Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Other Cocktails

Absinthe Frappé

Absinthe Frappe cocktail garnished with mint sprig
Image: / Tim Nusog

The Absinthe Frappé may have all but disappeared during its namesake ingredient’s near-century ban, but the cocktail was once ubiquitous enough to inspire a song: In the show tune “Absinthe Frappé” from the 1904 Broadway musical It Happened in Nordland, lyricist Glen MacDonough rendered the drink in the following words: “At the first cool sip on your fevered lip / You determine to live through the day / Life’s again worthwhile as with a dawning smile / you imbibe your Absinthe Frappé!” 

The show premiered in New York City, but the drink itself debuted a few decades earlier in New Orleans. In 1874, bartender Cayetano Ferrer invented the cocktail—an icy mix of absinthe, anisette, and simple syrup topped off with club soda and garnished with mint—at the Old Absinthe House, where legend has it Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and General Robert E. Lee were fans. 

The Absinthe Frappé largely disappeared along with the arrival of a stateside absinthe ban in 1912. The Green Fairy, as the anise-flavored spirit is sometimes called, still has a nearly mythological reputation in the United States, due to romantic associations with Belle Époque-age artists and, more infamously, misconceptions that it causes hallucinations and madness. In reality, the production of absinthe is similar to that of gin: A high-proof neutral spirit is infused with botanicals—namely wormwood, anise, and fennel—and redistilled in a copper pot still, then reinfused with the same ingredients to give it its characteristic green hue. 

In 2007, the United States lifted its absinthe ban, returning the spirit to cocktail menus, which for years had subbed in Herbsaint and Pernod. The traditional way to drink it, an Absinthe Drip, calls for pouring water over a sugar cube into the spirit. But there’s a reason absinthe is often added to a cocktail in the form of a rinse: Its strong anise notes can overwhelm other flavors in a drink, and, while it won’t cause hallucinations, a higher-than-average proof of 110 to 145 can certainly cause some heady effects. 

The Absinthe Frappé leans more heavily on its eponymous spirit than rinsed drinks like the Sazerac and the Corpse Reviver No. 2, but it still goes down plenty easy, thanks to simple syrup and soda water, which causes the absinthe to louche, or turn cloudy. A heaping pile of crushed ice and a mint garnish enhance the spirit’s cooling effects, and a couple dashes of the liqueur anisette both help to sweeten the drink and play off the herbaceous flavors of the absinthe. Both potent and refreshing, it just might have you believe, in MacDonough’s words, that life’s again worthwhile.


  • 1 1/2 ounces absinthe

  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup

  • 2 dashes anisette

  • Soda water, chilled, to top (about 2 ounces)

  • Garnish: mint sprig


  1. Add all ingredients except the soda water into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.

  2. Strain into a large snifter over crushed or pebble ice.

  3. Top with the soda water and stir briefly and gently to combine.

  4. Add more ice to the glass, forming a mounded top.

  5. Garnish with a mint sprig.

  6. Serve with a straw.