Crapsinthe and fauxsinthe. These two slang terms in the absinthe community often confuse newcomers. Which one is which? What do they exactly mean?
Over the years absintheurs haven’t made this any easier by using either term interchangeably, as in our minds, we wouldn’t drink either. This is a solipsistic point of view from the community. There are plenty of people out there who would benefit from a more exact use of these words among aficionados and newbies alike.
I’ve always been literal with these words, and use the following definitions:
Crapsinthe is crappy absinthe. That is, it is still absinthe by the most basic standards and even tastes somewhat like absinthe. Often these absinthes are of lower quality and are not fully distilled from herbs but rather compound absinthes from essential oils distilled in to a mix. Another que is that many of these producers, already cutting corners, use artificial coloring to achieve a result that they believe the consumer wants. If you taste some of these crappy absinthes and can drink them down, then you may actually like real absinthe.
Fauxsinthe is fake (faux) absinthe. This stuff isn’t absinthe at all but takes advantage of the fact that no country other than Switzerland defines the category. The label says absinthe (or absinth) and that’s where the similarity to the real thing stops. Many of these aren’t distilled at all but are really just flavored vodkas with artificial dye. Some are high priced industrial alcohol with a gimmick such as a plant or insect floating in the bottle. Popular examples are “bohemian” style, and those “make absinthe at home” kits. If you hate this stuff don’t worry, it tastes nothing like real absinthe.
The producers of both crapsinthe and fauxsinthe are also responsible for a lot of the myth peddling, misinformation, and of course the stupid bohemian fire ritual. It was always about conning people and attracting attention to their overpriced swill. It was never about absinthe. Instead it was about suckering consumers, especially tourists.
What brands can I give examples of? I’d love to, but the producers of these types of products are always rebranding, changing names, and coming out with a new marketing effort to take advantage of those who are wary of a specific name, not a process. The best advice I can give is that if a brand uses artificial colors, or used to, it’s probably crapsinthe at best. If you see anyone hyping thujone myths, treating absinthe like a drug instead of a drink, or being overly gimmicky (ie: wormwood in a bottle), chances are you’re better off not wasting any money on them.
You might be wondering why something that would fit one of these categories carries an award, or several. Or maybe even an endorsement by some winner of a bartending competition. The sad fact is that those awards and endorsements are misleading as the spirits industry seems to care less about absinthe than anything else. I’ve repeated, over and over, that I don’t trust any award given to absinthe. Instead I favor consumer and expert reviews as they are written by people who at least drink absinthe, if not obsess over it.
Let’s face it. Alcohol isn’t the healthiest substance for your body. So I hold to the idea that if I’m going to “poison” myself with ethanol, then I might as well do it with the good stuff. Life is too short to waste on con artists and crap. So do a bit of research to save your tastebuds and liver the trouble. Let the fakers and the fools sit on their inventory of overpriced flavored vodka and perish as they should.
Until next time, Sante!