The Obituary Is An Absinthe-Soaked Riff On The Martini

Is there a spirit more mystical, more shrouded in mystery and legend than absinthe? The "green fairy," some call this anise-forward cordial that hails from Switzerland, which is a nickname referencing the alleged — though unfounded — hallucinogenic properties attributed to the tipple. Wormwood — one of the ingredients of absinthe — does contain thujone, a hallucinogen, but not in quantities that lead to mind alteration. It is, however, a potently alcoholic beverage, likely the reason some have perceived it as being more psychoactive than it is.

Typically, absinthe is served with water and sugar to help cut the harsh bite of all that alcohol and the many herbs that are included in its recipe. In fact, the very service of absinthe has taken on a bit of ceremony, with special fountains used to slowly drip water over sugar cubes suspended above the absinthe on perforated "spoons." The water slowly dissolves the sugar until a final ratio of five to six parts water to one part absinthe is achieved.

Though the simple mix of absinthe, sugar, and water is something to be savored, that is not to say that it isn't a constituent of some fine cocktails. These include the Hemingway-inspired Death in the Afternoon and New Orleans favorite, the Sazerac. New Orleans, though, is the font of a number of great cocktails, including another absinthe-based beverage with a deliciously morbid name.

A classic twist

Stroll through the Crescent City, and you're sure to come across one of its many famous and ornate cemeteries. Due to the moist delta soil and penchant for flooding, graves in the New Orleans area are frequently situated above ground. This may seem macabre, but it allows for beautiful mausoleums to be put up. As such, the city has no small association with the afterlife. That might be why an enterprising mixologist decided to whip up a beverage called the Obituary.

According to Punch, the cocktail seems to have sprung from the historic Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop bar somewhere around the early 1940s. In fact, Lafitte's was closed for a short while in the late 1930s, and thus the cocktail's name was seen as a bit apocryphal as New Orlean's citizens mourned the loss. Lafitte's, like the drink, lived on and continues to keep Big Easy tourists and locals alike well-lubricated.

How to assemble the Obituary

The Obituary is a must-try for martini lovers as it is essentially a riff on what is probably the most classic cocktail there is. And while many people enjoy their martini with vodka, note that it is traditionally a gin-based drink. So too, is the Obituary.

The crucial step is to pick a gin that stands well with the assertive absinthe. Punch suggests a classic London dry style, although they note that Thomas Dakin Red Cole gin offers an interesting array of flavors that is less juniper-intense and pumped up with a little horseradish bite. In addition to the gin and much like a dry martini, the Obituary contains a small amount of dry vermouth, a fortified wine that also contains wormwood, vermouth being the French word for the plant. Difford's lists a ratio for the beverage at 2 ounces of gin to 1/4 ounce of dry vermouth and 1/12 of an ounce of absinthe. Those ingredients are to be stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass.

While absinthe is indeed the order of the day when it comes to the Obituary, substitutions can be made in case the spirit is unavailable. In that case, it is acceptable to reach for another anise-based spirit, such as Pernod, that can deliver much the same flavor profile.