I came across several recipes when looking for martinis featuring absinthe. Two caught my eye, The Fourth Degree and the Third Degree.
Flavoured with wormwood (also found in vermouth), absinthe was at one time considered an extremely dangerous hallucinogen and several countries banned its production and sale. The cocktail revival of the 1990s lead to a resurgence in the use of absinthe, but it was still banned in several places until the mid-2000’s. It has an aniseed flavour that makes an excellent partner to gin, particularly where there is vermouth present.
The standard pre-prohibition Fourth Degree according to David Wondrich’s book Imbibe, is 60ml gin, 30ml Italian (sweet) vermouth and a dash of absinthe. Further investigation led me to a version in The Savoy Cocktail book recipe which is more of a perfect/reverse martini consisting of equal parts (30ml) sweet and dry vermouth and gin with 4 dashes of absinthe.Then I found a drier option in the same book, the Third Degree.
I decided to make both drinks from the Savoy Cocktail book to see which I preferred.
The Third Degree recipe calls for ‘Burrough’s Plymouth Gin’. As I have some Burrough’s Reserve (Beefeater’s lightly barrel-aged gin) I decided to use that. For the Fourth Degree I used Artemis Gin (which used wormwood as a botanical).
While I appreciated the balanced nature of the cocktail it was still too sweet for me and I couldn’t detect the absinthe as an ingredient as I could in the Third Degree. This was by far and away my favourite.
Ingredients for a Third Degree (Savoy recipe)
30ml dry vermouth
4 dashes of absinthe (equates to about 1 teaspoon)
The usual. Stir over ice for 40-50 seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish as desired. I went without as I didn’t want to be distracted from my taste test, but would suggest lemon peel.