Q&A with Ted Breaux, Founder and Distiller of Lucid Absinthe
|Lucid Master Distiller Ted Breaux.|
The New Orleans native had pursued a career as a research scientist after studying microbiology and chemistry, graduating from Harvard, Louisiana University and Louisiana State University.
Before creating Lucid, Breaux didn't even know much about absinthe -- not until a colleague made a passing comment about the wormwood-infused spirit that's often mistakenly thought to cause psychedelic effects. The friend questioned Breaux: "You know, that green liquor that made people crazy?"
The regular questions -- and multiple misconceptions -- surrounding absinthe are what eventually compelled Breaux to separate fact from fiction. He began research with the initial goal to learn as much as he could, and in doing so began the process of distilling his own artisinal absinthe according to traditional production methods.
What started as a research project became a passion, and Lucid was born.
These days, most Americans don't know the difference between real absinthe and the fake stuff. The easiest way to differentiate an authentic, artisanaly-distilled absinthe from modern chemical concoctions: just take a close look at the label. Anything labeled "liqueur" means there is sugar involved, said Breaux, an absolute "no-no" when creating genuine absinthe. Likewise, check for any fine print on the backside of the label for artificial food coloring like "FD&C" or the words "certified food coloring."
Clean Plate Charlie wanted to learn what it takes to make a genuine absinthe and how to drink it, so we had a chat with Lucid Master Distiller Ted Breaux:
Clean Plate Charlie: How did you become the Lucid creator and distiller? What led you down this career path?
Ted Breaux: Professionally, I am a microbiologist and chemist, and became interested in absinthe about 19 years ago. It started as a research project, and eventually consumed so much of my time that it became a full-time profession.
Is there a story?
The strangest thing happened in late 1996, whereby not one, but two full, sealed bottles of antique absinthe fell into my hands from two different directions. One was from an old estate, the other a family heirloom of a business associate. I credit those two bottles with providing the "Rosetta Stone" that solidified my thinking about 19th century absinthe.
What do you like most about your job and your product?
What I like about my job is that it never feels like a proper job, although it's packed with unceasing challenges. What I like about the product is that we deliver what we advertise.
What's a typical day like for you?
I never live the same day twice. My work days are exhausting, and often involve travel and difficult schedules. Fortunately, I do get some time at home to recharge now and then.
Let's get down to the good stuff. What makes a genuine absinthe -- what is unique about its ingredients and how is it made?
The finest original absinthes were -- and should always be -- artisanaly-crafted, completely natural distillations and infusions of whole herbs. That is how it was crafted in the 19th century, and it is how we [at Lucid] do it today. We even use antique absinthe making equipment.
Why is absinthe green?
Artisanal absinthe like Lucid obtains its natural color from whole plants. Industrial absinthes are colored with artificial dyes that are usually listed on the label.
Is it among the most potent liquors available today?
Absinthe is traditionally bottled at high proof, but that can be deceiving, as it is never taken neat. A single bottle of Lucid is the equivalent of more than a liter of 80 proof vodka.
What, in your opinion, is the most common misconception about absinthe?
The most common misconceptions about absinthe today are that we removed or reduced something to make it legal. [Editor's note: see here.] We didn't. It is also speculated that we removed the grande wormwood, but we actually use a lot of it. Furthermore, it is not a hallucinogenic. [And, although Lucid contains trace amounts of the chemical thujone, it still passes U.S. regulations.]