The Drink/Drank/Drunk Issue: Operation: Absinthe
Going in search of a new world in absinthe
By Anne Harris, 3:05PM, Tue. Jul. 9
Oh, the drinking spectrum. Some of us start our alcohol odyssey in high school with Mad Dog 20/20 or keg beer. By adulthood, we've settled on more sophisticated drinking, like Dewar's scotch or SKYY Vodka and stoic club soda. Martinis are okay, too.
This is also about the time one stops writing with blue ink, as only business-like black will do, and starts framing all of the art before it goes on the walls. By middle age, the fermented potatoes – or corn – and simple mixers begin to bore, or maybe that was corporate life. In any case, remembering what Huey Lewis is famous for, we, too, need a new drug. So, in a celebration of ennui, we decided to seek out the ritual of absinthe. After all, anything that comes with exotic paraphernalia – absinthiana, to be exact – and an expert history lesson, not to mention its fabled hypno-narcotic effects, must be a cross between an episode of PBS' American Experience and a peyote liturgy.
Commonly referred to in historical literature as "The Green Fairy," possibly because of its popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries among Parisian artists and writers, but more likely it is due to wormwood, or Artemisia absinthium, historically used as a tincture, being more intensely hallucinogenic in decades long past than anything found today. In fact, French Symbolist poet Paul-Marie Verlaine wrote so many IOU's during his lifetime due to acute absinthe addiction that his signatures are worth nothing compared with those of his contemporaries. Other fans of absinthe include Ernest Hemingway, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Aleister Crowley, Erik Satie, and Alfred Jarry.
On the retail side, we found a surprising variety of brands available, so if a DIY absinthe party is more to your liking, hit up a well-stocked liquor emporium. We hear that water dripped from a spoon containing sugar works pretty well, but lacks the art nouveau beauty of the fountain. One brand, Absente, comes in a gift box complete with a strainer ($41.99); the familiar Pernod, available at every bar ($68.99); the aforementioned Lucid ($62.99), and St. George ($57.99); Mata Hari, a bohemian-style, meaning reduced anise seed, or licorice flavor ($53.99); and finally, the beet-based Tenneyson ($57.49).
Have fun with the ritual. If Edgar Allan Poe's ghost appears, you'll know you're in the right realm.
Read more stories behind the bar and deep in the jigger at austinchronicle.com/drink-drank-drunk. The Austin Chronicle's Drink Drank Drunk issue hit stands Wednesday, July 3.