Hooch

5 Best Places for Absinthe Service in Metro Phoenix

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See also: Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale: Painkillers and Bacon Beignets at Peter Kasperski's Latest (Rotating) Concept

And since 2007, when the U.S. lifted a ban on the spirit, it's been pretty easy to find absinthe in Phoenix. But even though the landscape of availability has shifted, only a handful prep it in full-ritual form.

Here are five Valley spots, from newcomers to old, to get your licorice..er, anise...I mean "star anise..." (what's the difference?)...fennel -- okay, anything-flavored-by-the-compound-molecule-anethol drink fix.

Counter Intuitive Thanks for letting me convey some false confusion. For the record, absinthe's flavor is largely owed to a triad of botanicals including sweet fennel, green anise, and wormwood leaves. These, in addition to a few other botanicals, contribute to its delightful licorice-likeness.

Counter Intuitive, with its rotating themes, may have the absinthe service with the least amount of staying power on this list. But for now, the drink is right at the heart of New Orleans Culture, the bar's current theme.

Every city has its haunt, home to centuries of writers and entertainers, and in New Orleans it's always been the Old Absinthe House bar ("The Absinthe Room," as it were) where Teddy Roosevelt and Oscar Wilde alike came to drink from the fountain of booze.

You better believe Counter Intuitive serves a proper Sazerac, too, one of absinthe's earliest cocktails. Absinthe service is $13, but who said it was cheap, anyway?

Little Cleo's Seafood Legend

Who said it was cheap? Well, Little Cleo did. And bless her soul since she convinced Sam Fox to offer up one of the best happy hours in Phoenix. I'd be all-too-obliged to eat, from the hour of 4 to 5 p.m. on most days of the week, $1 oysters and shrimp while drinking half-price absinthe service and absinthe cocktails.

Riding Seattle's carefully-sourced oyster bar trend, Little Cleo's selection is more than serviceable. Excellent, even, if you're willing to shell-out and shell-in at non-happy hour rates. More times than not, the bartender explained to me, the $1 oysters at happy hour will be the cheapest. But you'll likely find, like I did, that those oysters are the saltiest ones (the least refined, you could say), the Kumiai ones sourced from Baja. Fortunately, you may never find a better set of sea legs to balance out your subtly sweet glass of absinthe.

Get the St. George, America's first domestically distilled absinthe. Akin, on the palate, to a shot of Pastis, its pastel yellow color offers the most licorice flavor for your dollar.

See also: Little Cleo's Seafood Legend: Happy Hour Report Card

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Shelby Moore