The Left Bank Spine Stiffener

A few months back, I bought some Dutch black licorice; it was called Dubbel Zout, which means “double salt.” Now, being a fan of both licorice and salt, this sounded delicious. But it wasn’t. It tasted like a licorice-flavored salt lick. It was a taste I had hoped never to experience again. Alas.

This drink comes from Charles Baker’s entertaining 1939 drinking guide, The Gentlemen’s Companion. It was something he had very early one morning while in Paris, presumably after a night without sleep. Maybe it would be better under those circumstances, but even if I should find myself in Paris early one morning after a night of debauchery, I will not revisit this thing.

The Recipe:

2 jiggers (3 oz.) of Italian vermouth (Carpano Antica)

1 jigger of absinthe

Shake with ice, and strain into a whiskey or highball glass. Add a bit of fresh ice and a splash of soda.

Left Bank Spine Stiffener

There’s enough absinthe in here to get a bit of the louche effect, which, when combined with the vermouth, has the unfortunate result of turning this thing a sort of baby-poop brown. The flavor is primarily anise, and while the bitter elements of both the vermouth and the absinthe are well tamped down, they are replaced with an uncharacteristic saltiness. Now, if you’ve had some of that Dubbel Zout licorice and liked it, this is the drink for you. Otherwise, I’d avoid it. It’s not undrinkable, and it does at least pack a nice punch, but, you know, you could say the same things about straight gin, and that’s not especially enjoyable either. Two livers.


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