The Green Fairy
March 28, 2007 5:08 AM   Subscribe

The Virtual Absinthe Museum What is there in absinthe that makes it a separate cult? ... Even in ruin and in degradation it remains a thing apart - Aleister Crowley. The Virtual Absinthe Museum has the whole fabled history plus literature, art and antiques. The accoutrements: spoons, glasses, brouilleurs and zoomorphic pichets. Classic art-nouveau posters, postcards showing Les Perils of France, French poetry, English fiction, and American pulp magazines.
posted by bobobox (40 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This looks good. Absinthe is so cool. I've been wanting to try it for years, still haven't had the opportunity.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:18 AM on March 28, 2007

See also this, for current developments.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:19 AM on March 28, 2007

That grasshopper absinthe pitcher is fabulous. And the posters, too. What a great site, thanks for posting it!
posted by mediareport at 5:24 AM on March 28, 2007

I had absinthe in Prague last year. I was pretty hyped about getting to have some, and I'm glad I did. No nimby-pimby regulations for me, not in the Czech Republic, thank you very much. I mean, I was sitting in a cafe by the Charles Bridge overlooking the Vltava, a beautiful 75F day in July with my wife on our honeymoon.

I'll tell you can KEEP IT. The shit is nasty.

I didn't know how to drink it, how you're supposed to melt the sugar cube and everything. They let me taste it before burning the cube, and it SUCKED. And then they melted the sugar and let it fall into the glass and had me take a shot. It burned like a motherfucker and tasted awful, but it was a lot smoother with all the sugar.

The taste is a pretty strong mix of licorice and butane. Not really piney like gin or turpentine, but horrible nonetheless.

So yeah, it tastes like a mix between gin and sambuca and I think I'd probably try it again to see if the taste differs brand to brand, but I'm never going to be a major absinthe drinker.
posted by taumeson at 5:51 AM on March 28, 2007

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:31 AM on March 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

I prefer (she says, having had a total of four glasses of absinthe ever) not to burn the sugar - I believe this is a special Prague variation. The French method actually produces an enjoyable (through slow, respectful sipping) beverage.
posted by hilatron at 7:14 AM on March 28, 2007

Mmm absinthe. It's like a big warm hug from the inside out.
posted by teem at 7:20 AM on March 28, 2007

I've started to wonder if maybe absinthe isn't that wonderful. Perhaps it has an undeservedly great reputation because it was popular in writing circles?
posted by Malor at 7:38 AM on March 28, 2007

I mean, consider.... nobody has ever been able to successfully prohibit any other drink entirely. If it were THAT good, it would have survived any attempt to exterminate it.
posted by Malor at 7:39 AM on March 28, 2007

The Wired article on absinthe is pretty excellent. It inspired me to seek out some of the absinthe by Ted Breaux (distilled after the herbal infusion), which is really nice, and a far cry from some of the stuff I had in Prague back in the day.
posted by exogenous at 7:39 AM on March 28, 2007

I've got two bottles of Absinthe on my bar that I brought back from Austria. Bright green stuff, that is. One bottle is a wussy Moulin Rouge inspired version (only 50% alcohol) made in Vienna. The other is Czechoslovakian & slightly less wussy (60% alcohol) that I bought for the super cool bottle -- I really wanted it on my bar. There were bottles of 65% alcohol absinthe too, but I thought, "Do I REALLY need 65%?" and decided I didn't.

I've only tried the wussy version so far, and it's definitely much better and tastier on a sugar cube. But then again, you're eating a sugar cube laced with alcohol so duh. Of course it's gonna be kind of good.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:58 AM on March 28, 2007

The fire ritual and Czech absinthes in general are pretty much disdained by most connoisseurs.

Absinthe has certainly been romanticized to a point that those seeking some sort of mind-bending or transcendental experience will certainly be disappointed. But the preparation and enjoyment of a fine absinthe is definitely something to be savored.
posted by malocchio at 8:09 AM on March 28, 2007

Czech absinthe is an abomination. Overly bitter, tinted everclear, essentially. Nasty drink, and burning the sugar? That's a marketing ploy, and iirc has no historical correlation at all. Anybody who has only had Czech owes it to themselves to try something better.

There are many quality absinthes produced in France which can be readily shipped to the states. They are properly distilled and have wonderful, balanced, and complex flavors.

Ted Breaux makes the best I have had - my personal favorite being his Nouvelle Orleans.

