While we all know that the green fairy has a certain reputation, what are some notable absinthe substitutes if you can’t get your hands on the real thing?
France’s love affair with la fee verte – or the green lady – is one of the primary reasons as to why absinthe grew to such notoriety during the late 19th century. Favoured by artists, writers and bohemians alike, the streets of Paris came alive every evening once the green fairy began to flow freely. Often portrayed – and embraced – as a hallucinogenic, it was banned across much of Europe before experiencing a revival in the western world in the early 1990’s.
Even now, absinthe is still that of an urban legend, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be approached with caution. Many countries around the world have had a ban on the liquor at one point or another, so it should come as no real surprise that the import of absinthe is still heavily regulated even in 2021 – and even in Australia. As such, getting your hands on a bottle of the green fairy can be tricky, so what are some similar alternatives to try as absinthe substitutes?
YOUR OPTIONS FOR SOURCING ABSINTHE SUBSTITUTES
The primary mystique that surrounds the consumption of absinthe is linked to it’s alleged hallucinogenic properties. Allegedly able to expand the consciousness of consumers and spark one’s imagination, it became the drink of choice for creatives around the world. Although no modern day peer reviewed study has ever been able to prove this, it’s widely believed that the associated ‘trips’ are thanks to the wormwood plant, one of the key ingredients found in absinthe.
Needless to say, this infamous emerald green liquor and it’s relevant wormwood content is not for the faint hearted. With its alcohol content sitting at 50-70% on average, it’s not the type of alcohol that can be procured at 2:00am as an afterthought – at least, not if you intend on drinking ever again.
For those on the hunt for absinthe substitutes or alternatives, finding this liquor can be tricky depending on where you live, and your proximity to a retailer that stocks it. For others, they may simply find the taste to be repugnant, and want something a little less strong. For many, real absinthe is simply too expensive or too high in alcohol content, so they turn their attention towards sourcing a Plan B – but what liquors are deemed to be reasonably similar?
Arak – In Lebanon, anise-flavoured arak is both literally and figuratively a communal spirit. As traditional absinthe also uses anise as one of it’s primary flavours, arak also has a reputation for it’s high alcohol content – just like the green fairy. While you aren’t promised any hallucinations, waiters are known to ‘break’ the arak with water, so that it is served as half and half.
Ouzo – This famous Greek brew is well known all over the world, but many are unaware that it’s grape-based distillate is redistilled with aniseed, which gives it its distinctive fennel flavour. It’s these flavours that sees ouzo draw parallels with absinthe, and can be used as a substitute thanks to it’s smoothe, liquorice-like taste.
Anisette – Anisette is sweeter and uses aniseed in the distillation as opposed to the pastis method of macerating. Marie Brizard is arguably one of the most visible and easy-to-find brands of this aniseed flavoUred liqueur, and is one of the most popular absinthe substitutes thanks to it’s much lower – and often, safer – alcohol content, clocking in at a milder 25%.
Pernod Ricard – Pernod Ricard is a French company that produces a wide variety of alcohol and liquors. The company’s eponymous products, Pernod Anise and Ricard Pastis, are both anise-flavoured pastis apéritifs and are often referred to simply as Pernod or Ricard. As a result, they are regarded as great absinthe substitutes thanks to their origins and flavour.
Pastis – As an anise-flavoured spirit and apéritif traditionally from France, pastis liquors are favoured as absinthe substitutes thanks to their lower sugar and alcohol content when compared to traditional absinthe. With popular brands including Pastis 51, Ricard Pastis and Casanis Pastis, it’s a readily available option for those that can’t access the real stuff.
Like all alcohol, large amounts of anise based alcohol or other absinthe substitutes can be physically quite dangerous. Binge drinking absinthe is ill advised and can lead to alcohol poisoning, so be sure to deploy enough mixers as a means to avoid a very nasty headache the next day.
While nobody can say whether you’ll witness Kylie Minogue appear as the green fairy after a few glasses of absinthe or one of the readily available absinthe substitutes, there’s no denying that the controversy and mystique are all a part of absinthe’s appeal, and the global curiosity doesn’t look to be diminishing anytime soon.