Absinthe Makes ...

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder" is such logical wordplay that it's even the title of an episode on the Showtime series Californication. So no sense trying to pretend it's a brightly original opening for a brief post on my holiday introduction to the absinthe experience. My brother, Paul, learned that absinthe drinking is legal and began to build a home collection of a variety of that beverage. (He prowled the Internet, turning up such sites as that for The Wormwood Society. That organization notes that there's no law that prohibits absinthe by name but that no drink containing "in excess of 10ppm of thujone" is legal in America. However, "several authentic absinthes are now available for purchase at liquor stores and bars in the US." Clearly, there are restrictions. Also clearly, many kinds of absinthe are OK.)

My curiosity was connected with its reputed attractions for such creative folk as Oscar Wilde and an assortment of Parisian artists and writers. The Wiki writeup seems pretty clear on much of the history and comments that American bottlers resumed absinthe production a couple of years ago.

So Paul has spent the last few days providing me with a different brand of absinthe every evening for a tasting experiment. (The preparation is its own complex process, involving a special absinthe glass, mixing with water, and sometimes adding sugar.)

Absinthe (mixed with water) basically comes across to my jaded tongue as weak, slightly sweet licorice. Some varieties slightly numbed my tongue; I felt no alcoholic effects from any of the doses. After several days, I'm here to report that, while Paul's tastebuds can detect the many differences among the varieties and I was able to note that the super-expensive variety did taste different, I'll stick to my one-dose-per-day cabernet sauvignon or rum and Coke.

But at least now I'll know what some of the literary references are talking about.


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