Tag Archives: absinthe

KGB Naranjo, Bourbon, and Absinthe

KGB Naranjo, Bourbon, and Absinthe

KGB Spirits in northern New Mexico has some new releases in their spirits catalog: Naranjo Orange Liqueur, Taos Lightning Bourbon, and Brimstone Absinthe.

Naranjo is a high proof orange liqueur, 45% ABV where most other triple secs are only about 20%. This means it’s not too sweet and Naranjo works well straight up, as a digestif. Naranjo’s orange flavor is very subtle, though, and you should think twice if you’re considering dumping this into a pitcher of margaritas. The color is pale orange, and the scent of citrus is very muted, but it’s all there on your taste buds.

Taos Lightning Bourbon shares it’s name with KGB’s Ryes-a historical throwback to 1800’s western whiskeys-and it’s sweet, spicy, and smooth. I found myself thinking about it all day after tasting it. Taos Lightning Bourbon is very balanced in it’s flavor, and the expected toasted-wood spice finishes it off.

Finally, Brimstone Absinthe has two unique qualities: first, KGB uses a potato base in their distilling process – just like their vodka and gin, which adds a minty, earthy flavor. Second, Brimstone is bottled at a pretty low proof, the lowest proof I’ve ever seen for an absinthe. Absinthe is typically known for it’s high (60-70%) proof, but Brimstone is a mellow 45%. Because of this, you can actually drink Brimstone on the rocks with no water or sugar added. The lower proof makes it a more viable cocktail ingredient, too.

KGB Spirits are available at retail shops around New Mexico.

Absinthe Cocktails

tenneyson absinthe

Absinthe, a high-proof herbal liquor, is most traditionally served straight under a water drip with a perched sugar cube. Because of absinthe’s strong anise (black licorice) flavor, cocktails featuring it are few and far between.

I decided to use Austin-based and French-distilled Tenneyson Absinthe Royale to make these cocktails. Tenneyson is a bit more mild than other absinthes (Lucid comes to mind) because it’s bottled at a lower proof (53% alcohol vs. Lucid’s 64%) and because the typical anise flavor is less pronounced in the taste. Here are the 2 simple absinthe cocktails I made, with a bonus recipe at the end:

This recipe can seem overwhelming, but the detail is actually in the ritual of preparation, which most consider essential to making a proper Sazerac.

  • fill an old fashioned glass with ice water to chill
  • in another old fashioned glass, muddle 1 sugar cube and 3 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
  • add 2 oz rye whiskey
  • top with ice and stir
  • empty the ice water from the first glass
  • splash in absinthe, rinse the glass with it, pour out the excess (I found Tenneyson to be mild enough that I just left the “splash” in the glass)
  • strain the sugar/bitters/rye mixture into the absinthe-washed glass
  • twist and squeeze a lemon peel into the glass
  • either discard the lemon peel or drop it into the cocktail, according to your preference

Obituary (the Absinthe Martini)
Tenneyson is especially great in this drink as the presentation is crystal-clear.

  • 2 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/4 oz absinthe
  • stir over ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass
  • garnish with lemon twist

Bonus recipe: Death in the Afternoon
This recipe was created by Ernest Hemingway.

  • pour 1 oz absinthe in a champagne flute
  • top with 5 ounces chilled champagne
  • drink 3 to 5 of these slowly


Absinthe service

Absinthe was illegal throughout most of the world for the past 100 years, including the United States, because it was rumored that its primary ingredient, Grande Wormwood, caused insanity.  This turned out not to be true, and since  2007 (when the ban was lifted), several brands have been introduced in the U.S., spearheaded by Lucid Absinthe Superieure.

While absinthe can be used in cocktails like the Sazerac or Death in the Afternoon, it is normally just taken with cold water, poured through and absinthe spoon with a sugar cube on it.  I personally love absinthe, certainly because of its sordid history, but also because I like the dry, herbal, anise (black licorice) flavor.  Recommended ratios are 1 oz absinthe to 3-5 oz of water, as mixing with water is essential because of the high alcohol content absinthe has, which is  usually 65-75% ABV (nearly double the ABV of vodka).  Without the water, your tongue will numb and you won’t be able to enjoy the flavor.

Together with Lucid, I tried 3 new types of absinthe from Viridian Spirits and Jade Liqueurs: C.F. Berger, Jade 1901, and Espirit Edouard, all of which are recreations of 100-year-old recipes.  These will be available in the U.S. in limited quantities for an MSRP of $110 per bottle, and are distilled in France, like Lucid.

Viridian Spirits Absinthes

Every one of these three limited edition absinthes is outstanding, and it is difficult to choose a favorite. Any one in particular did not stand out more than another, but the three of them are all excellent and flavorful, and any would be a worthy addition to any absinthe-lover’s collection.

Special thanks to KegWorks for the Absinthe Accessories Starter Kit used in this review.  Buy yours here.