After almost a century of its absence: Absinthe.
About 20 years ago, in a little corner bar on the east end of Bourbon Street, I had my first taste of the illegal distillate. Part liquor, part herb, part performance theater, absinthe proved intoxicating, both figuratively and literally. After being ushered to an aged table, an elegant dispensing apparatus appeared out of the back shadows. Tall, thick, ancient appearing glasses were placed under each spout, each topped with an equally ancient perforated spoon and capped with an assymetric sugar cube. An anonymous hand then placed the illicit bottle on the table. I started having second thoughts the moment the label became visible with the flicker of the candle. A morphing green fairy with a sardonic grin stared back at me as if daring me to proceed. I hesitated. My husband, then only my on again, off again boyfriend – and not one with a lot of common sense – said “cool”, grabbed the bottle and started pouring.
A pale green fluid pooled in the bottom of each glass. The absinthe fountain, which looked like an elegantly bizarre fondue pot, was filled with ice and water. The lever was turned, and a slow drip of iced water permeated the sugar cube and glided into the liquor. With each drip, an opalescent cloud formed as the herbal essence was released. One could almost envision the fairy emerging from the swirling brew. The cocktail complete, I ventured forth. A pleasingly crisp, slightly sweetened licorice flavored my palate. Not bad, actually quite good.
A few hours later we left the bar. No hallucinations, just a little intoxicated. Absinthe proved an enjoyable liquor with a storied tradition.
Now a few facts:
Absinthe is now legal for purchase in the United States. Absinthe does not cause hallucinations. This was a misconception promoted by the French wine consortium who deemed Absinthe’s afford ability and popularity a detriment to wine sales. Absinthe’s green color is a result of natural ingredients; no coloring is added. The bottles are dark to prevent exposure to light, which would destroy the natural color. Grande wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is the key ingredient in genuine Absinthe. The active ingredient thujone is strictly regulated. It has been noted that even the original manufacturers of Absinthe did not have significant amounts of thujone which could has caused hallucinations. The hallucinations historically alluded to with the myth of absinthe can probably be attributed to the concurrent popularity of cocaine and opium.
The Paris Market & Brocante carries Absinthe accessories for sale both in the store and on our website at http://theparismarket.com/Gallery.asp?secondary=12&catid=9
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