Vieux Carré gives new meaning to the notion of drinking "green." Sure, the name and the ornately decorated square bottle are a nod to New Orleans, the historic seat of absinthe in America during the Belle Époque. But this latest entry in the red-hot revival of absinthe is as fresh and local as it gets - released last month by the distillers of Bluecoat gin in Northeast Philadelphia.
Echoing Bluecoat's highly aromatic take on gin, Vieux Carré pushes the herbal envelope - even for absinthe - with so much natural chlorophyll in the coarsely-filtered liquor that it looks like milky pondwater when mixed with a sugar cube and cool water. Swirling up from that cloudy "louche" effect, though, is one complex and beguiling drink.
Distiller Robert Cassell has added a bouquet ranging from genepi to hyssop to this intriguing brew, but the dominant flavors are spearmint laid atop myriad layers of anise, from the toasty sweetness of fennel doux to bright green anise, and the exotic spice of star anise. There is also, of course, the menthol tartness of grande wormwood, a must for authentic absinthe that contains small amounts of thujone, a now-regulated chemical long thought to be responsible for absinthe's supposed hallucinogenic effects. I've not had any fairy visions yet. But these modern absinthes are so potent, Vieux Carré's 120-proof punch alone might have you seeing green.
Vieux Carre absinthe is available in Pennsylvania for $54.99.