Serving Absinthe: La Louche

8th January 2024

Artemisia absinthium, commonly known as wormwood, is the defining ingredient in the production of absinthe. Although wormwood leaves soaked in wine were used as medicinal remedies by ancient Egyptians, absinthe wasn't patented until 1797. Major Dubied purchased the formula from two sisters who lived in Couvet, Switzerland, and who manufactured it in their home as a medicinal elixir. Dubied founded the first absinthe distillery with his son-in-law, Henry Louse Pernod and his son Marcellin, in Couvet. In 1805 they created a second distillery in Pontarlier, France.
Absinthe is high in alcohol content and can have a strong, bitter flavor reminiscent of black licorice. Since most people find the taste of straight absinthe to be unpalatable, several different ways of serving it have been created. The traditional way to serve absinthe is the original Parisian method, which is called La Louche. La Louche involves sugar cubes, a specialized glass and a slotted spoon. An entire ritual involving the creation of an absinthe cocktail is observed by absinthe lovers and is said to hold as much importance as the actual drinking of the cocktail itself.

The first glass specifically designed for the consumption of absinthe was a reservoir glass, named so because it had a bulge at the bottom which served as a measuring tool for the proper amount of absinthe to be poured into it. Slotted absinthe spoons were developed to hold the sugar cubes while water is poured over them. The spoon is placed horizontally over the glass and three sugar cubes are places above the slots. Ice-cold water is then poured extremely slowly over the sugar cubes, allowing them to fully dissolve. Pouring the water very slowly over the sugar cubes is essential to the ritual of La Louche.

What La Louche does is to liberate the essential oils of the herbs from which absinthe is made. While this process is occurring, the liquid undergoes a lovely transformation of colour from its original deep, emerald green to a shimmering, lustrous light green. The ritual of La Louche has an important symbolic aspect to the absinthe lover: The liberation of the oils from the herbs is representative of the liberation of the mind that one experiences while drinking an absinthe cocktail.

A more modern way of preparing absinthe for consumption was developed in Czechoslovakia. In this method, the sugar cubes are places on the spoon, soaked in absinthe and set on fire. The flaming cubes are then allowed to caramelize and to drip into the absinthe before the cold water is added. Caution is required with this method, and only spoons made from stainless steel or chrome should be used, since others will be damaged by the heat.

Pardon the interruption

Did you know that you can become a member for free, taking your cocktail making skills up to level 11. You can save your My Bar ingredients, make tasting notes, have personalised Tried and Want to try lists and more.

More to explore

Glasses and Their Effect on a Drink

Whether at a public bar or private party, the average drinker may not see the need for the abundance...

The History of the White Lady

The White Lady has undergone a few transformations over the years, but she has never lost her sense...

The History of the Alexander

The Alexander is a dessert cocktail steeped in history that is made using a basic mixology template...

Bartender's top tip

A well-chosen garnish can enhance both the flavor and appearance of your cocktail. Beyond the visual appeal, garnishes like citrus twists, olives, or cocktail onions can subtly influence the overall taste profile of your drink. Practice techniques like expressing a citrus peel to release the aromatic oils over the drink, enhancing its aroma and flavor.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get tips straight into your inbox.

Upgrade your mixology

Become a member for free taking your cocktail making skills up to level 11.

  • Save your bar forever
  • Access to our Cocktail Creator, allowing you to create your own wonderful concoctions.
  • Save cocktails to personalised 'Tried' and 'Want to try' lists
  • Create and record tasting notes on cocktails
  • Create lists of cocktails to share with friends and family
  • A pesonalised MyBar URL, allowing you to share everything you can make with friends
  • And much more ... (what to buy next, measurement choices, search personalisation...)
Register now

Olympic Cocktails and More

Discover a host of cocktails inspired by the Paris 2024 Olympics, meet the bartenders behind the cocktails and win yourself some juicy Amazon vouchers.

Our Olympic Cocktail Hub