the sea. You get the idea. These formidable cocktails are enough to box your ears. Also, you can always replace the absinthe in these cocktails with Pernod or Absente and be no worse for the wear. Cheers! And for more on absinthe's historically bad reputation, check out The Truth about Absinthe, the World's Most Notorious Spirit.

1. Sazerac

An oldie but a goody, this is one of the world's first cocktails, invented in New Orleans in the 19th century. You'll coat the sides of a frosted glass with absinthe. Dump out the excess liqueur into the sink (or drink it!). Then to a separate glass, add sugar, a splash of water, and Peychaud bitters and stir to dissolve. Strain into the absinthe-coated glass and add rye. Stir and garnish with a twist of lemon.

2. Cocktail a la Louisiane

There's a lot going on in this complex rye whiskey cocktail named after an old restaurant in New Orleans. You'll fill a cocktail pitcher with ice. Pour in rye whiskey, Benedictine, sweet vermouth, and a couple dashes of absinthe. Shake in a few dashes of Peychaud bitters, stir well, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry or a twist of lemon.

3. Casino Cocktail

Here's a variation on the traditional champagne cocktail with a splash of absinthe and a floater of cognac. You'll place a sugar cube in a champagne glass. Drip absinthe over the cube. Fill with sparkling wine. And float a small amount of good cognac over the top. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

4. Death in the Afternoon

It doesn't get easier than this. Pour absinthe into a champagne glass. Gradually add sparkling wine. Read some Hemingway.

5. Corpse Reviver #2

This gin cocktail will bring you back to life. Or else put you over the edge. You'll add ice to a cocktail shaker. Pour in gin, Lillet, Cointreau, and lemon juice. Add absinthe to a separate cocktail glass and swirl to coat sides of glass. Shake the cocktail, and then strain into the glass, garnishing with a cherry.

6. McKinley's Delight

This one takes the Manhattan as its inspiration but adds cherry brandy and a splash of absinthe — and loses the maraschino cherry. You'll place ice in a cocktail pitcher. Pour in whiskey, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, and absinthe. Stir and strain into a chilled martini glass.

7. Third Degree

A martini, essentially, with a splash of absinthe and a twist of lemon to make things interesting. You'll pour gin, dry vermouth, and absinthe into a pitcher with ice. Stir to mix. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

8. Sherman Cocktail

Another variation on the Manhattan, with a splash of absinthe and orange bitters. Place ice in a cocktail pitcher. Pour in whiskey, sweet vermouth, and absinthe. Shake in Angostura and orange bitters. Stir and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Check out our collection of Cocktail Recipes.

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