Empty Cereal Box

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July 21, 2006

La Fee Verte

Where is everybody? Too hot to sit at a computer, I guess. Well, I'm going to keep on posting anyway. I found a recipe for absinthe yesterday, so I thought I'd share it just for fun.

My favorite literary and artistic era was the close of the nineteenth century where decadance preceded the first world war. The gothic, romantic, decadent writers, poets, and artists have long fascinated me. We're talking van Gogh, Verlaine, Manet, de Maupassant and Toulouse-Lautrec, to name a few.

One drink they made famous, and which has enjoyed a renaissance since the mid-1990s, is absinthe. As I mentioned in an earlier post, since the genealogy book given to me by my b-uncle (of course I'm not in it) traces my maternal ancestry back to the 1600s in Switzerland. I can't help it. I guess I'm inclined toward things made in Switzerland, including chocolate, cuckoo clocks, and absinthe. Since I will never know the real story of my relatives, at least I can aquaint myself with some of my European cultural history.

From Wiki: "Absinthe, aka the Green Fairy, is a distilled, highly alcoholic, anise-flavored spirit derived from herbs including the flowers and leaves of the medicinal plant Artemisia absinthium, also called wormwood. Although it is sometimes incorrectly called a liqueur, absinthe does not contain added sugar and is therefore classified as a liquor or spirit.

Absinthe is often referred to as la Fee Verte ("The Green Fairy") because of its coloring — typically pale or emerald green, but sometimes clear. Due to its high proof and concentration of oils, absintheurs (absinthe drinkers) typically add three to five parts ice-cold water to a dose of absinthe, which causes the drink to turn cloudy (called "louching"); often the water is used to dissolve added sugar to decrease bitterness. This preparation is considered an important part of the experience of drinking absinthe, so much so that it has become ritualized, complete with special slotted absinthe spoons and other accoutrements. Absinthe's flavor is similar to anise-flavored liqueurs, with a light bitterness and greater complexity imparted by multiple herbs.

Absinthe originated in Switzerland as an elixir, but is better known for its popularity in late 19th- and early 20th-century France, particularly among Parisian artists and writers whose romantic associations with the drink still linger in popular culture. In its heyday, the most popular brand of absinthe worldwide was Pernod Fils. At the height of this popularity, absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive, psychoactive drug; the chemical thujone was blamed for most of its deleterious effects. By 1915 it was banned in a number of European countries and the United States. Even though it was vilified, there is no evidence showing it to be any more dangerous than ordinary alcohol although few modern medical studies have been conducted to test this. A modern absinthe revival began in the 1990s, as countries in the European Union began to reauthorize its manufacture and sale."

It has taken on a mythological aura. You can read about it in a beautiful book by Barnaby Conrad. You can buy it from Spain or eastern European countries, but it's pricey. Or you can make it. I have neither tasted it nor made it. I've only read the Conrad book. Most recipes make the raunchiest-tasting drink imaginable. This one looks more promising. Herbs are procurable at online shops.

Traditional European Absinthe Recipe
(from Phil Heiple)

One ounce dried chopped wormwood
One tablespoon fennel or anise seeds
One tablespoon dried angelica root
One teaspoon dried hyssop leaves
One half teaspoon coriander seeds
One quarter teaspoon caraway seeds
One pinch cardomon pods
750 ml. 151 rum

In a glass container add the wormwood to the 151 rum. Set aside in the dark for four days (minimum--you get the majority of the thujone)) to ten days (maximum--all the thujone but a nasty, bitter taste). This will give you an authentic green-colored tincture (the green comes from the chlorophyll, and does not indicate the presence of the active ingredient, thujone). Only 151 rum gives a greenish hue (vodka will not). Then strain out the wormwood and add all the remining herbs and spices. Wait four more days, then strain these out and serve. Best drinken mixed with cold water half and half. Add a teaspoon of sugar if it too bitter. Other people prefer shots with a water chaser (have it ready). Or dribble a little in a tall glass with ice and sour mix or cranberry juice.

2 Comments:

Blogger elizabeth said...

I had the stuff once, nasty! But then I prefer wine/champagne.

I do, however, have a strange fondness for the Degas painting, Au Cafe dit L'Absinthe. There are also some cool absinthe scenes in the old Leo Dicaprio film "Total Eclipse".

24.7.06  
Blogger Kippa Herring said...

Thanks for the recipe, Marie.
Sounds brilliant - where does one get wormwood, anyway?
(Reminds me of "The Screwtape Letters')

I've had absinthe too. But I don't think it was the real McFaerie. It tasted just like anise-favoured pastis - which I enjoy. But this was no biggie. Just pleasant (To me, anyway. I have a taste for bitter herbs)
Yeah, I love the Degas painting. The poor woman looks utterly depressed. And there's a Monet too, of some caddish looking dude standing by his glass.

26.7.06  

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