Absinthe — the stuff that we were told would make us loopy — was banned for nearly 100 years in the U.S. and has been regaining popularity since its comeback in 2007. While I’m personally not an anise fan, I find absinthe to be a perfectly refreshing afternoon sipper.
At the newly-opened Maison Premiere in Williamsburg, one can sample close to 20 labels of absinthe drip — ranging from the delicate Kubler ($10) to the more pronounced flavors of La Muse Verte ($13). The staff really knows the loopy drink, so it’s fun to watch them make the drip alcohol and chat about the different styles.
I asked principal barkeep, Maxwell Britten, what he would recommend for absinthe beginners. “For beginners I will almost always try to direct them towards drinking blanches,” he said. “Real absinthe is naturally colored. Therefore to be a verte, the ingredients of the recipe would have to macerate long enough for it to become that color. This means that most of the time you can expect the flavors to be very bold and pronounced. An absinthe connoisseur will appreciate that sort of thing quite a lot; however, someone who is looking to try absinthe for the first time might not be prepared for the profile of the verte.”
Britten has been trying to get me on board with absinthe-and-oyster pairing. My feeling is oysters and absinthe should not date or mate; I enjoy each, independently. However, I am sold on one drop of absinthe per oyster. Maison Premiere has the best oyster deal in town: Monday to Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., over a dozen selections of oysters (the likes of Kusshi and Hog Island) are each $1 a piece. Oyster feasting starts right here. On my most recent visit to Maison Premiere, I’ve especially liked the Ram Island (Long Island, NY), La St. Simon (Miramichi Bay, NB) and Nootka Sound (Vancouver Island, BC).
The champagne of choice, Christian Etienne ($16/glass; $75/bottle), is a wonderful accompaniment to the delectable oysters. This champagne from the Aube is Pinot heavy, which balances the metallic and briny flavors of the oysters.
I’m anxiously awaiting springtime, when Maison Premiere will open the doors to its 1,000 square-foot outdoor garden. I look forward to enjoying my absinthe en terrasse.
See The Real Absinthe Blog, run by Alan Moss, Global Brand Ambassador for La Clandestine, for a comprehensive listing of all U.S. approved absinthes.