Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ted Breaux, the Alchemist of Pre-Prohibition Flavors

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Ted Breaux is an alchemist. He weaves straw and turns it into gold. The business of distilling stands as a reminder of his talent for the spirituous arts. Absinthe is Ted's stock and trade. At a recent event during Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the yearly gathering of the tribes for the cocktail world, Ted and his able assistant Jenny Gardiner are metering out mere drops of his passionate elixirs. Each drop is a view into the past.

Ted Breaux with Klaus the Soused Gnome
Ted discovered though the art of distillation the chemical components of liquors not tasted for over one hundred years. In careful coordination with the Combier Distillery, itself dating back to 1834, Ted has given new meaning to the term Alchemist. The words "Small Batch", "Hand Crafted" and "Artisanal" are not marketing terms thrown about like metaphors on a hot Summer's day. These words signify the passion and determination of Ted's portion of the industry. What industry is this? What Ted does is unlock flavor long forgotten by time.

With a ready smile and a story to tell about ingredients, Ted sits like an effusive man-child surrounded by toys from another generation. In this case the toys are his creations. These creations are Absinthe from another generation. Another world. Are Ted's creations Absinthes from outer space? Perhaps they are from another way of life where time passed more slowly. And why did time go so slowly? The powerful intoxicants in Ted's Absinthe makes time stand still.

Lucid Absinthe paved the way for Grand Absinthe to be legally available in the United States. Available at DrinkUpNY, this richly textured Absinthe is a potent reminder of why restraint should be the second word in the paragraph about the mystery in these expressive spirits. Absinthe is a most tempestuous beast. Served with the addition of ice-cold water, this mild stimulant was the subject of many a fever pitched dream. They say that the Impressionist Art period was directly influenced by Absinthe. It makes sense that after a couple glasses of Absinthe the entire world seems to resemble a pointillist painting! If you have too many, keep knives away from your ears!

The Polo Lounge at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans is the perfect location for a tasting of pre-Prohibition style Absinthe. Ted and his able associate Jenny Gardiner have gathered a veritable cornucopia of flavor-driven memories in this mirrored Fin de siècle-styled room. The air is warm but the cool glasses of perfectly poured Absinthe turn the space into a swirl of light and sound. Sure it was hot in the room, steamy perhaps, but with a cool glass of Absinthe in the hand of the imbiber, secrets of the past will come full circle into the present tense.

Tasting Notes:

Lucid Absinthe: Crystalline droplets of liquid silk give way to that unmistakable burn from the high proof spirit. Lucid is not for the meek, nor is it for the confused. This is a very serious medicinal meant to reveal the correlations between the present and the vividly imagined. With a creamy mouth-feel and a finish that lasts for minutes, Lucid is just gorgeous in a Sazerac or my favorite cocktail for this liquor, the Absinthe Frappé.

Nouvelle Orleans: The Nouvelle Orleans, named for Ted Breaux's birthplace in New Orleans is my choice of the tasting for the umami waves of bitter to sweet to creamy. I've taken Nouvelle Orleans and mixed it with all sorts of liquors. One of my favorites is Four Roses Bourbon, the Single Barrel version along with hand cut ice and a splash of Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur. It's not a Sazerac, far from, but a spaceship from another planet taking off across your tongue. You can say I'm a big fan.

Jade 1901: Jade 1901 is a snapshot into the way Absinthe used to be made long before you were born. This visit to another land is made in 130 year old copper Absinthe still that imparts unique character to each pensive sip of this persuasive liqueur. It is not weak by any means, nor produced with artificial colorings or flavorings. There is no added enhancement to soften the mouth-feel, nor the addition of concentrates to give depth. Jade 1901 is made the way that Absinthe can be made only if the distiller is as passionate as Ted Breaux.

Dale DeGroff's Pimento Aromatic Bitters: Ah the Pimento. A member of the pepper family with the emphasis on sweet and savory rather than fire driven and hot, this is a Caribbean vacation in a bottle.  But tucked into the background surrounded by a core of darkness is the Absinthe. There really is no escaping it. This vaguely liquorish tasting elixir is also both bitters and tonic rolled into one. There is the core of the islands mixed with the deep aromatics of the spices. Each drop unlocks the depths of a lucid dream, with a memorable finish in each sip. 

Ted brought a series of medicinally derived elixirs with him such as the fruit syrups and artisan produced orange liqueurs that bring new meaning and definition to the word healing augmentations. We are lucky to have such talent plying our memories with new meaning and rationale towards a clarified future.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

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