When it comes to bar equipment, an absinthe fountain functions like a kind of party trick.
The liquor is derived from the herb Artemisia absinthium, taking its green coloring from the wormwood leaves’ chlorophyll. It’s also highly alcoholic — in most cases, over 50 percent alcohol by volume — and was banned in the U.S. for years on suspicion of being hallucinogenic. Distillation with water evaporates the herbal oils into a strong, yet palatable spirit.
“Back in the day, you’d control the dilution,” says Arcademie owner Carl Arnheiter, dispensing what he calls “a weird little bit of cocktail history.”
The distillation process is strangely soothing. A sugar cube balances on a grated server suspended above a pour of absinthe. Turning a small knob in the fountain slowly releases a steady drip of water onto the cube, filtering sweetened water into the glass below.
Using a 1:3 or 1:5 ratio of absinthe to water dilutes the liquor’s bafflingly strong taste while releasing its subtle flavors. The resulting opaqueness — called a louche — clouds the anise-flavored spirit’s naturally green hue.
Arnheiter ordered the handblown glass fountain from a European bar supplier and brings it out for straight pours. Arcademie stays stocked with bottles of Pernod and Mata Hari, but a “monkey gland” — gin with a splash of absinthe — is made with liquor hailing from French Lick, Indiana.