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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

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In Bars & Clubs Commentary

This guy looks happy, right?

How to drink absinthe the old-ass fashioned way


These days, absinthe has become synonymous with forgotten nights in Paris and foxy green fairies. With my knowledge of the infamous green drink limited to pop culture myths and "Moulin Rouge," I decided it was time to finally sample absinthe correctly.

So, when I received the Absinthe Set in the mail, I was determined to find out if the spirit matched the hype.

With three 50ml bottles of absinthe at my disposal, I took the deep dive into the big green and drank absinthe the way it was intended to be drunk.

I was totally floored by the setup of this Absinthe Kit: three little vials of absinthe snugly fit into a box with their accompanying sugar cubes and a slotted spoon.

I found it odd being in a spot where I had total control over the amount of absinthe I was consuming. Naturally, I had to wonder what would've happened if I drank the entire thing? Folklore tells me a hot date with a foxy green fairy was in order.

With the power of context clues, I deduced you put the sugar cube on the spoon, which then rests on the glass. Movies taught me you then light the entire thing ablaze like an old barn or the burning man from Burning Man.

Spoiler alert: I was right.

To be honest, it was quite surreal watching the deep green liquid fill the cup. The color is actually chlorophyll from the whole herbs used in the spirit. My only experience with absinthe had been in swanky bars where hipster mixologists lightly spritzed the drinks with the high-proof spirit.

Then I set the sugar cube aflame. I felt as though I was cheating by using the kind of lighter dads use during Sunday barbecues. However, it got the job done. Traditionally, some sugar cubes are soaked in brandy before they're set on fire.

I couldn't help but think of how much the burning sugar smelled like caramel—until I realized that I was quite literally producing caramel.

Here's the story with absinthe's hallucinogenic properties. It's made with Wormwood -- which dates back to 1500 BC -- and within Wormwood is something called thujone. In high doses, it can be toxic and cause convulsions in the brain. Modern absinthe contains barely any traces of thujone.

The first sip was a punch to the face. Pure absinthe, as opposed to the tiny little spritz, is insanely strong. The taste is akin to licorice ... like Jägermeister's way cooler older brother. And the second sip did the same punched even harder. As I finished the vial of the 80-proof liquid, I felt the intoxication's trickling fingers enter my stomach faster than the ensuing stream of urine that always follows these kinds of tastings.

In conclusion: absinthe didn't make me lose my mind, but it sure tasted good.


Talkbacks

Slugworth | July 23, 2014 at 12:48 p.m. (report)

Yeah. You did it all wrong. When you drip cold water into absinthe, the aromatics come out of solution making the drink cloudy. This is called the "louche." It is important. The cheap Czech absinthe did not louche, so they came up with the "light a sugar cube on fire" thing. It has no practical purpose. It's just supposed to look cool or something. http://www.wormwoodsociety.org/index.php/serving-absinthe-mainmenu-228

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k.reed | July 23, 2014 at 6:19 a.m. (report)

Wow... As a "reporter", you should really do research before posting garbage like this to a news website. This is not the old fashioned way of preparing absinthe. The correct way to prepare absinthe is as follows. 1) Pour absinthe into glass. 2) Place sugar cube onto absinthe spoon above glass 3) Very, very slowly pour cold water over the ice cube and into the glass. You want the absinthe to be about 1/5 of the total liquid at the end. Watch closely as you pour the water in the glass. You will see the clear dark green liquid turn to a light cloudy green. This is called the louche. This is where the myth of the green fairy comes from. This is the classic way to prepare absinthe. Try it with your next vial. It will taste much better.

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