Several years ago while in Switzerland I ran across a liquor store that sold what I thought to be a most interesting product, an Absinthe kit. Not just a bottle of Absinthe, but a kit. How could I resist. Building a drink would be kind of like building a model airplane. One that would eventually go down in flames.
The kit consisted of two very small bottles of Absinthe, disappointing small, two nice glasses, and a metal thingie on which you could place a sugar cube or two. Traditionally drinking Absinthe involves a bit of a ceremony. This generally consists of placing a sugar cube or two on a thingie which is then suspended above the glass containing Absinthe. Cold water is dripped onto the sugar cubes When the water drips through them it drips into the Absinthe creating neat little creamy colored droplets that gradually turn the Absinthe a milky green. This is a very cool effect.
Actually, while getting the above picture I discovered that thingies are really called Absinthe spoons, duh!
Interestingly, the instructions on this kit called for a bit of a different procedure, one involving fire.
You do suspend the sugar cubes above a glass on an Absinthe spoon though.
However, step two calls for slowly pouring the Absinthe over the sugar cubes so that it drips into the glass.
When you are through you have sugary Absinthe in the glass and two Absinthe soaked sugar cubes sitting on the Absinthe spoon which is resting above the glass.
Two Cubes Spooning
Then, and I think this is just what you want drunken people to be doing, you ignite the sugar cubes.
Flaming sugar cubes above a glass of 124 proof Absinthe, a perfect recipe for disaster. Or, at least, a spectacle.
Well, you might have to use your imagination a bit. We had to turn off the lights so it would look cool.
When the sugar cubes melt into the Absinthe you blow them out (very important) and then stir some cold water into the mixture. Our second attempt we let the sugar cubes burn too long and the glass cracked. Idiots that we were, we drank it anyway.
The Final Product
This process results in pretty much the same end-product as the more traditional, less hazardous, and less messy method.
Bar Man Does Absinthe
I want to give a special thanks to my friend Chris who acted as the hand-model for this shoot.
Let's Have A Hand For Chris's Hand
It was a fun experiment and the end-result was good. I am a big fan of Ouzo and Pernod. I drink my Pernod straight with an ice-cube so it is very similar. The Pernod is a lower proof then Absinthe and sweeter.
Pernod was one of the original distillers of Absinthe but switched to Pernod when Absinthe was made illegal throughout much of the world. The reason for this, not surprisingly, was based upon totally incorrect assumptions. Heavy Absinthe drinkers supposedly suffered from hallucinations and other interesting side-affects. Because animals given large doses of wormwood, an ingredient in Absinthe, suffered from convulsions it was concluded that the wormwood in Absinthe was the culprit and so it was outlawed. We now know that the amount of wormwood contained in Absinthe was far too low to have contributed to any such affect. It didn't seem to occur to anyone that because Absinthe was sweet, tasted like licorice, went down like candy and, oh, contained between 60% and 70% alcohol might have been the problem. Of course you couldn't possible outlaw all good tasting high alcohol drinks so poor Absinthe had to pay the price.
Laws have been changed though so that it is now possible to buy Absinthe made as close to the original recipes as possible, even in the United States. And, joy of joys, Pernod is back in the Absinthe business. I haven't seen it for sale yet, but you better believe I will be searching it out. This one is a nifty 68% alcohol. Don't be blaming it on the wormwood.