How to Prepare Absinthe the Right Way: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re looking for a unique and flavorful drink to impress your guests, absinthe might be just what you need.

This anise-flavored spirit has a long and interesting history and is often associated with the Bohemian culture of 19th-century Paris.

However, preparing absinthe the right way can be a bit of a challenge if you’re not familiar with the process.

When it comes to enjoying absinthe properly, the process of preparing it is just as important as the taste!

But have no fear, dear reader.

In this article, we’re going to explore how to prepare absinthe properly.

With these easy instructions, you’ll soon be ready to experience for yourself just why so many of the greatest artists of all time declared their love for the Green Fairy!

Let’s get into it!

What is Absinthe?

If you’re new to absinthe, you may be wondering what exactly this curious spirit is.

Absinthe is a high-proof alcoholic beverage that is made by distilling herbs and botanicals, including wormwood, anise, and fennel. It is known for its distinct aroma and bitter taste.

Absinthe has a long and storied history, and it has been enjoyed by artists, writers, and other creative types for centuries. It was famously banned in many countries in the early 20th century due to concerns about its supposed hallucinogenic properties, but it has since been legalized in many places.

One of the defining characteristics of absinthe is its high alcohol content.

Most absinthe has an alcohol content of around 60-70%, which is much higher than most other spirits. This high alcohol content is what gives absinthe its distinctive kick.

The key ingredient in absinthe is grande wormwood.

This plant is what gives absinthe its signature bitterness, and it is also what was believed to cause the supposed hallucinations associated with the drink.

However, modern research has shown that the amount of thujone (the compound in grande wormwood that was believed to be responsible for the hallucinations) in absinthe is actually quite low.

There are many different brands of absinthe available, and each one has its own unique flavor profile. Some absinthes are more bitter than others, while others are sweet or have a more pronounced anise flavor.

The production method can also vary from brand to brand, with some absinthes even being aged in oak barrels to give them a smoother flavor.

If you’re interested in trying absinthe, it’s important to choose a high-quality brand and prepare it properly.

Psst! My Absinthe Reviews Will Help You Out!

What You Need to Prepare Absinthe Properly

To prepare absinthe properly, you’ll need a few key tools.

Absinthe Spoon

The absinthe spoon is an important tool for preparing absinthe the right way.

It is a perforated spoon that is designed to rest on the rim of an absinthe glass. The spoon is used to hold a sugar cube, which is then placed over the absinthe glass.

When water is poured over the sugar cube, it slowly dissolves and drips into the absinthe, creating absinthe’s signature cloudy louche effect.

Absinthe spoons come in a variety of styles, from simple and utilitarian to ornate and decorative.

The most popular style of absinthe spoon has a flat, perforated head and a long, slender handle.

As time goes on and you look to further increase your absinthe preparation ritual, you might consider picking up a brouilleur. These devices can work in place of or alongside an absinthe spoon for preparing absinthe.

However, that’s for a different article. Today, we’re focusing on preparing absinthe for beginners.

Cold Water

You’ll also need some cold water to prepare your absinthe.

This is most easily done with a carafe of ice water. This is the carafe that I use and recommend which will make your absinthe preparation go much easier.

Simply let the water chill with ice before adding it to your absinthe.

Of course, if you’re feeling fancy or are just ready to dive into the deep end of the world of the Green Fairy, you might consider getting an absinthe fountain.

An absinthe fountain is a beautiful and functional tool that allows you to prepare absinthe with precision and ease. It is essentially a glass container with multiple spouts that dispense water, and it is used to slowly drip water over the sugar cube and absinthe in the glass.

The fountain is filled with ice water, and the water is slowly dripped over the sugar cube and absinthe using a small spigot. This slow, steady drip ensures that the water is added gradually, which helps to create a perfect louche effect and release the full flavor of the absinthe.

But, for now, a simple carafe of ice water will do perfectly!

Pontarlier Glass

The Pontarlier glass is a traditional glass used for serving absinthe. It is named after the town of Pontarlier in France, which was once a center of absinthe production.

The glass has a bulbous base and a flared rim, which makes it easy to hold and drink from.

The Pontarlier glass is designed to hold a standard serving of absinthe, which is about one ounce. It is important to use a glass that is large enough to allow for the addition of water and sugar, as well as the creation of the louche effect.

