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"Our lives are a book that has already been written. The brilliance of the plan is that we are only given a chapter at a time..." ~A. Drayton Boylston

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Absinthe....the Forbidden Drink

Although not quite Witchy related, I decided to do this since my love for Absinthe has been reignited recently. A close friend of mine, a very talented poet and artist named Patrick, reserves this beverage for only a few choice times per year. One time of year is on the first muggy evening in the summer that he thinks is a perfect time to watch one of his favorite movies, "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", and sip the infamous green elixir. Another time is once a year when he watches the Johnny Depp film "From Hell." Lucky for me I have been able to accompany him on both occasions.

Absinthe lore is shrouded in mystique and laughable rumors. It has been dubbed "The Green Fairy", "The Green Goddess" and the "Emerald Muse", and its light green opalescent color has intrigued people since its origin. Absinthe was born in Western Switzerland in the eighteenth century, and was originally meant to be a folk remedy, a tonic designed to cure many ailments. It became known as La Fee Verte, the green fairy, and Europe fell in love with it. The beverage was favored famously by painters and writers, and became notoriously linked to the Parisian artisan class.

Absinthe was a popular drink from the late nineteenth century and into the 1920's. By 1915 it was banned in the United States, France and several other countries. The drink was deemed poisonous and blamed for widespread alcoholism, mental and physical illness, suicides, and murders. It was even said to the the drink which "caused" Van Gogh to to slice off part of his ear. In high doses, wormwood, the key ingredient in Absinthe, sent animals into convulsions.

Some interesting bit of history on wormwood...The scientific name for wormwood... Artemisia Absinthium, may have come from the Greek Goddess of fertility, the forest, and the hunt....Artemis. She is said to have delivered wormwood to the centaur Chiron, who was a great healer, to use as medicine. Aside from using the herb to relieve cramps and treat certain diseases, many cultures historically believed it could protect the genitals and promote fertility.

Despite the ban of Absinthe, it continued to be served in London's famous Savoy Hotel, and in bars in Cuba and Spain. Due to its ban in several key countries, bartenders turned to a sweeter version of anise flavored liquor called Pastis, which was also less complex and lacked wormwood. By the 1960's, the use of Pastis fizzled out and was replaced by beer and two-ingredient vodka drinks.

Absinthe made a comeback in 2007 when historian Ted Breaux found a loophole in the law banning the beverage. The wording of the law actually had been modified and generalized over the years to include any beverage that had a high amount of thujone, a chemical found in wormwood (which had caused convulsions in animals). Breaux and his colleagues tested pre-ban absinthe and found only trace amounts of thujone....as much as could be found in turkey stuffing made with sage. Breaux released Lucid, the first legal Absinthe to be produced in the United States in 90 years. Switzerland by then had also released its ban. It was found that more dangerous than thujone was actually the additives that were being used to obtain the green color in fake versions of Absinthe that had been produced prior to Lucid.

Since Lucid, there are now a variety of Absinthes on the market, ranging from $40-90 per bottle. And with Absinthe, price does not necessarily equal quality. The key is to do some research and make sure you are buying a quality product. Because it is traditionally diluted with 4-5 parts water or added as dashes to cocktails, one bottle of Absinthe can last a long time.

There are mainly two types of Absinthe....verte (light green) and blanche (colorless). Verte is the classic form of Absinthe with a light green hue. The base is derived from grapes, beets or grain and then infused and distilled with herbs such as wormwood, melissa, anise, and fennel. It is then infused again with more herbs and given more subtle flavors and producing the green color. Some great examples of verte are Meadow of Love by Delaware Phoenix, Pacifique (made in Seattle) and St. George (San Francisco). Mansinthe was created by Marilyn Manson and is a rather lively formula of verte.

Blanche, or colorless Absinthe, was termed la bleue in post-ban Switzerland, and it was moonshine manufactured right under the noses of officials who expected Absinthe to be green. Premium blanche Absinthe is made with the same ingredients as verte but skipping the coloring process. Recommended brands include La Clandestine, and Kubler, both Swiss and produced using very old recipes.

