Picardine-CC-43KBAbsinthe is a very simple drink to serve. Preparation can be elaborate and ritualized with special fountains or drippers, but this needn't be the case.
 
 
The Basics

Proper preparation consists of slowly diluting one ounce of absinthe with very cold iced water, to a ratio of approximately five parts water to one part absinthe.  

The most common way of doing this in the 1800s was to pour the iced water slowly from a carafe or pitcher into a glass containing the absinthe.  

Note that absinthe is intended to be drunk as a mild, refreshing aperitif, not hard liquor.

Accordingly, Marteau is formulated to provide full flavor at around 12% ABV. 

Why Slowly?

There's a practical reason for adding the water slowly.  Absinthe contains fragrant and flavorful oils from the anise, fennel, and other herbs. During distillation, these oils readily dissolve into the high-proof spirits, but they don't mix with water. 

When the absinthe is diluted the oils come out of solution, causing a cloudy effect known as the louche.  Louche (pronounced "loosh") is a French word with meanings such as turbulent, troubled, disreputable, shady, and cloudy.

The louche is best accomplished slowly so that the oils may come out of solution more completely.  A well-prepared glass of absinthe will have a beautiful opalescent glow when seen in full light.

 

Glass of absintheGlassware

Special absinthe glasses such as the one shown to the right came into vogue as the popularity of absinthe increased, but they were far from universal.  They usually have features molded, cut, or etched into the glass that serve the simple purpose of marking measures, allowing a consistent drink.  By far the most common glass used was simply a stemmed water goblet or wine glass.

 

With Sugar, or Without?

Absinthe may be sweetened to taste, if desired. For this purpose the absinthe spoon was devised to allow lumps of sugar to be slowly dissolved while adding the water.  You may also use simple syrup.
 
 

Straight Up?

Proper absinthe is an extract or concentrate, hence the name extrait d'absinthe. The high proof serves to preserve the fresh herbal characteristics and color, and it was not drunk neat or as a shot.  The alcoholic strength is such that it can damage the delicate tissues in the esophagus.  Also, many of the aromas and flavors are not available to the palate until the addition of water brings the herbal oils out of solution and they blossom into their full potential.
 

Flaming sugar?

This modern innovation began in the rock clubs of Prague in the late 1990s as a means of making the preparation of the local faux-absinthe more interesting. Lacking anise, these flavored-vodka products don't louche when water is added so the traditional drip method is rather uneventful and pointless.
 
no burningAlthough flame has a well-respected place in the preparation of other drinks and serves a practical purpose in them, at no time in the pre-ban era did fire have any part in absinthe preparation.  Today this method is universally frowned upon by absinthe connoisseurs as somewhat of a sensational "bar stunt" serving no real purpose.
 
However one may feel about observing the traditional aspect, burnt sugar introduces bitter, carbonized flavors to the drink which can completely eclipse the herbal nuances and layers of flavor, and ruin a perfectly fine absinthe.
 
 
Please enjoy Marteau, and all alcoholic beverages, in safety and moderation.  Santé!