Sylvester J Pussycat{Absinthe, What the Heck is it?}

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder? Absinthee ballot? Leave of absinthe? Absinthe without leave? Thuffering thucotash!!!

No, I’m not Sylvester the “puddy tat”.  I’m talking about Absinthe, the anise-flavored (licorice-esque) spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of the herb Artemisia absinthium, commonly referred to as “grande wormwood” of course!

Great news! This multitasking plant wonder is not just used for flavoring in various spirits and wines, including bitters, vermouth and pelinkovac. If you happen to get a cut, it is also used medically as an antiseptic.  And as an additional plus, after you have disinfected, and while you are getting a bit  schnockered, you can sprinkle some on your lawn to act as a natural pesticide and weed killer!

Other herbs that typically star in an absinthe concoction are green anise, petite wormwood, fennel, and hyssop. After consulting the Virtual Absinthe Museum, we learn that “well made absinthes are generally pale green, but ‘louche(Fr. “opaque” or “shady”, IPA [luʃ]) , when water is added. This is caused by the essential oils precipitating out of the solution, as the alcohol is diluted.”

Food Coloring{It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No It’s. . . }

La Fée Verte a.k.a,The Green Fairy is what absinthe is commonly referred to as in historical literature because of it’s naturally green color caused by chlorophyll in the herbs that contribute to the flavor of the spirit (a dark glass bottle is typically used for naturally colored absinthe to preserve the green color of the chlorophyll, as exposure to light causes the spirit to turn yellow-green and eventually brown).

However, today with artificial food coloring, many absinthe blends can appear emerald green and can probably be referred to as “La Fée Blue no. 2, Yellow no. 5.”  instead.

Absinthe can also be naturally colored red using hibiscus flowers. This is called a rouge or rose absinthe. As of now, only one historical rouge brand has been discovered

{ “A Widdle Bit of Wiki-Histowy”}

switzerland-mapWhile the medical use of Wormwood dates back to ancient Egypt, Absinthe is said to have originated in the late 1700’s somewhere in the windswept valleys of the ‘canton’ (a.k.a. state) of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. After being used as a treatment for malaria infected French troops in the mid 1800’s, it achieved great popularity as an alcoholic drink particularly among Parisian artists and writers. Namely: Charles Baudelaire, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, and Oscar Wilde. That’s some pretty good endorsement if you ask me! During its rise in popularity, Absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive psychoactive drug. The chemical, Thujone, was singled out and blamed for its alleged harmful effects, and by 1915, absinthe had been banned in the United States and many other countries.  But, as it turns out,  authentic absinthe contains very little Thujone. And it is very likely that anyone binging on absinthe would die of alcohol poisoning long before the Thujone could cause any life-threatening effects or other effects for that matter.

{Absinthe in the U.S.A}

Grande Wormwood PlantIn 2007, 92 years after Absinthe was banned in the United States, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau relaxed the US absinthe ban, and approved several brands for sale.  But, as I have learned these “approved brands” are essentially pseudo-absinthe, as they contain negligible amounts of Thujone ( a fragrant oily substance), and thereby come up short.  A blogger named Ms. Jekyll explains it best:

The difference between USA-style absinthe and the genuine European stuff is like the difference between an instant decaf and a cup of freshly ground Jamaican Blue Mountain: the first is merely a hopeful approximation of the second.

Somehow this notion leaves me cold to trying the local stuff! But, nevertheless, I did.  But before I get into that, take a gander at how absinthe is traditionally prepared. . .

{Concocting the “Green Fairy”}

Eye

Traditionally, absinthe is prepared by placing a sugar cube on top of a specially designed slotted spoon and then placing the spoon on the glass which has been filled with a shot of absinthe. Ice-cold water is then poured or dripped over the sugar cube so that the water is slowly and evenly displaced into the absinthe, typically 1 part absinthe and 3 to 5 parts water.

{Le Tourment Vert}

It was a Friday evening, and I have to admit it had been a pretty tough week.  So, in recourse, I followed the typical path most individuals of legal age (and some that are not) follow. . .I had a drink! We popped over to our local liquor mart, and went in search of something we had only heard about but never tried. . . the mythic Absinthe!

Le Tourment VertThe friendly and quite knowledgeable  local liquor mart dude recommended the brand “Le Tourment Vert”.  He explained that it really was nothing like the real deal, but it could at least give me an idea of what the real McCoy might be kind of sort of  like minus the artistic enlightenment of Oscar Wilde.  Yeah right.  Thankfully we only bought the little teeny weeny sample bottle.

So we poured the ‘Scope’-like liquid into two glasses. One to try straight, as the Le Tourment Vert website suggested, and one mixed with ice water and sugar.  In short both samples were incredibly gross (that is an understatement).  The watered down version was undrinkable despite its more innocent appearance. . .rather like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Even my licorice loving Fiancé could hardly choke down a sip. How disappointing!

{Absinthe in Los Angeles}

Bar NoirSo, if you are still itching to try some “Absinthe” after the above blurb, and you find yourself stateside, and in L.A. I recommend you give  L’Heure Verte (The Green Hour) Daily Absinthe Tastings at Maison 140’s Bar Noir a shot (if for nothing but the ambiance alone).  This hotel proclaims itself ‘A Mandarin French Kiss in the heart of Beverly Hills’ Ooooh La La!

Guests can also opt for a fierier spectacle, which includes the setting of the sugar cube ablaze before melting it into a snifter glass of absinthe, and cooling it down with ice cubes.

RSVP via email to tastings@maison140beverlyhills.com
or call 310 407 7795

Cost per drink is $5
Every evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Parking is complimentary.

{Le Sigh}

So, unfortunately on a scale of 1-10, I give my Absinthe tasting experience about a 1.  I am still, however, ever hopeful that this poor rating can be rectified.  Readers if you have any absinthe brand suggestions or recipes, pass them my way!!!!

{Till next time: Eat Well, Stay Safe, Be Happy!}

Absinthe Fountain

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