Friday, February 8, 2008

Thoughts on drinking Absinthe

Kids, don't try this at home (Heath Ledger...) Okay, maybe it was the glass of '06 Sonoma Pinot that I had right before, or maybe it was the interaction with certain prescription medications that pushed me over the edge, but truth be told, after just one glass of Absinthe, I was seriously high. And I say high and not drunk, because I honestly didn't feel drunk, I felt high. I didn't even realize how much so until the following morning, in trying to recall the prior evening’s events in a hazy slow-motion David Lynch-Twin-Peaks-like reel in my aching head. I know the Absinthe that is now legally available in the U.S. (as of May 2007) is no doubt a seriously watered down version that Picasso would probably use to brush his teeth with as compared to the famously green belle-epoch liquid which was pictorially and historically immortalized by Picasso, Van Gogh, Lautrec and Degas in 19th century Paris. I can't imagine what the Absinthe of those days must have been like-except perhaps to hypothesize that it may have been similar to dropping acid, injecting heroin or smoking Opium (BTW, my favorite T.V. line of late "Liz: You are my heroine, and by heroine I mean lady hero; I don’t want to inject you and listen to jazz." --Tina Fey, from the show '30 Rock').
As I watched the icy water drip intravenously from the spout onto the clump of sugar traditionally suspended over the glass on a silver contraption and into the 124-proof liqueur; a strong aromatic, and almost medicinal smell wafted through the bar. Black-licorice (anise) in flavor, yes, but very different from the strong, thick and syrupy Sambuca; Absinthe is much cleaner, a lot more aromatic, herbal and again medicinal in flavor. With each sip, the essence seems to swell around in your sinus's and feels like it's coming out of your nose and ears as the warm sensation steams it's way down your throat and to your stomach. Long blamed for driving one who drinks it insane, legend is that Van Gogh cut off his ear after drinking just a couple of glasses of the green liquid. Bottom line, enjoy but beware. A bottle of Lucid, which is promoted as “the first true, Grande Wormwood-based Absinthe of its type available since before prohibition”, uses 19th-century distilling and will set you back $62.99. --Eve
(left: Viktor Oliva's Absinthe Drinker, below: Pablo Picasso's The Absinth Drinker 1901, bottom: Edgar Degas's L'Absinthe from 1876)
Article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/05/MNQJTO9FM.DTL&tsp=1
History: http://www.absintheonline.com/acatalog/history.html; http://www.absinthebuyersguide.com/history.html

3 comments:

Margot said...

Gosh, is Absinthe legal where you are??? I didn't know that at all...
Must be weird indeed...

I've heard too that Van Gogh's ear story came after drinking absinthe...
Many famous people were complete addicts at that time, alcohol, drugs...
But I thought Absinthe could not only make you go insane but also destroy your insides...

Erica said...

I, too, have participated in Absinthe-ery; my friend had some crazy orange stuff and some green stuff from the Czech republic. It does give you a weird buzz, but the taste is terrible. Blech--and I'm a Fernet drinker! My mouth was watering (and not in a good way) for a good twenty minutes after the first shot (I did drink more than one, like a dumb-ass). I still shudder at the thought of the taste, but I wouldn't say no if I was offered some! Ha!

Eve Wickman said...

erica, you crazy! I would be very cautious of orange Absinthe...although I did partake in some drinking of pink Oozo while staying at the Pink Palace in Corfu Greece, so I guess I can't talk.
Yeah, it doesn't taste great, but you do warm up to it after a while, it's something to be sipped.
Margot, appatently the 19th century version had a lot of toxins in it, which explains the insanity...poor van gogh...