Banned since 1912, absinthe made a triumphant return to legality recently in the US. Absinthe has an undeserved reputation for causing hallucinations, dementia, renal failure, convulsions, homicidal mania, ear-ectomies (see van Gogh, Vincent), and a nasty aftertaste of black licorice. Okay, the last one is true. Think Good n Plenties and anise blended with Ouzo and Sambuca.
Wormwood is used in the production of absinthe. The chemical compound thujone is a dangerous component of wormword, but the amount that ends up in a glass of absinthe is so small as to be harmless.
St. George Spirits of Alameda, an Alameda distiller best known for their Hangar One Vodka, is now producing absinthe and began selling bottles to the public today. Although three other companies can legally sell absinthe in the US, St. George is the only US company currently producing and selling absinthe.
I went to the Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda after work with a couple of friends tonight and Rob and Eric both partook of an $18 glass of absinthe. The glass of absinthe is served along with a glass of ice water with straws. You take up a little water into the straws and slowly add it to the absinthe in a process called “louching”. A cloudy layer forms at the bottom and rises as more water is added. The pictures aren’t too great because the lighting at the Tiki Lounge isn’t designed for photo shoots and my cameraphone ain’t so great.
Just a little water had been added in this first photo. Trust me when I say the liquid was green. And smelly, in a licorice sort of way. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, unless you find it appalling, like I do.
Once the blended level reaches the top, it’s ready to drink. Another preparation ritual involves dripping the water over a sugarcube, although they frown on that at the Tiki Lounge. Eric thoroughly enjoyed his absinthe, while Rob was just happy to say that he had done it.
All of the absinthe consumption may or may not have led to the frenzied construction of a miniature umbrella sculpture. Degas, van Gogh, Picasso, Verlaine and Hemingway would surely have been proud of our absinthe-fueled creativity.