Also, Malor - you are correct to an extent. Absinthe has been overly romanticized due to both its popularity with Belle Epoch writers and its ban. You won't see gnomes when you drink'll just get pleasantly drunk off of a very tasty, classy, and anachronistic beverage with a lot of history and ritual behind it.
posted by kaseijin at 8:11 AM on March 28, 2007

Well, we didn't burn the sugar & do that whole rigamarole, actually. We were already drunk & just decided to try the cheap Vienna absinthe for the hell of it. But it was kinda nasty on its own. (Truth is, I hate the flavor of licorice so I knew it would be.) So I grabbed a few sugar cubes. We were way too lazy to put any effort into it though. Just did it to say we did it. The absinthe bottles are for show on my bar more than anything.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:14 AM on March 28, 2007

Something tells me I'll end up ordering $300 worth of absinthe before the end of the day.
posted by malocchio at 8:21 AM on March 28, 2007

We've spoken about this before.

There are many many home-absinthe recipes out there but you really need to distill it to make it work - which is illegal pretty much everywhere in the States. I've made and tried some undistilled absinthe (major difference is it doesnt emulse) and its a weird high and your liver feels like its been taken out and beaten with a baseball bat afterward.

And tradition aside, its palatable with Sprite.
posted by elendil71 at 8:21 AM on March 28, 2007

Fascinating post. Thanks bobobox. Wow, those beautiful spoons and pitchers. Fun to look for other absinthe spoons online. Perhaps this cute pichet was for absinthe?

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, absinthe makes the fond grow hotter.

Absinthe on Erowid. At HalfValue. At AllThingsAbsinthe. More about the thujone content in absinthe and on Wikipidia. There is a wonderful smelling essential oil with thujone, thuja.
posted by nickyskye at 9:14 AM on March 28, 2007

Ohhh, I can definitely imagine it tasting decent with Sprite, actually.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:38 AM on March 28, 2007

I found it very easy (aside from the price) to purchase absinthe and have it shipped to the U.S. I'm not sure it's exactly illegal, really. As far as I could figure out you couldn't legally sell it as a beverage in the U.S. due to FDA regulations. Nothing in it is specifically proscribed to own or sell as such - I mean, you can go to a better co-op and get wormwood or wormwood extract. It's sort of dumb that it can't be sold by liquor stores.

I have a fond memory, several years ago, of bringing two bottles I had shipped from the U.K. to a New Year's party, I just set up in a corner with a pitcher of ice water and a box of sugar cubes and served up louches all night. I didn't perceive any magic effect beyond it being powerfully alcoholic, but it was a good time.

The Ted Breaux mentioned a couple times above can be had here for 55 pounds ($108 US).

Available in better liquor stores, my personal favorite herbal liqueur, though, is definitely Chartreuse.
posted by nanojath at 10:12 AM on March 28, 2007

Slightly off-topic, (as if it ever stopped me before), but has anyone tried Cynar, the artichoke liqueur? I've always been fond of the label art and the beverage's color, and I do enjoy artichokes.
Thumbs up or down?
posted by Dizzy at 10:28 AM on March 28, 2007

I had no problem ordering 2 bottles of fine absinthe (not that czech garbage) from a german retailer online. I'm not going to post a commercial link, it should be easy enough to find them.
posted by 2sheets at 11:02 AM on March 28, 2007

If you look up absinthe videos on youtube there are two different types, giggling fratboys drinking czechsinth out of paper cups on fire and the more mature drinkers of good French or Swiss absinthe doing a proper ice water louche with the proper glass and antique spoons.
Oh, don't expect to hallucinate, the herbs just counterbalance the sedative effects of absinthe so it is a more lucid drunk.
posted by Iron Rat at 12:14 PM on March 28, 2007

Yeah... I'd go so far as to say if you've ever (felt the need to) put any sugar at all into your absinthe, you haven't had real absinthe. You've been drinking alcoholic mouthwash.

Coincidentally, I was watching Anthony Bourdain's show last night, the Paris episode. They go to a bar where I think I heard his companion order two glasses of Nouvelle Orleans, and then later they go to taste an 100 yr old bottle of Pernod. :d
posted by danny the boy at 12:31 PM on March 28, 2007

See here's the thing. I knew the Czech stuff I bought was crap, but I don't really want to drink it anyhow. I absolutely hate the flavor of anise/licorice to begin with. Blecch. (If absinthe tasted like Red Vines, then I'd be in trouble. Yum!)

Anyhow, since I'm an arteest I will always like pretty bottles though, & now I've got one on my bar. Nobody but me needs to know that the absinthe inside it is junk, everyone who sees it is too scared of it and too intrigued by the bottle to want a sip anyhow. Cowards!
posted by miss lynnster at 12:49 PM on March 28, 2007

Absinth in uranium-laced glass. As if the Green Fairy didn't have a bad enough reputation.
posted by lekvar at 12:56 PM on March 28, 2007

Saw "Absinte" on a menu in Victoria BC last weekend. Couldn't decide if it really supposed to be the famous drink or not. Ordered a beer instead. Anyone know if it's legal/common in Canada these days?
posted by Shutter at 2:13 PM on March 28, 2007

miss l---
Is your bar tiki-themed?
I have this image of you backlit in bamboo rushes, a packet of Gualoises flung casually across it's well-worn linoleum, one hand clutching a lipstick-limned snifter of VSOP and the other working a beaten old Petrof with tropical inlays.
The roar of evening traffic dimming, you purr a Blossom standard as the sun sets over the bay.

