Thursday, December 28, 2006

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

kit 'n' caboodle
The water fountain, two glasses, and the absinthe spoon.

drip drip
Place a sugar cube on the spoon and allow just a few drops of iced water to drip on to it.

dissolution
Watch while the sugar cube slowly dissolves away, the thick syrupy solution edging its way towards the slots in the spoon...

splash
... and ultimately splashing into the absinthe below.

running water
Once all the sugar has washed away, allow a steady stream of water into the glass and watch as the colour of the liquid changes. Give it a stir, and drink up.

---- oooo ----

Contrary to popular belief, it seems that there are now very few countries where it is illegal to sell absinthe, but the United States is one of them. However, even there it is not illegal to own or consume it. Equally strangely, it is illegal to sell it in France, but not illegal to produce it there.

The La Fée brand, as featured in my pictures here, apparently makes its Parisian absinthe "to a 19th-century recipe ... from wormwood (artemisia absinthium) and flavoured with anise, hyssop and other aromatic herbs". It is also "the only absinthe to be authenticated by the Musée de l'Absinthe" in France.

For more information on the fascinating history and revival of absinthe, see the Wikipedia article here, or visit La Fée Verte.

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28 Comments:

Blogger Camie Vog said...

Excellent post!

Do you get the Travel Channel show "No Reservations" there? The host is named Anthony Bourdain, he is a NYC chef/writer. He did an episode in Paris, filmed thru the evening (no sleeping included) in which he discovers Absinthe. He had the modern varieties, then the man behind the bar shared a bottle with him from the 1800's. As the night went on, he did experience the hallucinations (a la Toulouse-Lautrec). The show finishes with him nearly comatose in a hot tub. I highly recommend watching this episode. Seems like it should be coming out on DVD soon.

28 December, 2006 13:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh....Absinthe! Drink up and then wake up the next morning wondering where your pants have got off to.

28 December, 2006 14:36  
Blogger Cynnie said...

omg!!..hallucinations ??

Where do i sign up for this ??

Just owning the water thingy would be cool enough for me ..thats beautiful!

28 December, 2006 16:07  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Camie: Thanks! We may get that show here, but I rarely look at those channels so I'm not sure. I'll keep an eye out -- it sounds really interesting. And a bit scary!

Lee: It could go that way, couldn't it?

Cynnie: The water thingy is indeed very cool, I must say. A thing of beauty in its own right.

28 December, 2006 16:36  
Blogger _z. said...

Loved the Post *(asterisk). another nice thing about absinthe is the spoon. It is beautifully designed and carved rendering it more appealing.

When I was in Toronto, only 2 bars were allowed to serve absinthe. In montreal I have found none yet. I know they do exist though.

hope you had a good time!

28 December, 2006 17:27  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Hey _z., welcome back. Hope you had a great Christmas. That's really interesting about the bars in Canada. The spoons are great, aren't they? I can imagine there must be loads of artisanal absinthe spoons out there collector land. Something to look out for in the future...

28 December, 2006 18:06  
Anonymous candyminx said...

Oh god, these really must be collectable huh? The set is gorgeous. did you imgine it on it's way or was this a complete surprise?

The whole set up is so ritual handy and poetic isn't it? I love your photos, very well done. Now, can you take photos of your dreams?

Totonto is so goth heavy that absinthe was bound to surface from the underground. In college we used to drink ina pub on campus called the Absinthe.

28 December, 2006 20:19  
Anonymous candyminx said...

Absinthe and entertainment...in addition to Anthony bourdain drinking absinthe on his tv show...C.S.I> had an episode where the tox work comes back with absinthe related stomach contents and Coronation Street had a storyline involving absinthe.

Movies with absinthe are numerous....

Carnivale, From Hell, Dracula, Madame X, Lust For Life, Moulin Rouge, Eurotrip,Alfie, For Whom The Bell Tolls, Hex, Pretty Baby, Murder By Numbers and Bright Young Things.

Hey, I just noticed, Susan Sarandon has been in two movies featuring Absinthe use....

28 December, 2006 20:32  
Blogger _z. said...

the spoons are definately to be collected.

hmmm thank you for the list of movies candyminx...

and I am glad to see you're another CSI addict like me.

----
* , I am still in beirut and stuck with a dial up connection. will be back mid-Jan.

29 December, 2006 01:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never actually tried it, but my friends brought some back with them years ago in love with either the drink, or the difficulties with which they had to go through to obtain it, mainly fly an ocean away...I wonder if it's legal in Canada...?

