Sunday, October 7, 2012

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

Shawn Moriarty making drinks at the Majestic 
photo via the Majestic website

Our love affair with the Green Fairy
Absinthe, called the "Green Fairy" because of its greenish color,  was a romantic favorite among bohemian artists in Paris such as Vincent Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.   Ernest Hemingway created a cocktail using absinthe and champagne, and called it "Death in the Afternoon." Rimbaud called absinthe his "beautiful madness."

People of all social classes drank absinthe in bars and cafes. Absinthe became so popular, by the 1860's, 5 p.m. was called "The Green Hour."

Does absinthe deserve its bad boy reputation? We were curious about this notorious drink and wanted to learn more.  Our research led us to The Majestic in Kansas City where we tried a sazerac cocktail.   Directions for many types of alcoholic beverages from the 1800's exist, but palettes change, and many cocktail recipes from this era have been discarded. This is not the case for our absinthe recipe.  The sazerac was made for us is in the classic French tradition, which starts with absinthe in a glass. A sugar cube is placed on top of a special slotted spoon, chilled water is poured over, and herbal aromas are released.

The verdict? We loved it.

Drawing by Toulouse-Lautrec

L'Absinthe by Edgar Degas

Poster for a brand of absinthe
Absinthe was very popular. Many posters and postcards were made to promote it.

Wormwood was originally created for medicinal purposes in ancient Egypt and was also used in Greece.  Absinthe is anise flavored,  made from leaves and flowers of grand wormwood, green anise, and sweet fennel. It was thought to have dangerous side effects and addictive, and was outlawed in 1915. However, it has been proven by modern science that these effects were exaggerated, and absinthe is now being distilled and distributed again. Absinthe lovers say the drink was the victim of a smear campaign by the French wine industry.  

anti-prohibition poster by Gartner, 1910
A priest is trampling on the Green Fairy

The Absinthe drinker by Oliva

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