You’ll find many variations on the theme of how to serve Absinthe. Here is the classic ritual that has its heritage in the Fin de Siecle (turn of the 19th century) Europe.
The Traditional Ritual
In this ritual, one measure of Absinthe Mata Hari is poured into a glass, and a sugar cube is placed on a perforated spoon and held over the glass of Absinthe. Ice-cold water is poured SLOWLY over the sugar, dissolving it and creating the authentic “louche” effect as it mixes with the Absinthe. The recommended mix is water to Absinthe in a 3:1 or 5:1 ratio. Traditionally, a specially designed Absinthe glass is used with a bulge, bubble or fill line marks the amount of Absinthe to be poured.
Pour one measure of Absinthe Mata Hari into a glass (a whiskey glass will do, as will an Absinthe glass). Suspend a slotted spoon over the glass and place a sugar cube on it.
Ice-cold water is slowly poured or dripped over the sugar until the drink is diluted to between a 3:1-to-5:1 ratio. Using ice-cold water and pouring it slowly is essential to achieve the Louche effect.
The components that are not soluble in water…the essential oils… of the herbs used (especially anise) come out of solution and cloud the drink. This process is called the louche. The addition of water is important causing the herbs to "blossom" and bring out many of the delicate flavors of Absinthe.
The Louche Effect
The definitive Absinthe drinking ritual celebrates the “louche” (pronounced “LOOSH”) effect. When ice-cold water is mixed into the Absinthe it turns the liquid into a beautiful opalescent white-green color. It is the essential oils from the herbs in Absinthe that cause the effect. The louche effect is generally rare in Bohemian Absinthes. Mata Hari is the only Bohemian Absinthe on the market with an authentic and distinctive louche effect.
Absinthe fountains are used as water containers with small spigots that slowly let water out drop by drop to guarantee the proper speed and creation of the louche effect.
The modern way to serve absinthe in bars is to prepare it in a whisky glass with ice and water or as a cocktail. Here the Bohemian absinthes are much more suitable because of the non dominant anise taste.