This week we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled tech related posts/rants to delve into a subject that is near and dear to my heart: Absinthe. Anybody who knows me, knows I like to indulge myself with a snort of liquor now and again. Though I tend to stick mostly to whiskey (all kinds, no whiskey is beneath me), I do enjoy other things as well. Chief among that group is a little thing known as absinthe.
Sadly, I haven't had absinthe in awhile. Why? Well, let's just say that I like it a bit too much. That being the case, I voluntarily curtailed my consumption of it a few years back. In time I will reintroduce it in small quantities while being careful to keep it managed. I employed a similar strategy for White Russians a few years back and that has worked wonderfully.
That having been said, you may be wondering, "What's the big deal with absinthe?" Well when it comes to alcoholic beverages it is definitely one of the more unique experiences you can have. It's not just a drink, but more akin to a ritual or journey. For starters you don't drink absinthe straight. Doing so is just silly as real absinthe is about 69% alcohol. No you actually slowly mix it with ice water and sugar, preferably via some drip based mechanism. Now while real absinthe starts off as green, once it begins to mix with ice water, it will begin transitioning to a milky white. In addition it will begin to give off a scent that is astoundingly similar to that of black licorice.
Of course, you can't just do this in a sink or with something portable and practical like an eye dropper. That's not how a proper and respectable absinthe drinker does it. You've got to make use of a special device known as an absinthe fountain. More information on these totally superfluous yet marvelous devices can be found here. And yes for the record, I own an absinthe fountain. I bought it for myself as a birthday present a few years back and I've gotten much use out of it over the years.
So the more observant among you will have noticed that I made a passing reference to "real absinthe" a few paragraphs back. The reason of course is because there is a lot of wannabe shit floating around and if you want the real experience you need to avoid it. I've got a basic list of things to check on when buying absinthe that I'm going to share below, but in all honesty before buying any particular brand you should probably just look for a review on The Wormwood Society. So here is my basic checklist:
It should have around 69% alcohol content. By around I mean in the range of 68% to 70%.
It should be green. However a lot of the knock off fakes use green food coloring. This is why it's important to observe the color change (or lack thereof) when it mixes with cold ice water as that will tell you definitively whether or not its the real thing.
Once it begins to turn milky white, you ought to be able to smell licorie. Once you drink it, you ought to be able to taste it.
It shouldn't be cheap. The absolute bottom of the barrel price you will pay for a real 750 ml bottle of absinthe will be about $50. Typically you are going to pay at least $60 though.
One word of warning: If you hate either the taste or smell of black licorice, you'll probably want to stay far away from absinthe as you'll likely find it repulsive. My wife Annette doesn't much care for it and that is the primary reason.
Now before I go I'm going to take a moment to address some of the rumors and urban legends surrounding absinthe. Over the years many rumors have circulated regarding the effects drinking absinthe can have on one's psyche and overall mental well being. This is all complete bullshit. Despite that absinthe was banned from a number of prominent countries for quite awhile. Of course this was largely due to the lobbying efforts made on behalf of wine makers. I can't help but to be reminded of how the liquor industry has and continues to react to marijuana legalization.
I hope all my dear readers find some time to partake in a snort or two of absinthe from a proper fountain sooner rather than later. And when you all do, feel free to tell the green fairy that I said hello and that I will be seeing her soon.