Blue Bottle Sesame-Absinthe Cigars

Sometimes I like to marvel at how far my tastes have come in the past ten years. If you’d told my barely-20 self that my poison of choice in the future would be gin, I’d have said you were crazy. If you’d prophesied that I’d cook with coconut milk on a regular basis and have an uncontrollable addition to chocolate-covered macaroons, I’d have recoiled in horror. And if you went on to tell tales of my love of anise, you would have made me straight-up sick.

For years, anise was my sworn enemy (second only to the onion). I can still remember rifling through one of our snack drawers when I was a child and happening upon what appeared to be a bag of hidden, secret candy, only to remove it and discover that it was black licorice. Still candy, but the worst kind. Gross, old people candy. That bag hung around for a while (I think my brother was the only one who would eat them, infrequently), and it tricked me numerous times. It was evil and I hated it. The end.

The breakdown of my anise hatred began with my Italian ex’s family. There was one Easter when his nonna brought out a plate of raw fennel slices for everyone to snack on before dinner. Having no idea what they were, I grabbed one, took a bite, and had a pause-with-your-mouth-full moment where I thought, “uh oh, I think I taste something that makes me unhappy.” But I kept chewing. And I realized it actually wasn’t all that bad. Then a little later, she brought out the fennel quiche, and I was hooked. And then there was the other nonna who would make tiny anisette cookies, and those pretty much solidified it. I had a new, unexpected love.

I’ve started to see this new-found love bleeding into my cocktail tastes as well. That began the first time I tried a Corpse Reviver #2, and promptly declared it to be once of my favorite drinks, ever. There’s only a drop or two of absinthe in it, but it’s the flavor that stands out most to me, tying the entire thing together. It’s clear to me that my tastes buds aren’t ready to go full speed ahead on this yet, however (as evidenced by the fact that I can only enjoy a Sazerac in the tiniest of sips). But it’s another step in a good direction.

Now, before I get distracted by talking drinks, I’ll switch to talking about cookies. This past weekend I was flipping through the recipes in The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee, when I happened upon the recipe for Double-Chocolate Cookies. I glanced over the ingredients and realized I had everything I needed, and decided that’s what I’d be making. Then I turned the page, and my eyes settled on the words “Sesame-Absinthe Cigars,” and then immediately darted over to the picture on the facing page of what appeared to be a tasty little Italian cookie, covered in sesame seeds. After reading the recipe introduction which described them as “more of a biscotti-style treat” that are “easy to overlook when faced with the sweet and chocolatey options in Blue Bottle’s pastry cases,” but then went on to note: “don’t let their subtlety fool you; they are one of the most popular items among our staff, and my very favorite cookie to make,” I knew what I had to do. It was going to be a TWO-COOKIE WEEKEND.

The end result: I. Love. These. Cookies. I love them more than the double-chocolate ones. They are eggy and just a little chewy, with lots of other wonderful complexities going on. There’s the herbaceous anise edge from the absinthe, a hint of olive oil, and the occasional savory burst of salt, all surrounded by the toasty, crunchy sesame seeds. I’ve been eating them all the time, at any given point during the day. But I think they would make a particularly wonderful treat with early morning coffee. Please make them. Especially if you like biscotti or Italian cookies. They aren’t the prettiest cookies at first glance, but I promise you — they’re awesome.

Sesame-Absinthe Cigars

(from The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee)

yield: 24 cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp plus 1/4 cup of absinthe (You can substitute Pernod, Herbsaint, Pastis, or any anise liqueur if you don’t have absinthe on hand — I actually only had 1/8 cup of absinthe, so I subbed in an additional 1/8 cup of Root liqueur instead)
  • 1 cup of sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.

Sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder together into a medium bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the flour mixture, then pinch and rub between your fingers until the texture resembles fluffy cornmeal (this should take about 5 minutes).

Make a well in the center of the mixture. Crack the eggs into the well. Add the 1 tbsp of absinthe, then immediately begin whisking the eggs vigorously with a fork to incorporate the two as quickly as possible, before the eggs begin to curdle from the alcohol. Begin gradually mixing the flour mixture into the eggs, working until fully incorporated.

