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