To prepare Absinthe in the traditional way, you will need some stuff. It's fun to have the traditional glassware and spoons. The glassware is typically stemmed with tapered bowls, and sometimes feature bulbous reservoirs that serve as dosage guides. They can be obtained in antique stores and online, and you can usually find a gift package including a glass and spoon with higher end versions of Absinthe in liquor stores. The spoons are typically ornate and are designed to serve as strainers, resting on top of an Absinthe glass, holding a sugar cube or two. The holy grail of Absinthe paraphernalia is the fountain, which is typically over the top in design. Originals of all the equipment can still be found if you look hard enough, but reproductions still make nice showpieces.

Preparing Absinthe...the Drip Method
If you are new to trying Absinthe, it is almost a must to try it as it is traditionally prepared. Whether you use sugar and how much you use is really a matter of taste, but Absinthe does have bitter notes so sugar has historically been a part of the Absinthe ritual. However, some people find the beverage sweet enough on its own and skip the sugar. Whatever you do, don't forget the water. In addition to tempering the strength, it opens up the flavors and really does complete it.

1 ounce Absinthe
1 sugar cube or 1 tsp granulated sugar
5 ounces water, ice cold

Pour the Absinthe into an Absinthe glass or wineglass. If using sugar, place the Absinthe spoon or small strainer over the top of the glass and place the sugar on top of the spoon. Using a pitcher or Absinthe fountain, slowly drizzle the water over the sugar and into the glass. As the water migles with the anise oils, the Absinthe will begin to louche or cloud up, turning a pearly white.

The 5-1 ratio of water to Absinthe assumes that the Absinthe you're using is 68% alcohol by volume. If the brand you are using has a lower percentage of alcohol, use less water. Purified water is better to use than tap.

Drinking Absinthe Bohemian Style
To drink Absinthe Bohemian style, pour a bit of chilled water into the glass, place an Absinthe spoon across the rim of the glass, and place a sugar cube on top of the spoon. Pour a measure of Absinthe over the sugar cube and light the cube on fire. Let the sugar burn until it starts to turn brown, and then slowly drizzle the rest of the water over the sugar cube. When using this method, use an Absinthe that is at least 120 proof, or you will have trouble lighting it.

Some Bohemian styles of Absinthe are La Fee Absinthe Bohemian (preferred by actor Johnny Depp) and Hill's...both from the Czech Republic.

Absinthe Cocktails
Although Absinthe is amazing on its own, using it in cocktails brings out a whole range of flavors and is an experience not to be missed. Here are some great examples of cocktails you can make with the infamous green elixir.

Absinthe Frappe
This is one of the oldest beverages made with Absinthe and is very refreshing on a hot day. It was very popular in nineteenth century New Orleans.
1 1/2 ounces Absinthe
1/2 ounce simple syrup (made with equal parts sugar and water)
1 dash Benedictine (a sweet liquor made by monks, this ingredient is optional)
2 ounces seltzer water or soda water, chilled
Pack a tall, narrow glass with crushed ice. Add the Absinthe, simple syrup and Benedictine (if using). Stir to combine. Top with the seltzer or soda water.

(light and elegant)
1 1/2 ounces blanc or bianco vermouth
3/4 ounce Benedictine
1/2 tsp Absinthe Verte
gardnish with orange peel or edible flowers
Stir the ingredients with ice to chill, and strain into a stemmed glass. Add garnish.

Monkey Gland
1 1/2 ounces dry Gin
1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp grenadine
6 drops Absinthe
garnish with a brandied cherry or orange peel
Pour ingredients into a shaker and add ice. Strain into a stemmed glass, add garnish

2 ounces dry Gin
1/4 ounce Absinthe
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce Creme de Violette
2 dashes orange bitters
garnish with lemon peel
Stir the ingredients with ice to chill, strain into a stemmed glass, and add garnish

Sea Fizz
(dubbed a "breakfast drink" in 1946)
1 1/2 ounces Absinthe
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
1 egg white
2 ounces seltzer or soda water chilled
Fill a juice glass with ice and let sit. In a shaker, combine Absinthe, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white and shake to blend. Add ice and shake until chilled. Add the seltzer or soda water and stir. Discard the ice from the glass, shaking out excess water. Strain the contents of the shaker into the chilled glass.

