Having just finished up an off-site presentation on absinthe (whew!), I thought I would share a few fun facts with you on this mythical and mysterious spirit.
- Oscar Wilde said of absinthe: “After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”
- The whole lighting-absinthe-on-fire thing is complete sacrilege. This practice, it seems, was invented by bartenders in Prague because it looked cool. The traditional absinthe ritual is to put an ounce or so of the stuff in a glass with a slotted spoon and a sugar cube over the top. Then, ice cold water is dripped very slowly through the sugar cube and into the absinthe.
- The term used to describe what happens when the absinthe gets all cloudy after water is added is “louching” (looshing).
- Swiss absinthe, absent of coloration (artificial or otherwise), is called “Le Bleue” because of the faint blue-ish tone it takes on when it louches (Fun to say, isn’t it? Everyone with me now: “Loooosh”).
- Pernod Fils, one of the most famous absinthe producers today and the one most responsible for absinthe’s rise to fame, is also known for its progressive workers rights program (and for its largerly female work staff). Pernod introduced a profit-sharing and pension system as early as 1873, insured its workers against accidents, and provided unemployment compensation and medical benefits in a time when this was unheard of.
- The tipping point in the crusade to ban asbinthe was a brutal set of murders in Switzerland in 1905. Jean Lanfray, a 31 year old worker, came home from work one day and picked a fight with his wife over her failure to shine his shoes. Lanfray, who routinely drank several tipples of absinthe a day, in addition to coffee laced with brandy and several liters of wine (yes, several liters!), took out his shotgun and killed his wife and two children. He tried to kill himself, but failed to inflict a fatal wound. Absinthe, already vilified in European society, was blamed for the murders and by 1915, most countries across the world had banned the production and consumption of the spirit.
- Now, as you know, absinthe is back on the market! Thanks to the crusade of Kubler Absinthe Superieure (a Swiss absinthe), as of 2007 absinthe is back on the US market. However, the supposedly hallucinatory compound in absinthe — thujone — is only allowed in American-sold absinthes at no more than 10 parts per million. Also, there are regulations concerning how big the word “absinthe” can appear on the label and it must be qualified by another descriptor, like “absinthe superieure” or “absinthe verte.”
- Lush has three delicious absinthes! The Kubler Absinthe Superieure ($63), the North Shore Sirene Absinthe Verte ($69), and the St. George Absinthe Verte ($100). Buy a bottle, rent an absinthe drip from LUSH, and you will be sure to have the most memorable holiday party on the block…
Any specific questions about these absinthes or absinthe in general? I would be happy to answer them! Just leave a comment.