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Chasing the Green Fairy

NoDef's Absinthe Day Guide

Ten years ago, the nationwide ban on absinthe was lifted in the United States after almost a century. Given how quickly the anise-flavored herbal spirit has become a staple in cocktails, it's hard to believe that for over 96 years New Orleanians lived without green frappés, drips, and daiquiris. Today (3.5) is National Absinthe Day, so how better to celebrate the spirit's rise from madness-inducing elixir of the bohemian set to the superstar ingredient in cocktails nationwide than with a comprehensive guide to the city's best absinthe-minded offerings. From tours of distilleries and museums to cocktail crawls across the Vieux Carre, read on for NoDef's guide to absinthe in New Orleans. 


Old Absinthe House

Cocktail: The Absinthe House Frappé

Jean Lafitte's Old Absinthe House has been a landmark watering hole in the French Quarter for over 200 years, so it makes sense that they know a thing or two about how to make a good cocktail. Their signature drink is the Absinthe Frappé, which was created in-house in the 1860s by famed Spanish bartender Cayetano Ferrer and has been sipped by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Franklin Roosevelt, and Frank Sinatra. Featuring the anise-flavored Herbsaint, Anisette, and soda water over crushed ice, it's a refreshing and mild introduction to absinthe's more bitter taste. 


Napoleon House

Cocktail: Sazerac

The official cocktail of the Big Easy is the Sazerac — no really, the Louisiana Legislature awarded the boozy concoction its title in 2008. Though Napoleon House is known for being the birthplace of the Pimm's Cup and the Muffuletta, its historic walls offer the perfect location to try a Sazerac. Made with rye whiskey, Peychaud's & Angostura bitters, and Absinthe Superieure, this is a drink best sipped slowly. 


Pirates Alley Cafe 

Cocktail: Absinthe Drip

This small, cash-only hangout tucked in an alley off of Jackson Square offers the perfect location to indulge in the anise-flavored herbal concoction. Not only do they offer outdoor seating along their famed cobblestone alleyway, but their location — formerly, at different times, a Spanish Colonial Prison and neighbor to writer William Faulkner's home — creates the perfect ambiance to enjoy this controversial cocktail. Try an Absinthe Drip, where ice water is slowly dripped over a sugar cube into a glass of absinthe, creating a pearlescent milky quality. 


Hotel Monteleone

Cocktail: Death in the Afternoon

Professional drinker and author Ernest Hemingway invented this cocktail, named after his 1932 book of the same name. Hemingway's original instructions were: "Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly." The Monteleone team makes their variation with Lucid Absinthe (the first genuine absinthe made in the U.S. after the ban was lifted) and prosecco. 


Atelier Vie

This artisanal distillery fills NOLA's need for locally-produced spirits. Atelier Vie offers tastings to visitors at no charge, so you can sample their classic green absinthe or their hibiscus-infused Toulouse Red


Southern Food & Beverage Museum

Dedicated to the preservation and exploration of food & cocktail culture in the South, the Museum celebrates the diverse heritage of all that we consume in the Big Easy. Be sure to check out their most taboo room La Galerie d'Absinthe, which charts the history of the green spirit from its origins in France to New Orleans. 


Not interested in venturing out around the city to celebrate this momentous day? Check out the recipe for Lüke's Absinthe Frappé and chase the green fairy from the comfort of your own kitchen. 

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