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Watermelon Absinthe Sorbet Is Summer’s Coolest Treat

When it comes to cooling down during the summer, you can’t go wrong with a tub of something frozen. But if you’ve tried making your own icy dessert at home — whether that be ice cream, sorbet or gelato — you’ll know that it can take quite the effort, or an investment in a hefty and expensive ice cream maker, to achieve that “expert-made” taste and texture.

That’s why sorbet is often thought of as the easier option to make when it comes to the frozen dessert family. But to produce a superior sorbet, it’s not as easy as throwing a couple of ingredients together, mixing, and sticking it in the freezer to set. That is, unless you add in a secret ingredient: booze. Rather than using a standard stabilizer like pectin or gelatin to get a creamy consistency, a high-alcohol spirit can provide a shortcut to excellent sorbet or ice cream. And according to French chefs, absinthe (a.k.a. the green fairy) is the perfect pick.

Martini drinkers will know that high-alcohol spirits kept in the freezer never truly freeze, and that’s thanks to its high alcohol content. When making sorbet, the same science comes into play: with 45 to 74 percent alcohol, aromatic absinthe can work wonders in creating a smoother texture and consistency because the spirit reduces the freezing point. And while all hard liquors can be used to soften and stabilize these kinds of desserts, European chefs will tell you that absinthe can add a greater depth of flavor that other liquors can’t. It can provide herbal and floral notes, as well as hints of lemon balm and mint, which all come together nicely to produce a delectable frozen treat.

You’ll find a stellar example of absinthe in action in Jura, the mountainous region where France and Switzerland meet, where the once-controversial spirit is having a revival. Maxime Pot, chef de cuisine, offers absinthe ice cream at his restaurant La Table du Palafitte in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Bright green in color and intense in licorice aromas, the herbaceous ice cream is creamy yet refreshingly clean, with the same aromatics of a shot of absinthe without the hard-hitting alcoholic punch. If you’re seeking a special absinthe from the mountains to turn into dessert — or just to sip on — distilleries like Artemisia, La Valote Martin, and La P’tite Gaudentia Persoz are some popular options in the canton of Neuchâtel where absinthe originated. But if you want to stick to a classic, you can easily find Pernod, one of the world’s most well-known absinthe producers.

If you want to lean into summer even further, fruit can be a handy addition to sorbet made with absinthe — or any booze for that matter. Marie Wucher, pastry chef at Le Parc Hotel in Obernai, France, makes a sorbet using 90 percent ripe fruit, a touch of sugar and eaux-de-vie, a clear brandy from the Alsace region of France that has been fermented and distilled. “I use eaux-de-vie like I’d use a cherry-flavored spirit in many of my recipes,” she says. “My grandmother used kirsch in every dessert she made: fruit salad, baba, raspberry cake, strawberry tarts, chocolate cake, mousse, crème pâtissière. … This flavor is part of my DNA, and since alcohol doesn’t freeze, I add a little bit of eau de vie to improve the texture and enhance the flavors of my sorbet.”

The recipe below offers a sorbet-style riff on Chef Maxime’s absinthe ice cream recipe, with the addition of watermelon, a summertime staple. When you do take a crack at it, there is one thing to remember: less is more. As tempting as it is to be heavy handed, don’t add in extra glugs of absinthe to ramp up the flavors. Any more than four tablespoons will turn your sorbet mushy, and stop it from setting properly. Cheers, and happy scooping.

Super-Quick Absinthe Sorbet


1 cup caster sugar
½ cup water
1 kilogram watermelon, cut into chunks, and frozen
1 juice and zest of a lemon
3 to 4 tablespoons absinthe


Place the cubed watermelon in the metal tray you will use to freeze your sorbet in. Freeze the watermelon for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until frozen.
Meanwhile, place the sugar and water in a medium-sized pan and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer for about 2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a food processor, blitz the frozen watermelon until smooth.
Add in the lemon juice, slightly cooled sugar syrup, and absinthe. Blitz quickly to mix again. Depending on how frozen your watermelon is, you can serve immediately, or place the sorbet back into the frozen tray and freeze until it is semi-firm and scoopable like ice cream.

The article Watermelon Absinthe Sorbet Is Summer’s Coolest Treat appeared first on VinePair.

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