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The Green Fairy

Posted on 2008.07.20 at 17:00
Current Location: 75409
Current Music: Moulin Rouge/Moulin Rouge 2
Tags: , ,
Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Five months ago the United States of America lifted the 96-year-old ban on absinthe, what used to be one of the most popular drinks in the world. Absinthe, also known as "The Green Fairy" is an anise-flavored liquor (think Greek Ouzo or Italian Sambuca) distilled from herbs, including wormwood, which contains the hallucinogenic drug for which it was initially banned all those years ago. It is now being sold in the U.S. "Prohibition is over!" (Above, left: mr_dowg becomes my green fairy after our third glass.)

Having been overseas, I was familiar with absinthe. I was also familiar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice which forbade me to drink it, else I fail one of those rare, but ever-present 'drug tests' in which absinthe would play its part. Therefore, it had never before touched my lips. More recently - the bohemians in Moulin Rouge came across an embodiment of the green fairy, as did (my personal favorite) four American teens partying in Bratislava in EuroTrip. Hilarity always ensues. Reality, or dramatization? That's what I set out to discover after I read Deb's (from DebsWorld) review of her first taste of absinthe. She was my inspiration for uncorking my first bottle of The Green Fairy.

Absinthe is not supposed to be served straight. There is a very specific ritual surrounding it, up to and including some unique hardware back in the day - fountains of ice water to deliver pre-measured drops - preferably over a sugarcube which rests on a slotted spoon. Absinthe is far too strong and far too bitter to drink without having first cut it in this manner. The generally accepted rule is from 3:1 to 5:1 ratio. Hemingway, however felt differently. He cut his with champagne. I bought two bottles of spumante (thinking the sweeter the sparkling wine, the better the replacement for sugarcubes) and yes, an ice cold can of Monster along with the bottle of Lucid for some green-on-green action! Yeah baby!

Of course cutting ANY liquor with champange brought back memories of my introduction to French 75:
somebritinmass had turned me on to "French 75" a drink composed of 1-part gin and 4-parts champagne. He warns me though, "It's got quite a kick, so be careful." We sit to watch BSG and I make three, one for myself, and one each for catttitude and galinda822...who don't care for them. So I drink them all. And pass out on the couch. The next evening, I try a new drink. It's called WATER. And oh, what a sweet drink that is. From this point forward, I will never mix gin and champagne.

But mixing it with absinthe would be okay. Right? Hemingway named his drink, "Death in the Afternoon." That sounds harmeless doesn't it? Just in case, we made our first ones with Monster. Later, I discovered that this is called a 'fairy bomb' and is actually available pre-mixed as an energy drink!!! (Not in the U.S. obviously.)

I'm not a fan of licorice-flavored alcoholic drinks, but through the procecss of louching, that is, when water or ice is added to to the absinthe, which is tranlucent, it turns opaque; this is due to the oil of anise being soluble in alcohol but not in water (or champagne as it turns out!) Diluting the spirit causes it to separate creating an emulsion and unleash other flavors which would normally be hidden by the overbearing licorice flavor. I'm unsure how to properly articulate this, but while I was expecting a young-man's flavored liquor, what I experienced was a very complex, very mature taste. I was overwhelmed with how good this really was, and centuries of comprehension dawned on me by the time I finished my first glass. Yes you could smell the licorice, but it begged to be tasted - getting lost in the swirling milkiness of the louched drink. And at $65 a bottle (which I don't even spend on a bottle of Scotch) this is truly a sipping beverage. HOWEVER - since mr_dowg's brazen challenge I have a feeling we're going to use the history and power of absinthe as our baseline and make him beg for buttermilk!

Lucid is made with wormwood, but with levels of thujone (the chemical which was thought to have been responsible for the hallucinations) just below what the Food and Drug Administration consider illegal. Oddly enough, *real* French absinthe (though it is of Swiss origins by a Frenchman living in Switzerland or so the myth goes) also contains very low levels of this drug - and due to its extremely sparse concentration in absinthe, the original 'hallucinations' were likely caused by the drink itself which is bottled at a much higher proof than most other liquors. Experts say the sheer amount of alcohol would poison you to death before the level of thujone reached any toxicity. And as far as I can tell, Lucid is the only real absinthe being sold legally in the United States - other's being vodka-based mixtures, or wormwood-added extracts without the anise distillation (thanks to Julie from Anna Fine Wine & Spirits for pointing me in the right direction!) I found reference to a Verte Suisse which, at $170 a bottle is supposedly better than Lucid but has to be ordered online. I'll save the $105 and drink Lucid.

For authenticity's sake I have refused to work on this post unless I was actually drinking absinthe - which is working out really well for me! I spent one day researching, one day collecting pictures, and two days 'experiencing' The Green Fairy while writing this entry. There have been those who have accused me recently of having no life. They obviously don't know me at all. I can't imagine anything else I'd rather be doing. My life is, in a word, perfect. So if some paragraphs come off as disjointed, you know where to lay the blame. Won't you come and join me for a glass of absinthe?

As mentioned earlier, adding cold water (over a sugar cube, for bitterness) releases the other flavors while simultaneously making for an aromatic experience. Its hard for me to explain how little I like anise-flavored drinks, yet how much I find myself enjoying absinthe. At any rate, because different herbs are released at different levels of solubility, the standard is to start at a 3:1 ratio and move toward 5:1, else all the flavors are release simultanously. And while I've only ever cut my absinthe with spumante sparkling wine (excepting my first, having been cut with Monster) I cannot imagine I would want to dilute my absinthe with any thing other than another alcohol. Seriously - what would be the point? Of course I'll do it once, with mr_dowg who's probably already ordered a set of absinthe spoons and an absinthe glass or two (which contain a 1oz. 'bubble' in which to hold the proper amount of absinthe prior to adding your mixer. Julie provided me with two martini glasses which were etched with a 1oz. line for my expermentation. She did join the Anna Texas Forum, but failed to have a shot of absinthe with me prior to me leaving the store...)

