The green fairy (the intoxicating spirit of absinthe) has taken up residence north of Chicago in Lake Bluff, IL. North Shore Distillery produces Sirène Absinthe Verte, and they offer tours and tastings.
Absinthe derives its flavor from green anise, and much of its reputation from Artemisia absinthium or grand wormwood. It originated in Neuchâtel in Switzerland and gained popularity in Belle Époque Paris. The France and US held long standing bans, spurred by the trace amounts of psychoactive thujone. There was a renewed interest in the 1990s. France began producing La Fée Absinthe in 2000, the first since 1914. Lucid became the first French brand imported into the US since 1912.
Derek and Sonja Kassebaum followed the model of microbreweries and began the artisanal North Shore Distillery with their still named Ethel. The produce handcrafted batches of gins, vodkas, limited edition spirits and Sirène Absinthe Verte.
Named after the sirens of Greek mythology, Sirène keeps a sense of tradition. It is to be enjoyed with a tall pontarlier (absinthe glass), a spoon and a sugar cube. Cold water drips over the sugar cube in the spoon, into the glass. An absinthe fountain is not mandatory, but certainly adds to the charm and effect.
The North Shore Distillery offers tastings and purchases on Tuesdays & Wednesdays – 12 to 6 pm; Thursday, Friday & Sat – 12 to 9 pm; and Sunday – 12 to 6 pm. Their cocktail bar is open Thursday & Friday – 4 to 9 pm and all hours Saturday and Sunday. Tours are available on Saturdays at 3pm, or by reservation (tours at northshoredistillery dot com) for groups of 8 or more at other times. The tours cost $10 per person, and include a tasting.