After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are and that is the most horrible thing of all.
Being the cutting edge gal that I like to think I am yet usually falling woefully short, I am going to take us on an adventure into the world of absinthe today. Why? you ask. Well, it is back in fashion and producers around the world are making, bottling and selling this demon once again. With that in mind, it might be helpful in knowing and understanding a bit about its bad rap, earned or otherwise, and take appropriate precautions. Or not.
Just recently brought back to life (it became legal again) as of December, 2007, absinthe is enjoying a revival and reversal of its somewhat seamy past. "It leads straight to the madhouse", proclaimed Henri Schmidt, a French druggist in the early 1900's as he battled to get his fellow countrymen to ban the green liquid which is indeed what happened.
Absinthe is a distilled, highly alcoholic beverage. It is anise flavored and is derived from several herbs: tarragon, basil, mint and the controversial wormwood, thought to cause madness and consumed at high levels, convulsions. Perhaps due to its high alcoholic content (55 to 72%--yikes!) the 'buzz' from both that much alcohol and the misconception of its drug like qualities led to its public demise.
Nicknamed the 'Green Fairy' (la fee verte) in reference to its chartreuse color, this drink has been associated with some of the greatest artists and writers who in their time were thought of as bohemians certainly. People living on the fringe of what would be considered mainstream only added fuel to its already tarnished reputation. Manet, Baudelaire, Picasso, Wilde, Van Gogh and Hemingway popularized the consumption of this drink. Misunderstood at the time, these individuals did nothing to enhance absinthe's reputation. Ah, but to be so misunderstood and so brilliant! I might drink a few glasses of the stuff just to test my ultimate potential!
There is a whole process involved in drinking absinthe; the use of an elegant slotted spoon balanced over the glass as it cradles a sugar cube. Water is slowly (painfully so) dripped over the cube allowing it to melt and fall into the absinthe, along with the water, creating a pale milky green substance. A ritual I suppose that only adds to the spirit's intrigue.
At this point I am going to send you on a journey around the web, introducing you to the product, sites that are devoted to everything absinthe from history to posters and beautiful vintage spoons. Also, I found an interesting video that helps to dispel any lingering misconceptions you might have this little green fairy. Certainly, Tinker Bell she is not!
A little shop in the Marais. This video is in French but well worth a peek!
Additional information: La Fee Verte, Wikipedia, lollyphile
Photo credit: wikipedia, La Fee Verte