Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Absinthe is not for everyone....

It’s no secret that I am a long time connoisseur of the recently legalized libation known as absinthe. Admittedly, it was my great love of Oscar Wilde and Vincent van Gogh that prompted me to experiment with the drink, so I completely understand the temptation to dabble based on the stories of idols past – and sometimes present.

One of my greatest pleasures is sitting at an outdoor café in New Orleans – away from the noise and 24/7 freak show that is Bourbon Street – and sipping a glass or two of the green fairy in late afternoon. I’ve done this on the few fortunate occasions that I’ve been able to visit the Big Easy. Somehow the atmosphere of Pirate’s Alley and the adjacent St. Louis cathedral heightens the experience for me, and I assume countless others. However, this last visit I witnessed some of the silliest examples of pop mentality since Coors beer became legal in Connecticut.

Scores of 20-nothings began flooding into the bar, cameras at the ready, to order their first taste of the ancient elixir. Perhaps they’d heard of Johnny Depp’s love for the drink, or worse still, Marilyn Manson’s. I’ve got nothing against either gentleman. It’s not their fault that they’ve unwittingly turned on (and quickly turned off) an entire new generation of sheep to Artemisia absinthium. Everyone should try it once.

What pissed me off as I was quietly trying to enjoy my $10 dram of Lucid was the asinine giddiness of the crowd. Girls in giggling groups wanting their pictures snapped holding the milky glasses. The constant requests for ice. Who the fuck puts ice in absinthe? Then the heartbreaking sight of half filled glasses lining the bar as the girls realized that they really didn’t like the taste and what was the big deal anyway? Off to get a Hurricane. What a waste!

Personally, I like my absinthe prepared in the classic French way. I don’t need the pyrotechnic display so popularized by the Czechs. Absinthe is a quiet sipping spirit. It takes time to hit you, and when it does, you should be in the right frame of mind. It’s not a race. You don’t drink it like a Kamikaze shot, and it doesn’t mix will with other forms of alcohol. Furthermore, it does not belong in a plastic cup to be consumed on the go.

Perhaps as time goes by the allure will subside a bit, or better still, people will know what they’re getting into before sidling up to the bar for their first experience with the over hyped thujone. Until then, fortunately, I’ve got a bottle of Grande and a stock of sugar cubes at home.

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