December 16
I'm sure details will emerge as I write, but how does one encapsulate one's life in words? I consider myself a Michigan native, now misplaced in the southern MidWest. Friends and family have called me a story teller, which is possible. To anyone who reads my work, though, I offer this caution from Isabel Allende, as she describes herself: “If you ask me to tell you my life, I will try; but it will probably be a bag of lies, because I am inventing myself all the time. And at the same time, I am inventing fiction, and through this fiction, I am revealing myself.” Cast of Characters: The Raven = My Wife. To be clear, I'm also her wife. The Giant = Our Son. I haven't legally adopted him (though I would have), but after so many years, he knows I am his parent, AKA Tia.


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MAY 12, 2009 10:25AM

Classic Absinthe for Foodie Tuesday (Updated)

Rate: 35 Flag

And now for something completely different, in honor of the Pirate Wimmin's Revolution!

I'm not sure you can get absinthe in the US, although it's legal to possess.  A favorite of artists and writers, "the green fairy" has inspired creativity in some, and fear in others.  Per AbsintheOnline (where I have been getting absinthe for the last few years):

Originally, absinthe gained its popularity from its use in North Africa during the French campaigns of the 1840s as a disease preventative and water purifier. The French soldiers brought their taste for the herbal beverage back to the cafés of Paris. Here it became a fashionable drink of the bourgeoisie, so much so that the time between 5.00 pm and 7.00 pm became known as "l'heure verte" (the Green Hour), and absinthe soon became the most popular aperitif in France. From the mid 19th century onwards absinthe became associated with bohemian Paris and featured frequently in the paintings of such artists as Manet, Van Gogh and Picasso. When they were not painting it, they were drinking it in large quantities, joined by contemporary poets such as Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Verlaine - who practically made a career out of it.

Every year or so, I treat myself once to a bottle or two of the best absinthe I can afford.  It's an expensive luxury for our little family, but one that I savor from time to time.  Last night, I chose the Verte de Fougerolles.  I apologize in advance for the quality of photos - my poor little cell phone will only do so much!

Absinthes I have in stock.  

I've tried Czech absinthe, but I don't recommend it.  The French absinthe has proven to be much smoother, and more pleasant.

A slotted absinthe spoon is traditional.

Traditionally, one should have on hand a stemmed glass, and a slotted absinthe spoon.  I've not yet invested in one, so I've improvised.

Sugar cubes aren't necessary, but they are nice. 

The strange little strainer works pretty well, actually.  Pictured here with sugar cubes. 

Although sugar is optional, I like the way it underlines the fruity notes, especially of the Verte.  It seems to enhance the mouthfeel as well.  Anyway, on to the absinthe!  I like to pour the absinthe over the sugar cubes, then pack crushed ice into the strainer for maximum cooling.

I like to use crushed ice in the strainer for maximum meltage. 

 The ice in the strainer begins to drip through the sugar into the absinthe.

Next one wants to slowly, slowly dribble ice water into the absinthe - I do so through the ice.  The process can take up to 20 minutes.  The aroma of the absinthe is almost flowery.  Little by little, the absinthe begins to cloud - la louche!

La louche begins! 

La Louche begins . . .

La louche forms! 

and spreads.

If you swirl it a bit, the aroma fills the air, and my mouth waters in anticipation.  It's a bit like the Spanish "mono" or the Greek "ouzo," but a bit spicier.  At full strength, one can light it on fire (and some do, in order to carmelize the sugar).

Ready to drink!

Ready to drink . . . Salud! 

I raise a glass to OS - and to all who make it what it is.  In this case, quite delicious and refreshing!

I am no gourmand, nor sophisticate.  I pretend no claim or knowledge of "the finer things."  But this drink, as enjoyed by so many for so long, lets me feel, for a moment, like a part of history. 


UPDATE - MORE LINKS from comments and PMs:

Sarah Hepola wrote an article on Absinthe for big Salon in December. 

 Wikipedia article on Absinthe can be found here.

The New York Times published an excellent article, complete with Absinthe recommendations, on May 13, 2009.


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I only share my absinthe with really good friends . . . :~)
absinthe is legal to possess in the US? you can get it online? cool! rated for wormwood.

mmmm....the green fairy
I had no idea of the ritual involved in drinking this...sounds very decadent and worth every bit of time invested. Thanks for sharing your participance in history! Salud!

nana - yep! I was stoked when I found out too!