29 December, 2006 01:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have only seen it in Jonny Depps movie about Jack trhe Ripper. I am absynth ignorant. But it sounds like you sre having a blast with your new gift. Enjoy it for a long time to come!

29 December, 2006 04:40  
Anonymous Oxygenee said...

Your information is skewed by what you've read on the La Fee website.

Absinthe is perfectly legal to sell in France. There are some technical labelling issues, but this isn't unusual with any liquor. It's widely available in France in restaurants and bars, and is sold by most larger liquor stores. There are at least three speciality stores I'm aware of in France that sell ONLY absinthe.

La Fee has very little in common with high quality absinthe of the pre-ban era, and its endorsement by the non-drinking tee-total proprietor of the Absinthe Museum in Auvers sur Oise (in return for a substantial monthly retainer) is a matter of some controvery in the industry. For independent tasting notes on La Fee and most other modern absinthes, read the Fee Verte Buyers Guide:
http://www.feeverte.net/guide/

For specific reviews of La Fee, see here:
http://www.feeverte.net/guide/country/france/la_fe_absinthe/

For a general FAQ on absinthe, see here:
http://www.feeverte.net/faq-absinthe.html#B

For the premier site devoted to the history and lore of absinthe see The Virtual Absinthe Museum here:
http://www.oxygenee.com/

If you'd like to try a really top class modern absinthe, I'd suggest the Jade PF 1901, reviewed here:
http://www.feeverte.net/guide/country/france/jade_pf_1901/

and available here:
http://www.absintheclassics.com/absinthe_jade.html

I'm in the business, so I don't pretend my advice is impartial, but it is expert. Follow the links and make your own judgement.

29 December, 2006 07:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan Moss here.

Oxy is not impartial: neither am I since I used to work for La Fée and am now involved with another absinthe business and another absinthe brand:

www.LaClandestine.com

This is a consistent award winner, including at France's premier absinthe awards in Pontarlier, and is a firm favourite among the forums including the ones that Oxy refers to and on http://wormwoodsociety.org/forums/

Oxy refers to a "substantial monthly retainer" being paid to the owner of the Absinthe Museum. This is misleading and not true. Since I am not involved in the La Fee business any more, I cannot really comment further.

Other than that and the plug for other brands that he sells (he also sells La Clandestine so he has quite good taste), I endorse what he says.

29 December, 2006 08:22  
Anonymous Oxygenee said...

This is a silly discussion to have on your blog, but if Alan is suggesting that the La Clandestine (a simple Swiss style clear absinthe) is a comparable product, or an equally highly rated one, to the Jade PF 1901 he's been drinking the stuff rather than selling it. (I sell both products on my sites, so I have no particular axe to grind either way).

Bur don't take either of our words, ask or read the posts at any of the major absinthe forums.

As for Alan's comments on the owner of the Absinthe Museum, no I don't know the size of the fee she receives from La Fee, so perhaps Alan doesn't consider it "substantial". But her relationship with La Fee is entirely a commercial one, and is widely regarded as regrettable in the absinthe community. Again, don't take my word for it, ask at any of the absinthe forums.

My initial post was an attempt to give you some advice on how to learn more, and a suggestion for a product that might expand your taste horizons as far as absinthe is concerned. Let's leave it at that.

29 December, 2006 11:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a grappa fan I've always had a hankering to try this brew although, to be honest, it seems like a lot of hard work. I prefer the old pour, drink, fall over process...

29 December, 2006 11:51  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Candy: I had asked for some absinthe and a spoon, so I had no idea about the fountain, which is amazing and really fits in well in our 19th-century house, with our oil lamps and real open fireplace, so that's very cool.

The ritualistic nature of certain habits and addictions really is fascinating, whether it's making absinthe or smoking a tobacco pipe or chasing the dragon, don't you find?

I'm really please with how the pics came out, I must say. Maybe I should sell them to La Fée absinthe brand for their website!

On the subject of Moulin Rouge in particuar, I was reading the other day that the way the absinthe is made in that film is not in keeping with the correct Parisian style of the time (but I'm loathe to say anything that sounds authoritative on the subject now that two experts have joined in!).

29 December, 2006 12:00  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

_z.: It's cool that list of movies from Candy, isn't it? I, too, used to like CSI, but I tuned out of all of them once they introduced CSI:NY. I just couldn't be bothered anymore. Dial-up? Oh, poor you: you must feel severely restricted. I'm so honoured that you chose to come and comment here; thanks. Hope you're enjoying your time with your family and friends and that the devastation is not too heartbreaking.

Snowc: I tried it for the first time just a few months ago, and I enjoyed it, but I also like the ritual just as much!