There are those who will be drawn to it because of its sordid history, and those who enjoy trying something new. Some have already mocked me for wanting to try it, and others don't want to have to pay its rather steep price. That's fine - I can only tell you firsthand about myself. As one who *actually* goes out and experiences different things, I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by. I did not think it would be as good as it is, and frankly I'm now a convert. I love the stuff. As a scotch drinker I'm impressed with its complexity, and as a gin drinker I'm impressed by its refreshing flavor. Don't discount it just because you've seen a movie where people have gotten stupid on it - it was the world's most popular drink for a reason, and that reason I can now say with absolute authority, is because its that good.

As swasbuckler332 quoted the other day, "This happy ending is bullshit! When does the green fairy get laid? I'm outta here!"


Melancthe the Woe, So-Called
melancthe at 2008-07-20 21:58 (UTC) (Link)
The last time I drank absinthe at a party, I ended up being fondled by large numbers of random partygoers.

/sordid story
ehowton at 2008-07-20 22:23 (UTC) (Link)
Likely they saw you as The Green Fairy. Prior to EuroTrip (and to a lesser degree, mr_dowg) all Green Fairy's came with a set of breasts. Come to think of it, you'd make a FANTASTIC Green Fairy.
CeltManX, Devlin O' Coileáin
celtmanx at 2008-07-20 22:58 (UTC) (Link)
Nice but it could have used an lj cut as someone told me once before!!!
ehowton at 2008-07-20 23:15 (UTC) (Link)
I use the lj-cut when I'm attempting to cull an entry, or modify the way it appears from the casual viewer. Just because an entry is long, doesn't mean it requires a cut - its all about presentation ;)
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332 at 2008-07-20 23:09 (UTC) (Link)
I've tried the bogus absinthe, probably the "wormwood-added extracts without the anise distillation," but still found the effects to be quite different from just about anything else. Many aspects of the experience were similar to what you describe, but it sounds like this is a damn sight more complex in flavor.

I share your dislike of the anise-type drink, but I found this to be particularly infectious. Especially when it started kicking in... very spacey. I find it lends itself well to listening to a wide variety of music!
ehowton at 2008-07-20 23:46 (UTC) (Link)
Infectious! Yes! That's exactly it. I thought about it all day today until I could again uncork her. I must admit I listened to a lot of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight while drinking it (like, twice, back-to-back last night) but as that began to bore me, I ended up with (surprise) Excelsior! for the express purpose of listening to track 7-through-9 transistions...What can I say, Will is Everything in a way became the quintessential track of the score for me at that point.

But sure, I could see some Atom Heart Mother or Ummagumma in there. In fact, now that you mention it, maybe I need to set a date and invite Mr. Floyd.
galinda822 at 2008-07-20 23:45 (UTC) (Link)
Next time I come for a visit maybe you can introduce me to it.

Do you remember my 1st glass of cognac? ;)

ehowton at 2008-07-20 23:48 (UTC) (Link)
You will ride the green fairy, baby! That I can guarentee! Alas, though I vividly remember your first glass of Scotch, I have zero recollection of your first glass of cognac :( Was I drunk?
mr_dowg at 2008-07-21 01:45 (UTC) (Link)
I always did like the color green! I believe it looks good on me. Not sure about the wings though.....but.....I probably felt like I could fly that evening, even if we only drank 3 drinks!

ehowton at 2008-07-21 01:52 (UTC) (Link)
You did have wings. I saw them. They popped out and began to flap around my third drink. Half that bottle is YOURS. I'm free Tuesday & Thursday this week! I also bought five more bottles of spumante!
photogoot at 2008-07-21 05:42 (UTC) (Link)
I am a little scared but I want to dance with the green lady too.
ehowton at 2008-07-21 11:48 (UTC) (Link)
Come to me photogoot, and I will free your mind.
irulan_amy at 2008-07-22 05:33 (UTC) (Link)
I want to do an absinthe based shoot now. ;)

It sounds interesting; I also do not like licorice flavored drinks but mixed with water or other things - it could work. And I've wanted to try it since I saw Moulin Rouge. Thanks for sharing the experience! For the cost, I probably won't try it until we have a party. Though a grad party shoud be on the horizon; I'm just saying. >:)

Awesome post btw.
ehowton at 2008-07-22 12:30 (UTC) (Link)
You would make my favorite green-fairy of all! Let's work in collusion with uniqueblog to shoot one! THEN I'LL POST Absinthe, Part II! (I have some *ahem* other pictures I didn't use this time that are just begging to be revealed, and you could be my centerpiece...)

But yes, definitely don't let the licorice taste stop you, as its so tongue-numbingly gentle. Its like liquid crack. Last night, I dreamt of its milky-opalescence!
mr_dowg at 2008-09-23 22:20 (UTC) (Link)
So.....I know this is an older LJ post, but seeing as though we have a party coming up where most of these people will be here.....I am thinking we should have a bottle of Absynthe here to share with all of our friends!!!!!!
ehowton at 2008-09-23 22:22 (UTC) (Link)
Its like you're reading my mind. I've been contemplating exactly that for many days now. I love you mr_dowg.
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