Appetite: 2010, the year in absinthe

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Read up, absinthe seekers... whether you're intrigued by the (false) claims of hallucinogenic effects or an aficionado taken in by the culture surrounding the green fairy, a little reading will take you deeper. This year has produced three new absinthe books furthering knowledge of an artful drink best enjoyed with leisure and attention.

Absinthe Cocktails
by Kate Simon
This pretty little tome is an elegant black and grey with hints of green. Kate Simon is editor-at-large for the ultimate drink magazine, Imbibe. Her drink knowledge is used to educate on what absinthe is and isn't in Absinthe Cocktails' brief primer section. A handy buying guide recommends fine absinthes made in the US (Viuex Carre, Leopold Bros.) and Switzerland (the incredible Duplais), France (Vieux Pontarlier) and Spain (Obsello). The majority of the book is cocktail recipes, from classics like the absinthe frappe (which I crave on a hot day in New Orleans), to "The New Guard", a section on modern classics from a number of the world's best bartenders (including some of our own like The Alembic's Daniel Hyatt and Brian MacGregor formerly of Jardiniere). Photos are lush, the romantic look making it an ideal coffee table book.

A Taste for Absinthe by R. Winston Guthrie with James F. Thompson

I wrote about this book upon its October release, my top pick of the three and another coffee table looker. With lovely photography by Liza Gershman, it offers a wide range of cocktail recipes, more in-depth history, lore and cultural references. A Taste for Absinthe is also a welcome primer on the green fairy but goes deeper with details on the culture that grew around it: poster art, spoons, glasses, fountains, even film references. The book is broken down into five recipe sections: classics, fruit and citrus, whiskey and gin, liqueurs and bitters, and modern classics compiled from some of our country's best bartenders, again including many SF locals. This one is a necessary addition to the library of any absinthe geek.

The Little Green Book of Absinthe by Paul Owens and Paul Nathan
Minus photos, The Little Green Book of Absinthe is a simpler, straightforward recipe reference book. In its initial pages lie interesting details on absinthe's history, including early formulas, louching tips, and background on key brands. But for me the lack comes in the recipes which make up a majority of the book. Their chosen mixologist, Dave Herlong, is from a Vegas hotspot, apparent in the common inclusion of nasty ingredients like Red Bull, Blue Curacao, sweet and sour mix, or Apple Schnapps. These ingredients appeal to the masses and general American sweet tooth, but a drink aficionado or basically anyone who has developed a taste for authentic flavors versus unnaturally processed, will find less to appeal here. A handful of intriguing recipes are present, including bubbly cocktails under "Decadent Concoctions." There's worthwhile material in the factual sections of this book but I could not recommend as a recipe reference.

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