As we are head toward National Absinthe Day on March 5th, let’s take a little look into this long talked about spirit.
The stigma goes that, if drunk in excess, Absinthe will eventually make you crazy. One of the ingredients found for years in vintage Absinthe is a herb by the name of wormwood. It is rumored that the chemical found in wormwood, thujone, has the potential to be poisonous and also rumored to bring about a psychoactive (read: out of body experience) result. The majority of absinthes found in retail shops or restaurants today have little to no concentrated wormwood, so relax-you’re not heading into a day tripping experience any longer. Old absinthe, however, was rumored to be lingering in the vintage bottles from a early 20th century France, leaving a surprise for imbibers that dared to taste what still remained inside.
As you could imagine, distillers of early years were used to putting all kinds of dangerous and crazy chemicals in the spirits of that period, as regulations, label disclosures, and safety warnings had yet to be put into place. Many famous artists and writers of the time, such as Van Gogh and Oscar Wilde, help lend to the legend of the “green fairy.” It was said this drink had inspiring and enlightening qualities-perfect for the aspiring artist or writer-and also lending credence to the stories swirling around this cocktail spirit at the time.
Many Paris bistros and cafes would host l’heure verte, or the “green hours,” which was traditionally from 6pm to 7 pm. The transformation that becomes of this legendary spirit has when it is introduced to water or ice only fuels the tales. The liquid in the glass would instantly become a cloudy green hue right in front of a viewer’s eyes, giving the appearance of a secret ingredient, or special effect rarely seen in those times. These events were so popular that they were almost a nightly occurrence, and began the legend of the hypnotic state of the “green fairy.” It was illegal to sell absinthe in the United States until recently, all thanks to the myth and legend of one of my favorite fairy tales.
So what does absinthe taste like? If you ever had the chance to get a whiff of this fun spirit, there is no doubt that anise is the star here. The Pernod Absinthe for example closely follows the old recipes of French herbs, with a focus on anise and artemisia absinthium (wormwood.) The wormwood is where that famous green hue comes from, as you can see from other brands that have mimicked the original recipe (sans hallucinogens).
Traditional serving methods include a glass footed jar with a water spigot on either side filled with water. One would place their glass under one of the spigots filled with their favorite absinthe and place an absinthe spoon (a slotted spoon) on top of the glass with a sugar cube placed atop the spoon. They would open the faucet up to trickle the water onto the sugar cube till it dissolved into the awaiting elixir. The beverage would become as cloudy as the judgment that followed.
If you prefer to go off the traditional path, I recommend cocktails that use absinthe within such as this one, inspired by the Absinthe Bar in LA.
Devil’s Pearl Cocktail
by Travis Joiner
- 2 oz. of Pernod Absinthe
- ½ oz. anisette
- 1/4oz. ginger infused simple syrup
- A dash or two of Scrappy’s aromatic bitters
- Splash of water
- Lemon twist
Combine all the ingredients into shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and then pour into your chilled glass of choice. Garnish with the lemon twist and enjoy!!
If you are in the mood to be bohemian and choose the enlightened path of many well respected and famous artists and writers, before you now is the time. We will be celebrating National Absinthe Day on March 5th, so raise a glass and toast to La Fee Verte, The Green Fairy.
With years of experience in food and beverage, Travis Joiner is a professional writer, certified wine consultant, and spirits enthusiast living in the Orlando area. He’s a fan of small batch amaros, brown spirits, tequila, and all things culinary. This is Travis’ first editorial with Crave Local.
If you want your bar, cocktail program, or spirit brand in any city considered for review on Crave Local, email media (at) cravelocal (dot) com.