Generously flour a work surface, then turn out dough. Knead until the color lightens significantly, the dough is smooth, and the oil is fully incorporated (around 3 minutes), adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Put the remaining 1/4 cup of absinthe into a bowl, and put the sesame seeds in a separate, shallow bowl. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each dough into a rope about 18 inches long. Cut into 6 equal pieces, each about 3 inches long. Dip each piece in the absinthe, then roll in the sesame seeds until evenly coated.

Place cookies on the baking sheet at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake for around 12 minutes — rotating the pan once halfway through — until the sesame seeds are a very light golden brown, but the cookies are still pale.

Remove cookies from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes on the pan.

These are amazing when they’re fresh from the oven, but I’ve been enjoying them even a few days later!


  1. says

    Awesome photos, such great light!! I love these cookies :) My mum makes them using a pretty similar recipe, that she got from her nonna, I think they’re called regina biscotti, and they’re flavoured with anise mmm. They really are some of the best simple cookies there are, and they are so. so. so addictive. My mum’s recipe has like 6 cups of flour in it, so you can imagine how many cookies it makes…they’re normally gone within a week haha.

    • says

      Thanks, Izy! Oooo yes, those regina biscotti look/sound just like these. The two dozen that I made are almost gone, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one eating them. And I’ve been chasing them with the double-chocolate cookies too. :X

  2. shweta says

    Awesome photographs. Thank you for making my day. Recently i came across your blog, and to my delight i could access it easily where i work !! So your blog actually comes as a relief amongst the pool of excel sheets in which i swim daily : )

    PS :- We don’t eat eggs in our family nor intake of any alcohol bevarages, would it be possible if you can tell me what substitute could i use in this recipe. Thanks a lot !!

    • says

      Thank you, Shweta! I definitely understand needing a break from work monotony — I’m glad my blog can help. :)

      As far as substitutions go, the eggs are acting primarily as a binding agent here. I’ve heard of people using mashed bananas or ground flax seeds + water as binding substitutes, but I think those would add unwanted flavor in this recipe. I found suggestions for using soy flour instead online, so that might be the way to go. (1 heaping tablespoon of soy flour + 1 tablespoon of water = 1 egg, so you could try 2 tbsp of soy flour + 2 tbsp of water for this recipe.) To eliminate the liqueur from the recipe, you can add 1 teaspoon of crushed anise seeds to the flour mixture, then add 1 tablespoon of whole anise seeds to the sesame seeds for rolling, and use water in place of the absinthe for dipping the cookies prior to rolling.

      I hope this helps! If you give the soy flour substitution a try, let me know how it turns out.

  3. says

    Ooh, black licorice is a taste I’m still aspiring to like, but I suspect it’s because I haven’t given it enough of a chance. But it comforts me knowing that my taste is a work in progress. It makes me feel like anything is possible, haha. Anyway, just wanted to wish you a merry Christmas! (Or should I be non-denominational and say happy holidays?) I hope you consume many more cookies in the days to come!

  4. Sophia says

    These look amazing and just like the cookie both me and my (Italian) boyfriend would love.

    Like you I used to hate anything liquorice- or anise-flavoured and it’s only been in recent years that I have become a convert to all things fennel/anise seed/liquorice-flavoured and now I seem to be making up for lost time – my favourite lazy dinner these days is shaved fennel with prosciutto and mozzarella, anise seed mixed into brownie batter makes for awesome brownies, using fennel seeds to infuse cream and white chocolate to make into truffles is unbelievably tasty and it looks as though I have just found another cookie I will happily devour by the handful!

    • says

      Wow, you just gave me a lot of awesome ideas, Sophia! I love fennel with anything pork, and anise seed in brownie batter and fennel seed-infused cream sounds wonderful.

  5. Daeya says

    I’ve just stumbled across this recipe and so glad you posted it. Thank you!

    Have you had any experience with freezing these?

    Thanks, D.

    • carey says

      I’m sorry to say that I don’t. (They usually don’t make it long enough for freezer time.) I think they’d probably do alright if they were tightly wrapped in whatever portions you’d want to unfreeze them, then thawed entirely and given a quick rewarming in the oven.


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