What can I use instead of absinthe? The best substitutes for absinthe are other anise-flavored spirits like Herbsaint, patis, anisette, Chichón, ouzo, sambuca, arak, raki, and Jägermeister. Anise-flavored soda syrup is a non-alcoholic alternative.
Absinthe is a traditional herbal liquor containing fennel, wormwood, and green anise, providing a distinctive anise flavor. In the nineteenth century, absinthe was (wrongly) blamed for many fatalities and banned for decades.
Combined with water, absinthe produces the cloudy louche effect. It is drunk with sugar as a digestif, in cocktails, or to add anise flavor to food. Here are the 10 best substitutes for absinthe:
The Best Absinthe Substitutes
Herbsaint was created as an absinthe substitute, so it is a great alternative.
After being banned in Europe in the late nineteenth century for causing hallucinations (hence the absinthe nickname “the green fairy”) and even death, absinthe was banned in the US in 1912.
Herbsaint was produced as an alternative, without the (supposedly) toxic ingredient, wormwood, but with a similarly herbaceous anise flavor.
This beverage replaced absinthe, especially in the French drinking culture of New Orleans, where it was an essential ingredient of the Sazerac, a historic cocktail.
Absinthe was only unbanned in 2007, so Herbsaint became the standard alternative in the US, popular in cocktails like the Herbsaint Frappé, the Herbsaint Suisse, and the Herbsaint Punch.
Use Herbsaint to replace absinthe in any cocktail, or enjoy it as a sipping liqueur. Herbsaint will also work well in sauces to add an anise punch, especially Oysters Rockefeller.
Replace absinthe with equal amounts of Herbsaint.
Pastis Or Pernod
Another perfect replacement for absinthe is pastis, often sold under the brand Pernod.
Pastis is a grape-based anise beverage, created in Provence in France to replace absinthe when it was banned.
Also produced by Ricard and Henri Bardouin, pastis contains licorice root, star anise, fennel, and sugar and has a similar alcohol kick to absinthe.
Pastis makes a delicious alternative to absinthe, also sipped louched over ice as an aperitif or a cocktail ingredient.
The beverage is smoother and sweeter than absinthe, making it an appealing addition to seafood, pork, and chicken dishes. Pastis is also ideal for flavoring desserts, like chocolate mousse and trifle.
Use pastis to replace absinthe in a 1:1 ratio.
Anisette, another French anise liqueur, is a gorgeous replacement for absinthe.
Made from grapes and anise seeds, anisette has a thick, syrupy consistency and a robust licorice flavor.
Anisette is lower in alcohol and sweeter than absinthe, making it an accessible, easy-drinking anise beverage. Enjoy it as an alternative to absinthe with a dash of water or in cocktails.
Replace absinthe with anisette in savory sauces for fish, roast vegetables (especially fennel), and in chocolatey desserts.
Use the same quantity of anisette as you would absinthe.
A Spanish alternative to absinthe is Chichón.
Chichón was recognized as a PDO (protected designation of origin) product in 1989 and can only be produced in the Spanish city with the same name.
This anise liqueur has been produced in the same way since the seventeenth century. It contains green anise macerated in wine, then distilled in copper stills.
Three varieties are available, regular, sweet, and dry. Chichón Dry is a tasty alternative to absinthe as an aperitif or digestif, also turning cloudy in water.
Use Chichón Sweet to replace absinthe in desserts or add a dash to coffee.
Replace absinthe with the same amount of Chichón.
Ouzo makes an ideal substitute for absinthe.
Made in Greece, ouzo is an anise-flavored liquor with a similarly high alcohol level to absinthe (at least 40% ABV). Like Chichón, its geographic origin is protected by EU laws, and different brands are produced around the country.
Ouzo consists of distilled grape tsipouro, anise, star anise, fennel, cloves, cinnamon, mint, and coriander. It has a robust licorice flavor with delightful herbal nuances.
Like absinthe, ouzo turns water cloudy and is usually served over ice.
Replace absinthe with ouzo as a digestif, or enjoy it alongside seafood. Use ouzo as an ingredient in shellfish dishes and fish marinades.
Choose sweeter ouzo, which comes from southern Greece, to flavor desserts and bakes.
Use ouzo as a 1:1 substitute for absinthe.
Italy’s alternative to absinthe is the colorless liqueur sambuca.
Sambuca is grain-based and contains Chinese star anise oils, green anise, licorice root, elderflower, and sugar.
The name “sambuca” comes from the Latin Sambucus, referring to the elderberry plant. Although all sambuca contains elderflower, black sambuca’s color comes from dark elderberries and red sambuca from red elderberries.
Although not limited to a specific geographical origin, sambuca production is regulated by the EU. Certified brands include Molinari, Luxardo, and Antica.
Sambuca is a sweeter alternative to absinthe, sipped neat or with water. Traditionally, Italians serve sambuca shots con la mosca, referring to the garnish of coffee beans that look like flies.
Sambuca is also a popular addition to espresso, much like grappa in Caffé Corretto. Use it in desserts to replace absinthe.
Replace absinthe with similar quantities of absinthe.
A perfect replacement for absinthe is arak, a Middle Eastern liquor.
Arak, araq, or arrack is a grape-based licorice beverage, potently alcoholic, described as a herbal grappa.
Usually served chilled and diluted with water, arak turns milky-white like absinthe, earning it the moniker “milk of lions” in Lebanon.
Enjoy arak as a substitute for absinthe as an aperitif sipped alongside mezze. You can also replace absinthe with arak in cocktails, like Death in the Afternoon, which combines the anise liquor with sparkling wine.
Use arak as a direct replacement for absinthe.
Raki, related to arak, is another Middle Eastern anise liqueur.
Raki and arak have shared origins, although you can make raki from grapes, molasses, figs, and even sugar beets. They are similarly high in alcohol, around 40 to 100% proof.
Turkish raki, one of the most famous varieties in the Mediterranean, is made from the twice-distilled by-products of wine production, flavored with anise. There are several traditions around drinking raki in Turkey, usually shared at celebrations.
Enjoy raki as an aperitif or digestif instead of absinthe, with the addition of water. It can replace absinthe in cocktails.
Raki is often used in seafood dishes and goes particularly well with mussels and shrimps, as well as chicken marinades and vinaigrettes.
Replace absinthe with the same amount of raki.
Jägermeister, a bitter herbal liqueur, can be a handy alternative to absinthe.
With a licorice flavor similar to absinthe, Jägermeister contains botanicals like star anise, poppy seed, saffron, and juniper berries, amongst other secret ingredients.
This beverage is often drunk as shots but is intended to be sipped neat as a digestif, as it is far lower in alcohol than absinthe.
If you want a lighter anise-flavored drink or flavoring for cocktails, Jägermeister makes a perfect substitute for absinthe. However, it’s not ideal for cooking and baking as it is herbaceous, not only licorice-forward.
Pour equal measures of Jägermeister as absinthe in cocktails, or enjoy a larger tot of this low-ABV liqueur after dinner.
Anise-flavored Soda Syrup
A non-alcoholic alternative to absinthe is anise-flavored soda syrup.
This syrup tastes like licorice, adding flavor to beverages like mocktails, sodas, coffee, karak tea, champurrado, or flavored milk. It does not contain any alcohol, consisting of sugar, water, and aniseed.
Replace absinthe with soda syrup when you want an anise-flavored beverage with none of the alcohol or bitterness. It’s ideal for adding a licorice kick to desserts as well.
You only need a dash of concentrated syrup to get the same flavor as absinthe.