Michael Stuckey never took a chemistry class in college, yet he’s mastered the swirling mysteries of absinthe.
Stuckey is the head distiller at Lifted Spirits, a micro-distillery located in a quaint red brick building at 1734 Cherry St. that was once a horse stable. I hosted a Chow Town Facebook Live from the production floor where Stuckey gave me a rundown on the spirits they offer and a sneak peek at absinthe.
Absinthe is a bitter liqueur distilled from a plant known as wormwood. It has a high alcohol content (68 percent ABV, in this case) or twice as strong as Lifted Spirit’s gin (40 percent ABV). Absinthe became a darling of French poets and artists in the 1800s.
Considered habit forming and a spirit that could cause hallucinations, it was banned in the United States by the early 1900s. Better distilling practices, and a change in laws, made it available again in this country starting in 2007.
Even with sinus congestion due to allergies, I cannot miss the strong smell of anise and fennel piercing botanicals. (Fortunately, it’s one I like: I’m a black licorice fan.)
But the spirit is usually enjoyed after dilution. An absinthe fountain nicknamed “Genevieve” drips ice-cold water into a faceted glass. With each drip of water stir up a cloud, known as a “louche,” that rises as if a “green fairy” is dancing in the glass as the liquid changes from jewel green to the color of key lime pie filling.
“The water is dribbled into the absinthe, which as that happens the bonds between the alcohol and water change to release the essential oils that are is suspended, which you can’t see now, but in a moment it will become very swirly and cloudy,” Stuckey says. “Which is what poets described as ‘the green fairy.’ It was that swirling and dancing in the spirit.”
Chef Renee Kelly, who recently closed her restaurant, spent the morning shooting an episode for her new 30-minute farm-to-table show, “Harvest With Renee Kelly,” which airs at 8:30 a.m. Sundays on KCWE Channel 29. (To see some of her past episodes on YouTube, click here.)
Her show is shot on location and features Kansas and Missouri farmers getting raw products into the hands of local chefs, food artisans and distillers. Lifted Spirits currently offers bright gin and vodka made from seed to delivery red winter wheat grown by a farmer in Wellsville, Kan.
(For a story about what’s new with gin in Kansas City, click here.)
“I absolutely love that they have a farmer that grows their own grain and they mill it right here. They don’t bring in neutral spirits at all. That was my one a-ha moment,” Kelly says when asked what stood out most to her after a morning of working on the show.
“The other secondary one — or maybe first — is they do absinthe.”
Check out the website for Lifted Spirits to find out when barrel-aged gin and absinthe will be available.