Morning Glory Fizz
(Another breakfast drink)
1 1/2 ounces Scotch
3/4 freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/4 ounce Absinthe
1 egg white
1 ounce seltzer or soda water chilled
1 dash of angostura bitters or garnish
Prepared just like the drink above, adding garnish at the end.

1 1/2 ounces Starr African Rum
3/4 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce cherry brandy
1/4 ounce Aperol
1/4 ounce Absinthe Verte
Prepare much the same as above, chilling a glass, adding ingredients to a shaker, and straining into a chilled glass.

Amore Morado ("Violet Love")
1 ounce Tequila Blanco
1 ounce Sloe Gin
3/4 ounce grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/4 ounce Creme de Violette
1/3 tsp Absinthe Verte
In a shaker, combine the ingredients with ice until chilled. Strain into a stemmed glass.

Absinthe 75
1 ounce Kubler or other Absinthe Blanche
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2-3 ounces Sparkling Wine, chilled
garnish with lemon peel
In a shaker, combine the Absinthe, lemon juice and simple syrup and shake until chilled. Strain into a flute glass and top with Sparkling wine. Add garnish.

Absinthe and Old Lace
1 ounce dry gin
1/2 ounce Absinthe Verte
1/2 ounce green creme de menthe
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce half and half cream
1 egg white
garnish with shaved bittersweet chocolate or a dash of Bittermen's Xocolatl Mole Bitters.
Prepare the same way as the breakfast drinks above.

Laneside Lemonade
(compatible with most Absinthes)
1 ounce Grande Absente Absinthe
2 ounces lemonade
2 ounces 7Up
Build in a tall glass over ice. Garnish with lemon wedge.

Newton's Apple
2 ounces Grande Absente Absinthe
1/2 ounce Tanqueray No. Ten
1 ounce sour apple schnapps
2 ounces club soda to float
Build in a tall glass filled with ice, float club soda.

Absinthe Margarita
2 ounces Obsello Absinthe
1 ounce Triple Sec
2 ounces Sweet and Sour Mix
1 splash orange juice
1 splash lime juice
Build in a tall glass, shake in shaker. Sugar rim and garnish with a lime wedge.

Bloody Margaux
2 ounces Lucid Absinthe
3 ounces tomato juice
2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
2 dashes tobasco sauce
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
1 dash each of black pepper, sea salt, celery salt
Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Stir gently with a spoon and strain into an ice filled tall glass. Garnish with olives and a celery stalk

Death in the Afternoon
(the classic Hemingway cocktail)
1/2 ounce La Fee Parisienne
4 1/2 ounces Perrier-Jouet Champagne
Stir together in a champagne flute

Fairy On Fire
(be careful with this one, which is modeled after the Flaming Dr. Pepper. This one can hit you suddenly)
1 1/2 ounces Amaretto
1/2 ounce La Fee Absinthe Bohemian
1 12 ounce can of Red Bull
Pour the Amaretto in a shot glass and float the Absinthe on top. Carefully light the Absinthe, drop the shot into a pint glass half full of cold Red Bull, and shoot it.

Spiked Hot Chocolate
8 ounces hot chocolate
1 ounce Obsello Absinthe
Pour hot chocolate into a steaming mug and add absinthe. Top with whipped cream and dust with cinnamon.

Hot Buttered Absinthe
2 ounces St. George Absinthe
2 1/2 ounces apple cider
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Simmer all ingredients in a sauce pan and pour into a steamed mug.

" 'Whatsoever ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God!' applies with singular force to the absintheur. So may he come victorious from the battle of life to be received with tender kisses by some green robed archangel, and crowned with mystique vervain in the Emerald Gateway of the Golden City of God." - Aleister Crowley (influential English occultist, astrologer and mystic), "The Green Goddess"

Here is an excellent online liquor store that sells pretty much every brand of Absinthe, including Mansinthe (Marilyn Manson's Absinthe).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the lovely recipes! Looking forward to making the spiked hot chocolate ^^