While absinthe glasses come in many shapes and styles, this specific Pontarlier glass is my beloved go-to. It has a nice heft to it that I haven’t found in most other glasses I’ve tried which gives me some extra peace of mind as far as “accidents” are concerned.

Sugar Cubes

Absinthe has a characteristically bitter flavor that some people might find overwhelming. This is what led to the tradition of preparing absinthe with a sugar cube to smooth the flavor out.

Whether or not you choose to use sugar is entirely up to your own personal preference. Some absinthes are best when served with sugar while others are perfectly fine without it.

Preparing Absinthe / The Absinthe Ritual

With your supplies gathered, let’s get into the fun part: preparing the absinthe!

Step 1: Add Absinthe to Glass

The standard amount of absinthe to use is one fluid ounce (30 ml).

When you use a proper absinthe glass, there will usually be a reservoir or line on the glass to help you properly measure the absinthe that you’re adding to the glass.

If you prefer a strong absinthe flavor like I do, you might bump your measurement up to around 1.5 ounces.

However, if you’re new to the world of absinthe, I’d recommend starting with just one ounce and adjusting to your own taste as you continue to experiment with the Green Fairy.

Start with 1 ounce. You can increase from there if you prefer it stronger.

Step 2: Place Your Absinthe Spoon and Sugar

Now, place your absinthe spoon on top of the absinthe glass. Most absinthe spoons will have a small notch on the handle which will help the spoon to properly balance on the glass.

With your spoon in position, place a sugar cube on top of the spoon where you see the spoon’s holes.

This will be important for letting the water and sugar drip down into the glass as you prepare the absinthe.

As I mentioned previously, note that not every absinthe will require sugar. It’s entirely a matter of personal taste, so don’t be afraid to try your favorite absinthe with and without sugar!

Slowly add water!

Step 3: Add Water

Carefully and slowly drip water onto the sugar cube. The water will pass through the sugar cube, drip through the holes in the absinthe spoon, and trickle into the glass with your absinthe.

The real trick is to do this slowly and methodically.

If you add the water too fast, you’ll have a few issues:

  1. The sugar won’t properly dissolve, and you’ll end up with a clumpy mess in your glass.
  2. The oils in the absinthe won’t have time to gradually build and react with the water which can negatively affect the balance of flavors.
  3. You won’t be able to fully appreciate the build-up of the absinthe’s louche!

This is part of why preparing absinthe is often also referred to as “The Absinthe Ritual.” You can’t rush the perfect glass of absinthe!

But don’t fear, your patience will be rewarded if you do this correctly!

Oh là là! The louche is forming!

Step 4: Appreciate the Louche

As the water drips into your glass, you’ll notice a curious reaction beginning to take place. Specifically, you’ll see the natural oils in the absinthe beginning to swirl as the color takes on a milky appearance.

This is what we call “The Louche,” and it’s the very thing that has hypnotized generations of absintheurs for centuries!

Think of this as the unique and delicate herbal flavors and aromas of the absinthe “waking up.”

Much like how you probably don’t like to be woken up suddenly while you’re sleeping, the Green Fairy is the same way. That’s why we add the water slowly and gently to allow the louche to form and those characteristics of the absinthe to spring to life in the glass!

Appreciate this louche as it builds and take in the bouquet of aromas that are being released!

Step 5: Stir

Finally, give the absinthe a thorough stir.

This will help break down and dissolve the rest of the sugar as well as further mix the water and oils from the absinthe.

Set your absinthe spoon off to the side, raise your glass, and offer a hearty cheer of “Santé!” (son-tay). Your absinthe is now ready to enjoy!

Of course, if you REALLY want to appreciate it, you can also check out my guide on how to properly taste and savor absinthe like a pro!

Stir well, admire, and enjoy!

Absinthe Preparation – Frequently Asked Questions

Before we wrap up, I want to answer some frequently asked questions about preparing absinthe the right way.

If you still have questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to me. I’m always happy to help a fellow absintheur!

Should You Light Absinthe on Fire?

Somewhere between pop culture and myth, the practice of lighting absinthe on fire has gained some level of popularity.

However, I STRONGLY advise against this practice.

Not only is this potentially dangerous, but it also ruins the flavor of the absinthe. The delicate balance of herbal flavors and aromas gets completely overwhelmed by that of burnt sugar.