I'm covered in pureed peas. Henry The Delightful Psycho Baby is napping and a juice-glass of Ketel is j u s t o u t o f r e a c h ...
posted by Dizzy at 2:21 PM on March 28, 2007

No, it's more of a Thin Man kinda thing, actually. Dark wood with a slightly asian feel. But there is Blossom Dearie involved whenever possible.

I cannot have a tiki bar, for there is no possible way that I could ever possibly even try to compete with my dear friend Otto, AKA the lord god king grand poobah of all that is tiki.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:30 PM on March 28, 2007

BTW, I'm sure you wear pureed peas well, Diz.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:31 PM on March 28, 2007

Yes, green is SO Spring.
You should see me in my chicken and rice medley!
posted by Dizzy at 2:37 PM on March 28, 2007

Check out the ritual (sublink from someone else's link) if like me you had no clue about what's unique about this drink.
posted by Listener at 3:23 PM on March 28, 2007

I agree about absinthe and lemonade/sprite/whatever. Tradition be bolloxed, it tastes good, in a 'wake up in the gutter with more money than you started out with' kind of way.
posted by Sparx at 4:06 PM on March 28, 2007

My understanding:

"Real" absinthe is typically from France, Switzerland, maybe Spain or Germany. Should be a light greenish herbal color or else colorless ("la bleue"). Should have a complex herbal flavor of which anise is only one component.

Nasty rotgut absinthe is mostly from the Czech Republic, but *could* be from anywhere. Bears almost no relationship to the above except that it contains wormwood. Could be any tacky, bright neon color. Often uncharitably compared to mouthwash or worse. If they sold booze at Spencer Gifts, this is what they'd sell.

Absente is a brand sold in the United States. It doesn't contain real wormwood or its active ingredient (thujone), and so is allowed to be sold here. ("Absent", get it?)

Pastis is a French liquor, similar to absinthe without wormwood. Pernod, originally an absinthe, is today basically a pastis.
posted by gimonca at 5:36 PM on March 28, 2007

I'll second what taumeson said above. I was really keen to give it a shot for a long time. When I actually got the opportunity, I was seriously disappointed. It was absolutely disgusting.
posted by nightchrome at 6:21 PM on March 28, 2007

If your only taste has been a Czech (or similar) "absinthe," it's unfair to dismiss all absinthe as being unpalatable. It would be like saying you dislike wine because Thunderbird is nasty swill.

One of the disheartening aspects of the reborn absinthe industry is that price has no correlation to quality. Some of the worst macerated products actually command higher premiums than many of the finest absinthes being properly distilled.

If you're new to absinthe, I'd recommend the buyer's guide at as an excellent place to research before you buy.
posted by malocchio at 8:15 AM on March 29, 2007

If you are talking to me, I wasn't saying all absinthe is unpalatable. What I was saying is that since I hate the flavor of licorice & anise, absinthe is a flavor I'm never going to really adore to begin with. And that would be the case whether it's a Viennese 50%, Czech 65%, or whether it was personally manufactured out of God's ass. Bleccch.

But I do loves me some pretty bottles! Maybe I'll just fill them with some Ketel one & green food coloring.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:50 AM on March 29, 2007

nah, miss lynster, I wasn't addressing you (or anyone) specifically. (Well, maybe nightcrome and taumeson - I think they were cheated!) I just hate to see people that had wanted to try absinthe for years (much like myself) get turned off of it without having a chance to try the good stuff.

I've never been a huge fan of anise myself, although I quickly acquired a taste for absinthe. But if I had been drinking the nasty, bitter concoctions that others have suffered through, I never would have bothered at all.
posted by malocchio at 10:56 AM on March 29, 2007

I also would recommend trying the good stuff. There is definitely a ... certain something about absinthe beyond just the romance and history of it (though I find that aspect fascinating too, hence the post). Malor had a good point when he said "Perhaps it has an undeservedly great reputation because it was popular in writing circles?" but I also think it is worth experiencing for yourself. The reason I included the quote in the post was because in the end, "it remains a thing apart."

If you are expecting little green men you will be sadly disappointed. You will get you good and drunk, given the high alcohol percentage, but in my experience, it is a different, pleasanter, mildly otherworldly kind of drunk. And what the hell, go all out with romance and ritual just for fun.
posted by bobobox at 12:15 PM on March 29, 2007

Blatant self-link.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:33 AM on March 30, 2007

Other anise apéritifs and drinks (boissons anisées), including ouzo.
posted by nickyskye at 8:33 AM on March 30, 2007

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