Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Mystical Absinthe AKA--> Green Fairy

Hi to all, Well I plan on purchasing some of this vintage liquid to have on hand for the hoildays.. So I thought with the recent change on the rulings of the sale of Absinthe in the US. (Currently several authentic absinthes are now available for purchase at liquor stores and bars in the US. This is a major breakthrough, as many brands will follow) I decided I would reaseach it well as I would like to purchase a good imported specimen. So I am underway, and I thought I would share some bits and pieces of information that I have learned.. One thing is that the "Wormwood Society" is based in Seattle, Washington which is very near me... Worm wood--> the magic ingredient..

Absinthe was invented in 1797 by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire. Henri-Louis Pernod opened the first absinthe distillery in Switzerland and then moved to a larger one in Pontarlier, France in 1805. By the 1850's it had become the favorite drink of the upper class. Originally wine based, a blight in 1870's on the vineyards forced manufacturers to base it with grain alcohol. Everyone could now afford it. The bohemian lifestyle embraced it.
The Green Fairy (la fee verte) as it became commonly known, was most popular in France. Most days started with a drink and ended with the "green hour" (l'heure verte) as one or two or more were taken for its aperitif properties. It is interesting to note that it also has aphrodisiac and narcotic properties. Authors and artists were proponents for using it to induce creativity.

Absinthe's popularity soared from 1880 on. Advertisements touted it as being healthful. It was exported to New Orleans and reached the same acclaim in the United States. It was one of the few drinks considered lady-like and women freely enjoyed it in the coffee houses where it was most commonly served. Victorian era men however, found women freely enjoying absinthe distasteful.
In 1905, Jean Lanfray who was very intoxicated, murdered his wife. He supposedly only had two glasses of absinthe but none the less, his trial became known as the "Absinthe Murder". Prohibition movements were underway. Absinthe was singled out as the maddening culprit and became synonymous with alcohol. Experiments started to be conducted often by injecting large doses of the oil of wormwood into animals. Absinthism was named as a disease. On July 25th, 1912, the Department of Agriculture issued Food Inspection 147, which banned absinthe in America, and finally France followed in 1915.
But what is absinthe?

Absinthe is an alcoholic drink made with an extract from wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). It is an emerald green drink which is very bitter (due to the presence of absinthin) and is therefore traditionally poured over a perforated spoonful of sugar into a glass of water. The drink then turns into an opaque white as the essential oils precipitate out of the alcoholic solution (louche).

Simon and Schulter's "Guide to Herbs and Spices" tells us that Henri-Louis Pernod used aniseed, fennel, hyssop, and lemon balm along with lesser amounts of angelica, star anise, dittany, juniper, nutmeg, and veronica. These ingredients were macerated together with wormwood plants. After leaving the mixture to sit, water was added and the mixture was distilled. Dried herbs, including more wormwood, were added to the distillate, which was then diluted with alcohol to give a concentration of about 75% alcohol by volume. Different absinthe manufacturers used slightly different ingredients, sometimes using calamus, which has been purported to have psychoactive effects.
In addition to these ingredients, manufacturers sometimes added other ingredients to produce the drinks emerald green color. Normally, this color was due to the presence of chlorophyll from the plants. However, in the event that the product was not properly colored, absinthe makers were known to add things like copper sulfate, indigo, turmeric, and aniline green. Antimony chloride was also used to help the drink become cloudy when added to water. Presumably modern makers of Pernod and absinthe use safer ingredients for their concoctions!

Famous Absinthe drinkers include:

Edouard Manet
Charles Baudelaire
Paul Verlaine
Arthur Rimbaud
Oscar Wilde
Ernest Dowson Edgar Degas

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Vincent Van Gogh
Adolphe Monticelli
Paul Gauguin
Alfred Jarry
Pablo Picasso
Ernest Hemingway

I found a couple of interesting drink recipes I will try..

Jonny Depp did not drink his this way in the Movie he stared in.. "From Hell" . He used the "traditional method" as described above..

The Mint Muse

1 1/2 oz. Lucid Absinthe

2 oz. Pineapple Juice

Muddled Mint Leaves

Lime Wedge

Topped with Sprite or 7-UP
Muddle mint leaves with lime wedge and add Lucid. Add ice and pineapple juice and shake briefly. Top with Sprite or 7-UP and add mint sprig.

Starry Night

2 1/2 oz. Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka

1/2 oz. Lucid Absinthe

1/2 oz. Simple Syrup

Crushed chocolate cookie on rim

Garnish with Chinese Star Anise
In an ice filled shaker, add the vodka, Lucid, and simple syrup. Shake thoroughly and strain into the chocolate crumb-rimmed martini glass. Add the Chinese star anise.