BuffyW - I think I like the ritual as much as the flavor. I used to do the one where you set fire to the absinthe-soaked sugar, but I didn't like the carmelization as much as I would have thought. I accidentally caught the whole glass on fire too, which was cool in a pyro sort of way, but a total waste of alcohol content.
Stellaa - yes. Yes, you can. In fact, you can write better poetry than you ever thought possible! You can also paint.
Ah, the drink of inspiration!
Salud! The absinth sold today doesn't have whatever was in the original stuff that made people crazy after drinking it. But still, I've always been a little scared to try it....
I also ask if absinthe is legal in the US? I remember a time when it wasn't. But I also don't remember much after indulging in it years back. --rated---
Lew - just so!

voicegal - the stuff that made people crazy was the cheap stuff, basically the equivalent of rubbing alcohol. This is made from recipies discovered and re-created from the good stuff.

Mr. Mustard - yes, it is legal to have in the US, but I'm not sure it can be sold within the US, which is why I order online.
Cool post...There was a series on HBO for one season a while back called "Carnivale" which had an old blind magician psychic who would drink his absinthe with the sugar routine. Then the movie "Eurotrip" where the kids were drinking absinthe in some east euro disco. The little green fairies appeared and soon after brother was making out with sister passionately on the dance floor.
And I've been in Jean LaFittes (sp?) "ye olde absinthe house" on Bourbon in New Orleans, but never have I seen, smelled or tasted absinthe.
Just sayin' I want some!
Trig - I would gladly share with ya'! The link in my post tells you where to get some . . .
thanks for the lesson ... maybe when I'm feeling adventurous ... lol
1IM - don't be afraid . . . come to the green side!
Come to the green side. I like that. I like ritual, too. That's why I'm Episcopalian. Will have to try this sometime. Rated for adventurousness!
owlsays I followed your link and see about 10 choices right there on the front and the prices vary quite a bit but seem reasonable. which would you reccomend? and what does shipping run (without mememe
having to dig further into the site)
I've always wanted to try it, Owl. but now I feel I must!!

mamalou - Thanks - the ritual builds the anticipation. I refuse to use tap water, in order to preserve maximum flavor.

trig - I've currently been drinking the Verte de Fougerolles 72 (as pictured above), but when I pull the cash together, I want to try the L'Italienne and the La Coquette. I wish I had more experience with it, but it lasts me quite awhile, once I get a bottle. I tend to read the descriptions, and make a decision based on what sounds good - once you've tried it, you'll have a better idea of what the descriptions mean, and you'll find your favorite way of drinking it. As for shipping, I really don't remember, but it seemed fairly reasonable, and arrived in very protective packading pretty fast. Let me know how it goes for you!

stellaa - good tip on the Gaugin!
john walker - I highly recommend it! I really do wish it were more readily available, would love to do an absinthe tasting - it really is a feast for all senses.
BBE - I've often wondered what it says about me that I'll buy a pricey liquor, but am too cheap to buy a stupid spoon! I just can't justify it, I suppose, whereas the absinthe . . . ::sigh::
I love the historical perspective. I took a semester course in college on the poetry of Victor Hugo and Baudelaire. I might have understood it better with a glass in hand! Great post.
I found this at Wikipedia


On March 5, 2007, the French Lucid brand became the first genuine absinthe to receive a COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) for legal importation into the United States since 1912,[36][37] following independent efforts by representatives from Lucid and Kübler to topple the longstanding U.S. ban.[38] In December, 2007, St. George Absinthe Verte, produced by St. George Spirits of Alameda, California, became the first brand of American-made absinthe to be legally produced in the United States since the enactment of the ban.[39][40] Other American absinthe distillers include Leopold Bros. in Denver, Colorado.[41] With the introduction of Obsello, a traditional Spanish Absinthe, in 2008 the United States officially sold all three historical styles of the beverage.[42]

But I got OS to make me crazy. I'll have to settle for Pernod.
I suddenly want to move back to France..... yum!
Steve - it is certainly possible. Last time I got looped on it, I felt amazingly light and lucid.