While this practice gained popularity with cheap, knock-off absinthes in central and eastern Europe in the 90s, it’s a complete waste to do it with real absinthe.

Read More: Why You Should NEVER Light Absinthe On Fire

Can You Make Absinthe Without Sugar?

One of the most interesting things about preparing absinthe is just how customizable it is.

It can be served as sweet as you like. You’ll be surprised at how you can get very different flavor profiles from your absinthe of choice depending on whether you prepare it with sugar or not.

So, yes, you can prepare absinthe without using sugar if you prefer.

In fact, I commonly recommend trying a new absinthe both with and without sugar to gain a full appreciation for it.

Can You Drink Absinthe Straight?

There is a key distinction to be made between “Can you drink absinthe straight” and “SHOULD you drink absinthe straight.”

To my knowledge, the absinthe police aren’t going to show up and kick in your door if you decide to do shots of straight absinthe.


I strongly advise against drinking absinthe neat.

Remember: absinthe is a VERY powerful spirit that is distilled with the expectation that it will be prepared properly.

Not only is drinking absinthe straight bound to be an uncomfortably intense experience, but it also entirely misses the point of the flavors and nuances that make absinthe so special.

In other words, don’t do it.

Do You Sip or Shoot Absinthe?

Absinthe is meant to be savored, not slammed down.

Remember: the Green Fairy is a sophisticated lady who absolutely deserves to be treated as such!

Sipping absinthe is the best way to appreciate the flavors, textures, and aromas that go into making absinthe the enchanting and delicious spirit that it is!

Will Absinthe Make You Hallucinate?

Contrary to popular belief, absinthe will not make you hallucinate or go insane.

The idea that absinthe is a drug that caused these effects goes back to old smear campaigns that were used by the wine industry to ban absinthe in the early 1900s.

This fear was even further stoked by what would become known as The Absinthe Murders and the press that surrounded them.

However, absinthe is still a very strong alcoholic beverage and should be consumed responsibly.

Will Absinthe Make You Fail a Drug Test?

Absinthe will not make you fail a drug test.

The fears and rumors that this is true stem from the same stigma that I mentioned above. Thankfully, they are completely false and you don’t need to worry about failing a drug test because of absinthe.

But with that said…

While absinthe won’t make you fail a drug test, you won’t be in a condition to pass a sobriety test. Drink responsibly!

Is Real Absinthe Legal?

Real absinthe has been legal in the US for nearly two decades now.

While there are some laws that, in theory, prevent “dangerous” absinthe from coming into the country based on the amount of thujone (a chemical compound within grande wormwood, absinthe’s key ingredient), the overwhelming majority of real absinthes are well within this limit.

In the years before (and right after) the ban was lifted, there were a ton of fake/knock-off absinthes littering store shelves.

Thankfully, the absinthe market has been gaining popularity and there are many real absinthes being imported into the US in addition to those being distilled here!

If you find the difference between real and fake absinthes confusing, I recommend checking out my absinthe reviews which should prove helpful to you!

How Strong is Absinthe?

Absinthe is a very strong spirit with most options falling between 55% and 70% ABV (alcohol by volume). Of course, there are some fringe cases on either end of that average as well.

But even on the weaker side of the absinthe world, this isn’t a spirit to take lightly.

This is what makes properly preparing absinthe so important so that you can enjoy it the right way.

While absinthe won’t drive you insane, drinking it irresponsibly and underestimating how strong it is (even when prepared correctly) can cause the same problems as overdrinking any alcoholic beverage.

Final Thoughts – How to Prepare Absinthe the Right Way!

In conclusion, preparing absinthe is not just a matter of mixing liquids.

It’s a time-tested ritual that requires patience, attention to detail, and a bit of experimentation. The key is to find the right balance between absinthe, water, and sugar for your own personal taste.

From there, you’ll be ready to start exploring foods to pair with your new favorite spirit!

So next time you’re in the mood for a complex and sophisticated drink, don’t hesitate to try absinthe. Who knows, maybe you’ll soon discover yourself under the Green Fairy’s enchanting spell too!


Absinthe Fiend

Writer, absintheur, and cheeky devil. Don't let the name fool you! I'm actually very friendly (though a bit eccentric...)

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