Olives: I will continue to experiment to get the right intensity of dilution and sweetness for my palate, so there's lots of fun to be had! I saw it in the movie From Hell recently, too.

29 December, 2006 12:05  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Oxy: Thanks for stopping by. I'm sure you are right about the info on La Fée being skewed. I sort of half expected that would be the case, although one is never sure quite to what extent. Which is why I also had a good look at the Fée Verte site, too, and included that as a point of reference for any readers.

I'm absolutely new to the absinthe game despite the fact that i read a lot about wine. Indeed, after any time entrenched in any alcohol-related subject, it soon becomes clear that not all drinks are the same, and I had no reason to doubt that would also be true of absinthe.

Thank you for the links, too. I will check them out and read up on the subject more, so I am well informed when it comes to my next purchase.

29 December, 2006 12:09  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Alan: Thanks for your admission of impartiality; appreciate it. It's also good to read another side of the coin to Oxy's.

Clearly both of you are well entrenched in the industry and you know what you're talking about. I, on the other hand, am a total newcomer, ready and willing to learn, so, as I said in repsonse to Oxy, I will check out your link and add it to my bank of knowledge!

Re the Musée de l'Absinthe: clearly this is a contentious issue, and I was interested to read it. No matter what the size of the fee or endorsement or whatever, it does of course put a fresh slant on the proprietor's credibility.

I appreciate both you and Oxy stopping by.

29 December, 2006 12:13  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Ginkers: Yes, as a grappa fan, you should give it a go, I think. And I look forward to reading your tasting notes!

29 December, 2006 12:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan here again. Good to see the discussion here, and I can assure readers that Oxy and I agree on most things.

However, and to revert to Oxy's point comparing different absinthes. I try not to comment on other people's brands, but this thread

http://wormwoodsociety.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=1418&st=0

is interesting in that it shows La Clandestine rated higher than two of the other absinthes from the company responsible for 1901: this rating was carried out by 18 well-established members of the forum. As of today, I have only been able to find one person's statistical evaluation of 1901.

Again I don't want to draw comparisons. In most product categories there will be a range of products to suit all tastes and wallets. 1901 costs nearly $108 excluding courier to the USA; La Clandestine costs just over $55.

Vive la difference!

29 December, 2006 14:25  
Blogger wrinkled weasel said...

Dear *(Asterisk)
I had no idea you were so DECADENT. I have tried Absinthe. We were in the Montmartre district. We were shown to a private room by an old man who shuffled like a man with syphilis. There were no chairs, just some large cushions, and the place was lit by dim chandeliers covered with red silk. Someone started a gramophone and I could hear Charles Trenet singing, "La Mer".
A waitress came in with the paraphenalia; the drip, the glasses, the spoons and some sugar lumps. This woman had a scar on the side of her face and gave me a look. She needed me. She wanted my body. Maybe once, years ago , I might have but now - well, now the ravages of the drink we were about to partake of, the drink that frightened and excited us, well - it was etched upon her face. The hell of Absinthe carved in a permanent smirk on her scarred visage.

As the drip drip of the drink formed before us, a naked whore entered the room and dispensed cigarettes from a very unusual place - and she said to us....

"Have you ever been to a Harvester before?"

29 December, 2006 16:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I had absinthe; one of my friends had bought a bottle under the counter from some off license in Bristol. We all had a few shots, then hit the town. Later, me and two friends arrived back, and found the bottle still there, still about a third full. Fifteen minutes later I was rolling around in the corridor, trying to eat my pillow.

29 December, 2006 17:23  
Blogger Gardenia said...

Mmmm, the pictures look alluring and enticing! The verbotten - more alluring and enticing. However, the hallucinatory part is a little spooky - my days with that are loooooooooooooong gone.

29 December, 2006 22:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear...it has. ;)

30 December, 2006 03:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

gotta say, i've tried it and don't like it.
saying that, i don't like pernod or meths either!

now if it was J.D. ......

"if alcohol is the crutch of humanity, then jack daniels is the wheelchair"

30 December, 2006 08:16  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

Alan: Thanks again!

WW: Very funny. I laughed big at that.

Will: So, you're a pillow biter, is that what you're trying to tell me?

Gardenia: Long gone? That's a shame, no?

Lee: What, made the heart grow fonder?

Cappy: I love JD, too, so that's all good!

31 December, 2006 10:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh, absinthe ;-) It's a drink I have always wished I liked, but I don't :-( I can't stand Pernot either - in fact, I don't even like liquorice. I'll have to agree with Cappy, if it was JD . . .

02 January, 2007 16:36  

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