Absinthe: the review


As I wrote some months ago, I bought an adorable little bottle of absinthe some months ago. It was called “Le tourment vert,” and it held about three ounces of what I hoped would be the authentic Green Fairy. (I’m a big fan of fin-de-siecle Paris, and wanted to find out more about what exactly Rimbaud and Verlaine and Debussy and Satie and Picabia and Apollinaire were slugging down all that time.) I even bought a box of designer sugar-cubes to prepare for the Big Moment (you’ll understand why after a bit).



But I waited for a special occasion to drink my absinthe.



Well, what’s more special than a hurricane?



The hurricane came and went. It was, apart from a hiccup in our electricity, a big nothing. I mostly napped through it. As evening fell, I remembered my little bottle of Tourment Vert, and decided that this was, in a word, le moment de verite.



I looked up the instructions online: one part absinthe to five parts cold water. No ice in the drink. Absinthe in the glass first; the water is to be dripped slowly into the glass, preferably through a sugar cube held in a special slotted absinthe spoon.



I did not invest in an absinthe spoon. Maybe when Partner and I tie the knot, I’ll put it on the wedding registry. I used a salad fork. I did pay almost seven dollars for those bloody designer sugar cubes, though.



Absinthe is green. When you add water, it becomes cloudy – as we Francophones say, “louche.” This did in fact happen as I dripped the water over the sugar cube / salad fork. Aha! Paris 1919, here I come!



I took a sip. I’d been warned that the stuff was bitter, which was the reason for the sugar. It was not at all bitter, or only slightly so. The sugar was a pleasant addition. But the absinthe itself –



It tasted just like Pernod.






They can’t make this stuff like they used to, full of wormwood-based toxins. So they make a green-colored simulacrum and flavor it with anise, which – of course – turns cloudy when you add water to it.



Well, that was a third of the (tiny) bottle. Time for another experiment: this time I tried flaming the sugar-cube and dropping it into the absinthe. No luck; the absinthe was (supposedly) 100 proof, but it wouldn’t catch fire. I did a sort of creme-brulee thing with the sugar-cube and stirred it into the absinthe, and dripped some water in, and –



Well, what do you know? A nice warm feeling was creeping over me. Not like regular inebriation this time. Sort of a warm universal benevolence. I was getting very French by this time, and my Mallarme was coming back to me: “Une belle ivresse m’engage, o mes divers / amis . . .



Yeah, whatever.



Just a little left in the bottle. Back to Method #1, with the salad fork; I was more skillful at it this time, and the sugar dissolved more quickly. The flavor wasn’t unpleasant.



But now I was getting a headache.



I drink with some regularity, and I know the various phases of inebriation. And normally I do not get a headache after three rather small drinks.



Evidently there’s some thujone in this stuff after all.



Morning after: head throbbing like the sound of car-horns in the streets of Montmartre.



Memo to myself: Forget “Le Tourment vert.” Buy a better brand of absinthe.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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