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Absinthe and Cigar Pairings

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Cigar lovers with a taste for the exotic should consider pairing cigars with absinthe, a once-banned, largely misunderstood spirit with a scandalous reputation. Absinthe returned to cocktail menus in the US in 2007 following nearly a century of prohibition. Though the mysterious drink has been praised throughout history by bohemians and artists, including Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, and Hemingway, its fall from grace can likely be attributed to a growing renunciation of alcohol consumption around the turn of the century.

Why Was Absinthe Banned?

The suppression of absinthe had taken root in the 1860s courtesy of unorthodox science propagated by French psychiatrist Valentin Magnan, who attested to absinthe’s hallucinogenic effects and its potential to cause madness or death.

Anti-absinthe fervor officially erupted in the summer of 1905 in Switzerland when an intoxicated laborer massacred his family in the small village of Cummugny. Although the laborer’s drinking binge began with absinthe, it also included six glasses of wine, brandy-laden coffee, and another liter of wine when he arrived home. His drunkenness led to a domestic dispute which triggered the tragic events. Local authorities seized on the public’s outrage and, within a few days, a petition to outlaw absinthe, otherwise known as “The Green Fairy,” drew over 80,000 signatures.

The ban quickly spread throughout Switzerland and France to other European nations where a taste for absinthe had taken hold. French wine makers, in particular, threw their weight behind anti-absinthe campaigns to squelch competition from the emerald drink. Today, our advanced understanding of chemistry has liberated absinthe from its savage image.

What is Absinthe Made From?

Absinthe is distilled with aniseed, mint, and a host of other botanicals – designed to disguise the bitter taste of its chief ingredient: wormwood. According to FDA standards, absinthe sold in the US must be free of thujone, the toxic compound found in wormwood. Absinthe is a polarizing spirit with strong notes of black licorice and herbs. Its alcohol content ranges from 50% to 60%.

For most, absinthe is too bitter to drink straight. When it’s not a cocktail ingredient, the traditional way to serve absinthe involves a bit of ritual. Pour 1oz of absinthe into a wide-rimmed glass. Lay a perforated or mesh spoon over the glass. Place a sugar cube on the spoon. Slowly drip 4 to 5oz of ice-cold water over the sugar cube until it is fully dissolved into the absinthe. When the sugar cube is dissolved, stir and sip. A better way to taste absinthe is in a classic cocktail. We’ve put together a handful of absinthe cocktail and cigar pairings that harmonize nicely on the palate.

Cigar & Absinthe Cocktail Pairings

The Original Sazerac & Ashton Aged Maduro

The Original Sazerac is perhaps the best-known classic cocktail with absinthe. We recommend Vieux Carre Absinthe, which is used as a traditional rinse for the cocktail’s glass. An herbal perfume of anise and spearmint complements the sweetness of the cognac and the crisp, citrusy hints of lemon in a Sazerac.

Ashton Aged Maduro unveils a luxurious profile of dark chocolate, molasses, and black pepper in a collection of classic shapes. A toothy Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper embraces premium Dominican binder and filler tobaccos matured for maximum smoothness by legendary cigar-maker Carlito Fuente. A mild to medium-bodied finish emerges with silky flavor and aroma. The cigar is a natural fit for the sweet, complex taste a classic Sazerac boasts.


  • Vieux Carre Absinthe (to rinse)
  • 2 1/2 oz of Hennessy VSOP cognac
  • 1/2 oz of simple syrup
  • 3 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Glass: Old Fashioned glass

Preparation: Rinse a chilled Old Fashioned glass with the absinthe, fill with ice and set aside. In a mixing glass, combine cognac with simple syrup and bitters. Stir with ice until chilled. Discard the ice from the chilled glass and strain the drink into it. Splash lemon peel oil over the cocktail and garnish it with the peel.

Corpse Reviver No. 2 & La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial

The Corpse Reviver No. 2 rises to a sinister occasion when you want to reach for an absinthe cocktail while you’re smoking. Pernod Absinthe is a nice choice for its complex notes of citrus, lemon balm, and herbs. Medicinal flavors of wormwood and aniseed extracts are marked with a floral and spicy character. The absinthe seeps into the cocktail and adds an exotic taste to the sharp combination of gin, orange, and lemon notes. 

La Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial is drawn from a lustrous Ecuador Habano wrapper leaf and a hearty blend of premium Nicaraguan long-fillers. Peppery notes of smoked almonds, leather, and espresso meld flawlessly from beginning to end. The balanced, medium to full-bodied taste of Edicion Especial easily resonates against the crisp, citrusy, and floral notes of the Corpse Reviver No. 2 when its fresh and herbal taste awakens the palate.


  • Pernod Absinthe (to rinse)
  • 3/4 oz London dry gin
  • 3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 3/4 oz Orange liqueur
  • 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Glass: Martini or Coupe glass

Preparation: Rinse a chilled martini glass with absinthe and set aside. In a shaker with ice, combine remaining ingredients. Shake until well chilled, and strain into the prepared glass.

Death in the Afternoon & Oliva Master Blends 3

Only a seasoned drinker like Ernest Hemingway could dream up Death in the Afternoon. Its daring recipe is a simple blend of absinthe and Champagne. St. George Absinthe Verte is a fitting candidate because it receives a secondary infusion of mint, lemon balm, hyssop, basil, and stinging nettles for added botanical complexity. Notes of black licorice and herbs strike a remarkable chord in the context of a high-quality Champagne from Dom Perignon or Veuve Clicquot. Floral, herbal, and effervescent flavors ripple across the palate.

Oliva Master Blends 3 is handmade from a top-selling blend of vintage Nicaraguan long-fillers and a succulent Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper in a series of wildly popular shapes. The 92-rated cigar divulges a medium to full-bodied profile of leather, dark cocoa, and brown sugar with chewy Nicaraguan spices. The luscious taste and aroma of Master Blends 3 make it a coveted companion when you’re fixing yourself a Death in the Afternoon. Mesmerize your senses with the contrast between the cigar’s earthy, sweet flavor and the exotic boozy crescendo of absinthe and Champagne.


  • 1 1/2 oz St. George Absinthe Verte
  • 4 1/2 oz of chilled Champagne

Glass: Coupe glass

Preparation: Pour 1 1/2 oz of absinthe into a coupe glass and top with 4 1/2 oz of chilled Champagne.

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