Old World Rituals Of Drinking Absinthe
Beautifully refined vintage absinthe water tower
The dark romance of absinthe and its mesmerizing powers are only part of the appeal of the green fairy. The ritual of preparing and drinking it with friends is even more important to me.
My first experience with absinthe was when one of my father’s graduate students prepared a syrup that was to be added to pure ethanol, which, of course, Dad had in his laboratory. To be clear, the alcohol was for his research purposes, and it was the ’70’s. I remember the syrup being bright green, probably from a lot of food dye. My dad told us about Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde and their contemporaries sipping absinthe in Paris, despite the dangers of poisoning from the wormwood. And I remember that I did not like the taste of it at all, although I did like the sweetness. Now that I think about it, tasting absinthe as a child may be the reason I have never been partial to licorice.
This week in Paris, James and I met up with an old friend Damien, who had been a high school exchange student with AFS in Washington, DC when we lived there. We reconnected on Facebook, and shortly thereafter, we found ourselves reunited and sipping our own glasses of absinthe at La Fee Verte, not far from Père-Lachaise cemetery where several of those Paris expats are laid to rest.
James and Damien ordered Fougerolles, which is a traditional absinthe with strong licorice flavors. I ordered Absinth 69, something more herbal. The waiter brought the three glasses of pale green absinthe, pretty slotted absinthe spoons and a single sugar cube on each spoon. He placed a beautiful glass tower, filled with ice water, on the table.
The idea is to let the ice water drip out of one of the 4 spigots directly onto the sugar cube. Once the sugar cube has melted through the spoon and fallen into your glass, you start drinking. You may want to dilute your absinthe even more with water from the glass tower.
We sipped our absinthes, reminisced about being exchange students (all three of us studied and lived with families abroad during high school), and talked about how much we all love Paris.
Damien and our three glasses of absinth
Disolving sugar cube over a beautiful absinthe spoon
~Karen Seiger, Markets of New York City