Absinthe Brouilleurs

Used as an occasional alternative to the perforated spoon, the brouilleur, or mixer was a small metal or glass bowl that sat on top of the glass. When it was filled with water it automatically dripped sugared water into the dose at the required rate. More elaborate versions had a separate platform to hold the sugar cube, and one famous model – the Cusenier “Auto Verseur” added a further refinement – an oscillating see-saw to control the dripping water.

Glass brouilleur.

The famous Absinthe Oxygénée Cusenier “Auto Verseur” mixer, with its small see-saw to control the dripping water.

Absinthe Deniset Fils brouilleur.

Cailar & Bayard metal brouilleur.

Metal brouilleur with three holes.

Absinthe Terminus brouilleur.

A circa 1910-1920 Spanish cut glass and matching brouilleur.

Large silver-plate brouilleur with a perforated platform to hold the sugar cube. Many forgeries exist of this item.

 

Bloch Brouilleurs

The amateurs of absinthe “with sugar” have in general the habit of dissolving the piece of sugar intended to generally moderate the taste of their apéritif with a simple café spoon and other times on special spoons, flat and pierced with holes. In all cases, with these various ways of preparing, it is extremely difficult to carry out a slow and progressive dissolving of the sugar, and fatal if one pours the water irregularly or in a way that’s too fast.

The small instrument that we show here makes it possible to avoid such a disappointment and gives the facility to reliably and in good conscience make a beverage able to satisfy even the most meticulous drinker.

The system is composed of a lower plate A, pierced with holes, on which one lays the piece of sugar that one wants to dissolve slowly, so that the sweetened water produced runs out drop by drop into the contents of the glass, thus agitating (or battering) the absinthe in accordance with the art of the ritual, in order to release the subtle flavours from it.

Above plate A and within a small distance, is a kind of funnel B finished in its lower part with very fine metal holes D. This funnel is set on a common mounting with the plate A, designed in order to be able to fit without problems on the various commonly used glass types.

One pours water in the funnel B; the liquid filters through the fine metal holes and then falls on the sugar in a slow and regular way.

At left is an example of an ornate two-part absinthe mixer or brouilleur manufactured by Bloch, referenced in the extract from the article in the 1894 issue of “Les Inventions Nouvelles” shown on the right. This article explains in some detail exactly how the brouilleur was used, and the advantages it offered over other methods of preparation.

Perrenod style Brouilleurs

This unusual style of brouilleur has a small reservoir leading to a long hollow spike with a tapered tip, which penetrates well below the surface of the liquid in the glass. There has been some debate as to exactly how this brouilleur was used, as the capacity of the reservoir is only 30ml, and thus, if used traditionally, needs to be refilled with water several times in order to prepare a standard absinthe. Furthermore, while other related devices – in particular the Cusenier “See Saw” brouilleur, accentuate the splash of the water drops into the absinthe dose (as does the traditional method with the water carafe held as high as possible above the glass), this brouilleur introduces it near the bottom of the dose, resulting in absolutely no agitation of the surface of the liquid.

On the basis of recent experiments – see the photographs shown on the following pages – it’s now believed that this style of brouilleur was, very unusually, designed to add absinthe to water, rather than water to absinthe as was normally the case. The capacity of the reservoir is exactly a standard absinthe dose, and the spike introduced the lighter alcohol directly to the bottom of the glass, where it floated up and diffused through the heavier water. The flat metal disk trapped the aromas of the louching absinthe in the glass, until the verte was ready for drinking.

On the right hand glass, a Perrenod brouilleur. At left, a similar unbranded brouilleur, part of a boxed set of 6 (see below right) almost certainly made by the same manufacturer. Both are marked “Brevete S.G.D.C”, the French equivalent of “Patent Pending”.

The Perrenod et Cie brouilleur.

A unique complete boxed set of 6 brouilleurs, in two parts (unlike the single unit Perrenod-branded version) to facilitate easy cleaning. The disks measure 9.5cm across, and the reservoir with spike is 10.5cm.

Preparing an absinthe with a Perrenod Brouilleur

In the right hand glass, the brouilleur is being used in traditional style to add iced water to the absinthe dose. It has to be refilled three times to achieve this 3 to 1 ratio, and the resulting absinthe is unacceptable: a noticeable layer of unlouched absinthe floats on the water (depending on the absinthe used, this can be as thick as 5mm), and the bottom of the reservoir in the final mix is almost pure water – in the absence of any agitation of the surface by falling drops of water, the lighter absinthe has risen to the top of the drink. In the left hand glass, the brouilleur is being used to add absinthe to water. As shown in the photographs the louche is complete and long lasting: a perfectly mixed absinthe.

 

Preparing an absinthe with a Perrenod Style Brouilleur – a timed demonstration

Another demonstration, using a strongly coloured absinthe and a tall Yvonne glass to accentuate the louche effect.
At right, an absinthe after 2 minutes, prepared the traditional way, with 90ml of iced water added to the 30ml absinthe dose. As you can see, in the tall glass the water and absinthe separate almost completely. Using this method, it’s simply not possible to make a properly prepared absinthe with this brouilleur.

Below, 5 timed photos showing a 30 ml dose of absinthe being added to 90ml of iced water in the glass. It takes about 45 seconds for the brouilleur to drain – the louche however continues to develop for another minute or so thereafter. The end result is a well mixed absinthe.

After 10 seconds.

After 20 seconds.

After 30 Seconds.

After 45 seconds.

After 2 minutes.