So what, you might ask, is absinthe doing on a blog about healthy eating? Ever since I saw it in the movie “Dracula” with Gary Oldman, I have wanted to try it. The whole process of preparing it is fascinating. However, from 1915 to 2007, it was illegal in the United States. Recently, when I was at a wine tasting, I had the opportunity to try it. I love all things licorice, so I really liked the taste. I can’t say it gave me any hallucinations. It did settle my stomach a bit after tasting several wines on an empty stomach.
Initially, absinthe was a health elixir. It contains wormwood, which was used medically in Egyptian times, and also by the ancient Greeks. However, its high alcohol content and reputation as a hallucinogen made it extremely popular amongst the bohemians of the 1800s. Toulouse Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, and Oscar Wilde were notorious absinthe drinkers.
It was banned in the US just before prohibition because it was thought to have mind-altering properties. However, it is really no different than any other alcoholic beverage. It has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, and there are now many manufacturers, including French, American, and Spanish companies.
Absinthe has a licorice taste, due to the use of fennel and anise. There are other herbs as well, depending on the formulation. There is no sugar in it, making it a spirit, rather than a liqueur. It is often green, although it can also be clear. There was even a red one in the past, although it is no longer available.
The classic way of preparing it is with sugar and ice water. The setup above, called an absinthe fountain, dates back to the late 1800′s. The glass fountain is filled with ice water and has a spigot on either side.
An absinthe spoon is laid over the special dosing glass, and a sugar cube is placed on the spoon.
About 1 oz of absinthe is poured into the glass over the sugar cube. In some setups, the sugar cube is ignited with a match and allowed to caramelize, as you see in my photo.
Then ice water is dripped over the sugar cube into the glass, until the absinthe is milky. This is called louching. The water is important to allow the herbal flavors of the absinthe to “bloom.”
Some links about absinthe