Zuma - Cool! I wonder if I can get our local liquor store to get it for me . . . though they've undoubtedly never heard of it.

cartouche - no doubt!
I enjoyed this toast to elegance.
reinvented - At least I can toast it! If only I were actually elegant . . . Actually, I'd probably find it boring - hard to say.

General JK - I think there are faux absinthes, although the ones you list are probably not faux. They used to think that the thujone was what made people crazy - turns out it was just irresponsible, cheap distilling practices. To me, without the thujone (which I think comes from the wormwood), it's not absinthe in the classic sense of the drink. Of the three you've listed, I'd probably lean toward the Pernod, if only because I've heard of it.
Interesting! I admit my only experience with absinthe comes from what I saw in the movie From Hell and anecdotes about crazy people. But you make it sound awfully yummy, Owl.
I'll say it before M. Chariot does:
All Hail the Green Fairy!
AshKW - That's all I'd heard too, and I thought it was banned worldwide. Then about 8 years ago, a friend's roomate from Europe left some behind; it was Czech rotgut Absinthe, but that meant it hadn't disappeared from the planet. That began the quest.

Caruso - All hail indeed!
Ah, finally, absinthe legal after all these years.
So, for equal treatment of other green things one does hold a glimmer of hope . . .
brinna - yes, hope springs eternal with green things . . . even absinthe!
Good post. I no longer drink but remember it. It was rare because of some import restriction so when I drank it it was because some friend had brought it back from Europe. I could only take it now and then, mostly then.


Monte - I hear you. I enjoy it, but I just can't drink it every day. It has such a richness that I like it best now and then.
Lovely...do you still wonder how I knew that you like absinthe? Hmmm...intuition never shows her hand....so, I just knew....
Neat post. I recommend Absinthe L'emercier 72. Very tasty, and a good louche.
I totally agree with staying as far away from Czech Absinthe as possible. Yuk.
Robin - I do recall mentioning absinthe once or twice in comments here and there, so it's possible that you have preternatural memory. On the other hand, the cocktail you created sounded Hemmingway-esque, so I thought perhaps it was a tip of the hat to him. However, I'll go with intuition, since it adds to your overall mystique!

MJwycha - Outstanding - I'm always glad for an actual recommendation from a person who drinks it. I've written product descriptions before, so I know they are a marketing tool.
Many of the liquor stores her in NM sell absinthe - but BBE is right in that it isn't cheap. I think I remember seeing one brand (Lucid, I think) for around $70.
RenLady - Absinthe ain't cheap! That's why I only get a bottle or two every year or two. And I'm suspicious (perhaps unreasonably so) of absinthes which have an English name, and are distillled in the States. I'd love to know if any are good, though.
I know a faerie in TN who makes his own absinthe. It's like fire.
Someone I work with gets it at the liquor store.
I used to drink it in New Orleans.
Now I want to drink it at your house.
Owl yours looks pretty, though I have to admit, the only time I've had absinthe it was god awful.
it burns, it burns -ack! lot's of hand waving and face making from all of us....course when you switch from Boone's to liquor I'm not sure what we were expecting, but eh
Hemingway loved him some absinthe.
M. Zesty – are you sure it’s absinthe he’s making in TN? It would be my pleasure to drink with you, M. Zesty – absinthe, or otherwise. Our home is humble, but semi-reputable.

Julie – thanks. If you drink it straight it is pretty fiery, but I think it helps when it’s chilled (and slightly diluted) by the water.

Leslie – Very true. Perhaps someday, the absinthe will inspire something Hemingway-like in my writing!
When I found out it was legal, I had to have some! I found a bottle of a very interesting French one at my local liquor store (Spec's in Houston). They had another brand (Van Gogh I think was the name...he was on the box and it came with a spoon) but it did not have actual woodworm in it, instead a "modern woodworm" which isn't the real thing. So beware there is bad stuff out there! Actually Mansinthe as won the best absinthe competition for I think the last 2 years--and yes, it's made my that latest champion of this antiquated and wonderful ritualistic drink, Marilyn Manson. (It can be ordered online for about 80 bucks...I really want to soon!) There is this lovely bit of history involved with the drink, not to mention a lovely result. I like to pretend I'm in France....then I write and write...
Renee – Nice to know I’m not the only one who enjoys absinthe! I’ll put Mansinthe on my list of possibles for my next bottle!

