Should you drink absinthe cold?

Answered by Tom Adger

When it comes to enjoying absinthe, the temperature at which you consume it can greatly affect your overall experience. Many people wonder if absinthe should be consumed cold, and the answer is both yes and no. Let me explain.

Traditionally, absinthe is not meant to be consumed straight out of the refrigerator. In fact, refrigeration can actually have negative effects on the flavor and quality of the spirit. Absinthe is typically bottled at a high alcohol content, usually around 60-75% ABV, which acts as a natural preservative. This means that there is no need to refrigerate it for the purpose of preservation.

One of the main reasons why absinthe should not be chilled is because certain compounds in the spirit can start to crystalize at temperatures below 68°F (20°C). Anethole, the primary component responsible for the distinct anise flavor in absinthe, is one such compound that can crystalize when subjected to cold temperatures. When this happens, it can affect the pristine brightness and complexity of the spirit.

To truly appreciate the flavors and aromas of absinthe, it is best to serve it at a slightly chilled temperature rather than ice-cold. The traditional method of serving absinthe involves diluting it with ice water, which not only helps to release its hidden flavors, but also helps to bring the temperature down to a more enjoyable level. This process, known as the louche, creates a mesmerizing and milky opalescence as the water interacts with the oils and botanicals in the absinthe.

By avoiding refrigeration and instead chilling absinthe with ice water during the serving process, you can ensure that you are experiencing the spirit in its optimal form. The cold water helps to open up the aromatics and flavors, allowing you to fully appreciate the nuanced complexities of the drink.

While it is important to serve absinthe at a slightly chilled temperature for the best experience, refrigeration should be avoided. The delicate compounds in absinthe, such as anethole, can crystalize under cold temperatures, impacting the flavor and quality of the spirit. So, remember, chill absinthe with ice water while serving, and keep it at room temperature when not in use. Cheers!