Paris, 1888. The City of Light is blooming around les flâneurs walking tortoises along Haussmann’s new boulevards, railways are starting to criss-cross the city and the country and an emerging generation of dedicated seamstresses is dressing up the Tout-Paris ladies to look like a heavenly vision…
Even that metal tower for next year’s World Fair is rising higher every day and it’s now visible from every corner of the city, from the Montmartre to Montparnasse, despite the many protests against it.
The city is buzzing with students, the future scientists and doctors, artists and a world of others who all flood the bistros every afternoon to sip on Absinthe. The lucky ones later make their evening pilgrimage to a cabaret, many of them not returning home until the dawn of the next day.
Ah, sweet joie de vivre!
Today, la Belle Epoque is a mere memory of the good times we can sense in Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters. There’s a part of it, however, that remains: Absinthe.
And we're throwing in five more reasons to join us for l’heure verte:
★ The Colour★
Mysteriously green in hue, the Absinthe bottle is sure to radiate in your spirits cabinet. Its colour comes from herbs that are macerated in it after the distillation that extracted herbal oils and aromas. Infamous Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), anise, and fennel are Absinthe staples, but every distiller will add other herbs and spices to create the flavour story he wants to tell.
If its colour is a suspiciously vibrant, blue-ish green, then the Absinthe has probably been artificially coloured and you should just skip on those ones. The naturally coloured Absinthe is of a yellow-green or brown-green colour.
★ The Myths★
When a drink is nicknamed ‘Green Fairy’, you know there must be more to it. And there is:
“Absinthe makes you hallucinate”,
“You’ll be more potent in bed”,
“The Green Fairy will come to see you”
Are any of these rumours true? There’s only one way to find out. We did come across some rather intriguing finds though, like this confession:
“Is absinthe an aphrodisiac? Oh, sure, definitely. Definitely works for me. My girlfriend and I always have a wild time under the influence of the Fairy! Mind you, we don't drink often, and not too much. But when we do, it lifts the whole experience to stratospheric levels.
Absinthe challenges whatever expectations you have about how stuff should feel, on a physical and emotional level as well. Everything is so much intensified. Sometimes you even experience sensations you never knew existed!"
★ The Ritual★
Drinking Absinthe is always one of these. After pouring it into a glass, you should add some ice-cold water to it, drop by drop.
You can use an Absinthe dripper to do that, or a lot of focus, a very steady hand and s-l-o-w-l-y pour the water from a carafe. In the halcyon days of booming Absinthe popularity in France “absinthe professors” in the cafés would help the patrons to do it properly.
Water is often dripped over a sugar cube placed on the spoon over the glass. Modern times have brought a bit more drama (and a great photo op too, Instagrammers!) to the serving ritual with the idea of dipping sugar in alcohol first and then flaming it on the spoon.
★ The Louche★
Once in your glass, you should dilute Absinthe by adding anywhere between 2 to 4 parts water - keep in mind that its alcohol content is 55 to 75%! As you drop the water into the transparent green nectar, a curious occurrence takes place that will make you feel very alchemist-y: La Louche!
Absinthe turns from clear green into a milky liquid when you add water. And if you don’t drink it, it’ll stay like that more or less forever – but that’s already a whole different, scientific story.
★ The Cuillère★
The perforated spoons used for the Absinthe ritual are no ordinary kitchen utensils. Oh non, Monsieur!
They’re actually a subtle way of building your image.
Not just in the shape you’ll choose, but you can even go for a solid silver cuillère or an antique piece.
The Eiffel Tower spoon that was created to celebrate its unveiling in 1889 can be yours for just under a thousand euros.
And here’s a bonus: You’ll also get to use French words and have a great reason for an incredibly unique travel destination, such as the French town of Pontarlier, where the Absinthiades Absinthe festival is held every year.
Et alors, Mon Dieu, what are you waiting for?