Karin – It’s a fine, storied drink, enhanced by the ritual. Thanks for coming by!
I am for anything that rots my brain. Mine is worn out anyhow.
i read this and then skimmed it again but I dont understand why you have to strain it, did i miss that?
I have three bottles in my cupboard. I love it. Each one has a very different quality.

The stuff sold in the U.S. that is legal to possess must have under a certain percentage of thujone.

Whether this stuff really made people crazy is open to interpretation. It has a wild reputation but imho, it is the high liquor content that makes it so fun. I love the high from it but it does make for a wicked hangover.

The spoon is a must have and instead of just dribbling water over the sugar cube, douse the spoon and sugar with absinthe then flame the sugar. Then when it is nearly done, slowly pour the water over the sugar. I'm not sure it tastes better but it's way more fun this way.
You don't have to strain it but it helps to disburse the water throughout. The slower the water goes in the better the flavor.

Read this article for details:
717judie - In moderation, it shouldn't rot your brain.

Ariana - The strainer just holds the sugar in place when one pours the absinthe and water over it. Customarily, one should use an absinthe spoon.

Buzz - I've done the flame thing, but I don't like the taste of the carmelized sugar; I'm sure it's a personal taste thing!
Had to stop by again and say congrats on the EP!
Check out the article in today's NYT Styles section about Absinthe. Its good read as well.
It sounds delicious! Maybe I'll be brave and try it but only if I get to copy your recipe!
Mama Lou - Thanks, this was a surprise to say the least! Luck of the draw, or of the unusual?

incandescent - For some reason, I was thinking you might be an absinthian. I'll add the Spanish Deva to my list of absinthes to try before I die.

Brie - Will do - thanks for the recommendation!

Luis - I highly recommend trying it, ideally before you buy it. It's pretty expensive to experiment with!
Tony Bourdain did a great No Reservations episode in Paris with a feature on the Green Fairy. It really turned very green when the purveyor did his demonstration for Tony.

They've pretty much figured out that the wormwood did not make people go crazy, just drinking too much alcohol did.
Ablonde - I think I may have caught part of that episode, but will keep my eyes open for it! Think people got caught up on the name "wormwood?"
I once had a friend who we nicknamed WormWood, not sure why, he was kind of green, so uh, never mind.

Congrats on the EP and cover and I've never tried the absinthe, but I've had some friends who did along with other stuff and they wanted me to try but never got around to it(I'm pretty much 'creative' without the influence, I mean, for goodness sake I'm talking to an owl right now!! And I'm sober....eek!! ;))
Don't forget this Salon absinthe article from December, Everything you know about absinthe is wrong....from Sarah Hepola: http://www.salon.com/mwt/food/eat_drink/2007/12/21/absinthe/
Tink – Thanks, it’s a weird world. As for your friend, are you sure you don’t know why he was called WormWood?

Ben – Thanks for the heads up – I’ll be sure to check that out!
I love the idea of the Green Hour, you classy owl. Thanks for the history and your take on this very particular beverage.

(I always expect some transformation will occur when I drink it and it never does. I think I mistakenly believe it to be liquid acid of sorts...I know, I know. My bad.)
Beth - I know what you mean, no transformation yet!
I have wanted to try absinthe for years and was disappointed that, after our country legalized it, I could not find it anywhere. I will look into ordering online. Thanks!
Congratulations on your Cover pick! Yay!
Pretend Farmer - Cool! Let me know how it goes!

Zuma - Thanks - it was quite a surprise.
Is it true that it makes the heart grow fonder?
Hello - LOL - I can only speak for myself, in that yes, it does. Then again, most liquors have that effect on me.
This is probably in one of the articles people posted links to, but beware fake absinthe, including I think anything from the Czech Republic. There's a lot of fake stuff out there, but also some quality distillers making the real stuff (with wormwood) using old recipes and even antique distilling equipment. At least one doing the latter is in the US, so it doesn't have to be from Europe necessarily. Real, quality absinthe will be quite pricey, but it's not lethal or crazy making.
LD – Back atcha!

Silkstone – Good call, and well said. Thanks for confirming that fact!
This was a delight and reminds me of my years in Paris back in 65 [1865] :)

Yes, you can now get it here.