Herbsaint Legendre – Raiders of The Lost Cocktail Cabinet 7

A bottle of Herbsaint Legendre (2009) bottled at 50%ABV

.On 5th December 1933, after nearly 15 years of intoxicating liquors being outlawed, the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment, effectively ending Prohibition. This is the same day that J. M. Legendre launches Legendre Absinthe. As Legendre Absinthe, unlike many of it competitors (such as whiskey), did not need barrel aging, Legendre was able to be have stock for the market before his rivals. Legendre Absinthe was marketed as a legal alternative to absinthe (Absinthe having been banned in the US 1912).

The company was sold to the Sazerac Co. (who now make Buffalo Trace) 1949 and they have continued to produce it since. But (like Pimm’s, Galliano and Lillet before them) Herbsaint’s recipe was modified and this gave it a greater focus on star anise.

Herbsaint Legendre (2009)

To mark the 75th Anniversary of Herbsaint the Sazerac Co. decided to release a variety of Herbsaint based on the original recipe. The company dug out the recipe from their archives and, with the help of Jay Hendrickson, a (if not the) leading authority on Herbsaint, created a reproduction. Mr. Hendrickson has a collection of Herbsaint bottles and memorabilia and so kindly provided some sealed samples from his collection (of Herbsaint Legendre made using the original formula) to taste and compare against the new (old) product. They had a match.

The Taste:

#1) With water

Add 2 measures of Herbsaint Legendre to an absinthe glass and add ice water until Herbsaint changes to cloudy.

Rather tasty cool and full of flavour, strong anise, like pastis, along with some more complex herbal notes. Reminds me of the Blackjacks (an aniseed confection).

#2) Southern Belle

1tbsp Whiskey, 1tbsp Lemon Juice, 2tbsp Orange Juice, 1tsp Sugar; shake with ice and add to a cocktail glass to which two dashes of Herbsaint Legendre has been added

Simply delightful! Complex with lots of flavours that weave within each other; warmth and flavour of rye whiskey, tartness from the lemon juice and the anis and herbal elements from the Herbsaint, the entirety of which is given a fresh edge from the orange juice. Highly recommended.

#3) Big Tomato

30ml Herbsaint Legendre
10ml Genuine Grenadine*
Shake with Ice
Strain into a small cocktail glass

*Flavoured with Pomegranate and not just red berries.

Better than I expected; quite with some pomegranate, but all rather sticky. OK, but there are much better ways to enjoy Herbsaint.

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#4) Sazerac

Rather lovely, smoothness of rye whisky, which matches the sugar and the bitters. The flavours of Herbsaint surround the other flavours of the drink with a touch of anis. well balanced and superb. A favourite of mine.


#5) Summer Fizz

20ml Dry Gin, 25ml Lemon Juice, 15ml Lime Juice Add sugar to taste;
Shake this with ice and then strain into a tall glass,
Top up with soda water, add a dash of Herbsaint Legendre and garnish with citrus fruits

Cooling with a touch of anise as well as being citrus and fresh. Despite only having a dash of Herbsaint, the flavour of the spirit still came though well. This is not a million miles away from a fruit cup and it was just as tasty and refreshing.

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#6) Cola Herbsaint

Fill a tall-thin glass with cracked ice
Add 30ml of Herbsaint Legendre
Top up with 60ml Coca Cola,
Stir lightly and “serve sizzling”

I actually really liked this; it was very cooling and refreshing, with distinctive notes of the Herbsaint at the beginning and cola on the finish. I could drink quite a few, but couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a bit of a waste of the Herbsaint.

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#7) Herbsaint Bracer
Interestingly, the citrus oils made a little vortex on the surface of the drink. The flavour was initially of anise, a bit like Army & Navy sweets, and the herbal notes of the vermouth. This is just to my taste: there were strong liquorice and herbal flavours throughout and it was perfectly chilled. It was certainly bracing and had a very strong, yet fantastic flavour.

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#8) 1933 Legendre Absinthe Frappe

1tsp Benedictine, 2tbsp Legendre Absinthe, 4tbsp of water; Shake with ice until frosted-strain into small glass and serve.

This recipe was added as a comment to our article on Hindenburg Cocktails.
To me, this is the Herbsaint equivalent of a Martini; it has the same grace and elegance. There are notes of black liquorice and anise and it is cool, crisp and delicious. It was possible that the one that I made was a touch too dilute, but it was still packed with flavour. Mrs. B found it delightful and I had some trouble getting the glass back for another taste!

My sincere thanks to Mr. Jay Hendrickson, absinthe historian and Herbsaint specialist, for is help with the history and especially the recipes. Thanks also to the Sazerac Company.

Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon

A literary cocktail.

The Death in the Afternoon, an absinthe cocktail, consists of the rather unlikely combination of absinthe and Champagne, indeed many afficiandos proclaim the heresy of mixing the two. The drink hails from the mid-thirties and takes its name from a book by Ernest Hemingway.

According to “So Red The Nose” (see bottom), a collection of drinks recipes submitted by prominent 1930s authors, the cocktail was invented by Hemingway himself and he accompanies his recipe with the story of its discovery. The drink was created whilst the author was in the company of three officers on-board the HMS Danae. The four of them had just spent several hours overboard, trying to refloat the fishing boat of a Captain Bra Saunders which had become stuck on a bank during a North-Westerly gale.


On a little historical side-note, the Danae was a light cruiser of the British Navy and was leased to the Polish Navy during World War II. Fans of Hemingway may be interested to note that Captain Willie Adams from his 1937 novel “To Have and Have Not” is thought to have been inspired by Bra Saunders. To have inspired both a cocktail and a Hemingway character surely is some achievement!

Champagne has often been considered a cure for seasickness and so it has been suggested that, during the gale, this is why Hemingway chose this ingredient for this drink. That said, stout and ginger ale have also both been considered potential cures for this ailment and, although I am partial to a drop of ginger, I don’t think that the combination of an anise-flavour spirit and dark beer is quite to my taste.

So does the Death in the Afternoon ruin both the Champagne and the absinthe or do both add up to something grander when mixed?

As with many aspects of drinking and flavour this is a matter of personal discretion. I very much enjoy the cocktail and have shared it with a few friends who find it does work well with other good sparkling wines; however, I would perhaps recommend reserving your bottle of Dom Pérignon, 1952 for another occasion.

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