Having Absinthe in Belgium. I kinda miss it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sugar at the Bottom, Absinthe verte. No water added.
Dousing a sugar cube into my Absinthe noir and then lighting it, ala "Flaming Green Fairy Method". So pretty!
The apparatus, if you will. There are even sugar cubes packaged in "Green Fairy" wrapping paper. How cute is that?

Albert Maignan's The Green Muse

Any European experience would be incomplete without trying absinthe, no? Popularized in 18th-19th century French bohemia, absinthe was considered a muse to members of the literarati and other artistic illuminaries. In Albert Maignan's "The Green Muse" (above), the poet in the painting succumbs to "The Green Fairy". In this case, I'm pretty sure it was due to the high alcoholic content of this sweet spirit. Although commonly believed to have addictive psycho-hallucinogenic properties, studies later have shown that absinthe (specifically its constituent, thujone) is not harmful or addictive. Ironically, absinthe has been marketed by their manufacturers as a "legal drug of abuse" in order to appeal to "forbidden fruit-seeking" masses. (Thankfully since 2001, select brands were made available to the US market.)

I had my first taste in Brussels, Belgium when I went on a solo trip about 2 years ago and it was a pretty memorable time. My host, S, brought me to some crazy back alley to a hole-in-the-wall absinthe bar. I'm not usually a fan of liquorice products but liquid anise, which gives absinthe its ambrosia, was very palatable and in fact quite delicious and floral. I'll admit there, that having a ritualized style and flaming pyrotechnics were what drew me in. I love flaming drinks! Disclaimer though: what I had was not the traditional way of consuming absinthe since we had our shots neat and undiluted with water--
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. During this process, components not soluble in water (mainly those from anisefennel, and star anise) come out of solution and cloud the drink. The resulting milky opalescence is called the louche (Fr. "opaque" or "shady", IPA [luʃ]).

After consuming n shots of absinthe (lost count, but I tried several), I managed to charm the bartender into gifting one of those perforated sugar spoons as a souvenir. I'm usually not that charming so I'll modestly attribute it to the green/black fairy speaking.


Anonymous said...

All that... Is not real absinthe. Too bad, sorry.

Winnie said...

Are you referring to not diluting with water? I think it's pretty without the clear liquid louche-ing into a milky liquid but I wish I got a chance to try other methods!

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