Much ado about louching.

One of the first things I hear from those who have yet to try absinthe, but really want to, is a fear about doing it wrong.

This is a pretty rational fear as there are currently a lot of ways to do it wrong. Even when talking about the correct way to prepare absinthe it can be confusing. Everyone goes on and on about the absinthe “ritual” and debates over the finer points. Just understand that right now, most people who are in to absinthe, are really in to absinthe. As connoisseurs we experiment, nitpick, argue, and make things much more complicated than they need to be. For the average user absinthe preparation is pretty simple and has pretty much one step:

Slowly add cold water to taste.


Van Gogh used… a simple water carafe? Yep.

Every cocktail that I know of is more complicated than that. You don’t need a fancy fountain, antique spoons, special glasses, or any of that cool absinthe geek stuff. I’ve seen people make drippers out of plastic yogurt containers. I louched my first few glasses in some spare champagne flutes. Quite a bit of the old art and advertising shows people using water carafes with a slow pour. As for adding sugar, if you want to, drop some in and give it a stir.


Pictured above: Not necessary, but really cool.

It sort of ruins the mystique and allure, but it works and there is nothing wrong with it. You can experiment with adding different amounts of water with most people preferring a range of three to five times the amount of water to absinthe but it’s all personal taste. Same thing applies to sugar, or not using sugar at all.

I would definitely recommend adding enough water for the absinthe to fully “louche” or cloud up. If there is still a layer of clear absinthe (hydrophobic layer) add more water. Sipping that layer is like sipping absinthe straight which doesn’t allow for the flavors to fully bloom, and thus it will probably be heated and taste nasty. Not to mention destroy your tastebuds for the next few moments.


More water… oh look! A fork instead of a slotted spoon! Genius!

That’s it. No special equipment, fancy words, or hocus pocus. All you have to do is add water.

Just don’t drink it straight or light it on fire. That’s for suckers and tourists.


4 thoughts on “Much ado about louching.

  1. Nice article, Evan. And I agree with you completely. Getting an absinthe ready to drink shouldn’t be something that requires out of the ordinary gear to accomplish. There are so many simple ways to prepare it. Louche on!

  2. You make an excellent point about how absinthe preparation is sometimes unnecessarily complicated. One minor clarification about sugar, though; if someone is using preformed cubes to sweeten their absinthe, they’ll find it much more difficult to break up and stir in if they simply drop it into the glass, rather than allowing dripped or streaming water to dissolve it first. If they don’t want to use an absinthe spoon or fork, I would recommend using loose granulated sugar at the least, or even better, agave syrup.

    1. Good point, the sugar cubes do take some time to dissolve, especially the demerara ones. I typically don’t sugar my absinthe so it’s definitely something I overlooked.

      Agave syrup leaves a unique flavor and I have a mild allergy to agave. If it works go for it though.

      1. You’re absolutely right about the agave having a specific flavor – thank you for mentioning that since I failed to do so. I’ve simply gotten so used to it, but it is noticeably different from sugar. I’ve found that it tends to “smooth out” the edges to certain absinthes and add a little bit of a thicker, creamier mouthfeel, whereas sugar doesn’t add anything in the way of thickness, but only sweetness. I wouldn’t use agave on a preban sample, but for modern absinthes which tend to run a little hot right out of the bottle, it cools the alcohol down a bit in a way I like.

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