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Cheers to Our Movie-Inspired Absinthe Cocktails

So cold the River book and cocktails
If you’re in the mood to sip on something different, shake it up with a couple movie-inspired cocktails during your next visit.

Both drinks — “Erica’s Lens” and “Mr. Bradford’s Secret” — feature Absinthe Le Bleu, produced and bottled right here in town at Spirits of French Lick distillery. Named for characters in the new So Cold the River movie that was shot at West Baden Springs Hotel, you can find these cocktails for a limited time at Sinclair’s Restaurant and Ballard’s Bar (at West Baden Springs Hotel) and 1875: The Steakhouse (at French Lick Springs Hotel).

So why absinthe? Well, a couple reasons.

For one, it’s a spirit with a dark reputation and mysterious past — which perfectly parallels the tone of the movie. And secondly, one of the movie’s stars became a big fan of Spirits of French Lick’s absinthe during her time here.

One day in early 2020 while the movie was being filmed at West Baden, Alysia Reiner found Spirits of French Lick and decided to drop in. “Just randomly walked in off the street,” recalls Alan Bishop, the alchemist who produces all the distillery’s signature spirits. He’d never “Orange is the New Black,” the series Reiner is well known for.

“Didn’t know anything about it,” he says with a laugh.

But they struck up a conversation. Reiner tried the absinthe and loved it. And fast-forward a few years, and Reiner had Bishop come on an Instagram live to talk absinthe with her nearly quarter-million followers. Bishop knows absinthe — the spirit itself and the history — top to bottom. Here’s a quick and interesting crash course on absinthe, in Alan’s own words:

It was originally created as a medicinal.
“That was in the Swiss Alps in the mid 1700s. By the late 1700s, early 1800s it was being drank as much for enjoyment as it was for the medicinal reasons. It’s a digestif or like an aperitif, so wormwood and a lot of the botanicals that are in absinthe are very good at helping digest food and ease stomach discomfort. It’s got kind of a chemistry, alchemical and sort of a witch-y history, because it’s mostly women that originally produced absinthe.”

The Swiss connection brought absinthe to Indiana, along with the first winery.
“They were a Swiss colony and originally came into Kentucky and tried to set up a winery. There were no commercial wineries at the time. The one in Kentucky failed and they came to Indiana and set one up in Switzerland County growing Catawba grapes, and that was the first successful vineyard winery in the US. With the knowledge of making that wine also came the knowledge of making absinthe. In Switzerland County there were two commercial absinthe producers in the 1830s that were producing enough absinthe that they had a cooper on hand to make barrels to ship absinthe down to New Orleans.”

Alan Bishop from Spirits of French Lick

Alan Bishop from Spirits of French Lick

It's gotten a bad rap. (No, you won’t lose your mind from drinking it.)
“Absinthe was banned for over 100 years in most countries in the world, because there was this idea that one of the ingredients, which comes from wormwood, causes hallucinations. It really doesn’t; never did. There are some psychedelic effects secondarily from some of the other botanicals that are in absinthe. But what they do is they provide some clarity – so you drink and you get buzzed, but you’re very aware you’re drunk. A lot of the artists liked it because they said it made the colors brighter and more vibrant.”

Absinthe is one of the first liquors that Spirits of French Lick rolled out when it opened. And this one has some unique characteristics in both color and taste.

“White (or clear) spirits are very important for a young distillery, so if you don’t want to do moonshine, you better do something at least interesting and intriguing and tasty. And absinthe fits that bill. Ours is a true Le Bleu style or Swiss style. Most are going to be green in color, but traditional Swiss absinthe is never colored post-distillation; it’s always a white absinthe.

“We made ours not as heavy on the botanical front as a lot of other absinthes are. Specifically because people either love or hate black licorice – there’s no in between, right? One of the primary characters is anise, which has a very licorice-like flavor. Ours is a little on the lighter side – almost like a starter absinthe.”

 *  *  *

Alan has a world of knowledge about the past and present of distilling, so If you’re looking for a great side adventure while visiting the resort, take a distillery tour which includes a tasting of five spirits. And here at the hotels, we’ve got one of those limited cocktails with your name on it.

Mr Bradford's secret cocktail

Mr. Bradford’s Secret

Gin, Sprite and a splash of cranberry juice in an absinthe-rinsed glass, garnished with a lime wheel.

Erica's Lens cocktail


Erica’s Lens

A West Baden twist on a traditional Sazerac. We start with an absinthe-rinsed glass and blend whiskey, a sugar cube, few drops of water, angostura bitters and black walnut bitters, with an orange peel to top it off.







Absinthe Fountain



Absinthe Fountain

For a simple and traditional way to enjoy the spirit, try a shot of absinthe with an ice water/sugar cube drip.









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