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Absinthe
Absinthe

PROBABLY THE MOST UNFAIRLY VILIFIED DRINK EVER DISTILLED, ABSINTHE HAS SUFFERED FROM (AND, SADLY, STILL SUFFERS FROM) A NUMBER OF BLATANT INJUSTICES AND COMMON MISUNDERSTANDINGS. LIKE ALL STRONG SPIRITS IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN EASY TARGET FOR THE PROHIBITIONISTS AND SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES. AND YET, LIKE ALL GREAT ALCOHOLIC DRINKS, A WORLD OF FLAVOUR AND HISTORY AWAITS ALL WHO DARE TO TRY IT.


Okay, let's put to bed some of those misunderstandings (and ourselves if we overindulge!)


Firstly, there is no unbiased scientific evidence that absinthe is a hallucinogen. Yes you heard that right; absinthe is no more hallucinogenic than any other spirit. However, it is highly alcoholic: generally 45% to 74% abv so it needs to be treated with respect.

 

Secondly, it has never been banned in the UK; you just couldn't get it because most of the countries that produced it had banned it!


Finally, the traditional way of drinking it does not require fire of any kind. All you need is absinthe, water, a sugar cube (optional with some absinthes) and an absinthe spoon. The lighting of the sugar cube dipped in Absinth (notice the spelling) is a modern marketing technique developed by makers of Czech absinth (also known as “Bohemian") in the 1990s when they started commercial production of absinth.


So why drink absinthe? Well for some people it's the flavour, for some it's the history and ritual and for some (me included) it's just a great aperitif. For the flavour junkies, absinthes are dominated by herbal and spice flavours. The best absinthes contain the “holy trinity" of wormwood (gives it a bitter edge), anise (in poorer quality absinthes this is about all you taste) and fennel (similar in taste to anise). Other herbs and spices such as coriander, nutmeg, juniper and angelica can be found in the better quality absinthes.


For those that love the ritual, it is a relaxing experience. You drip ice cold water over a sugar cube on an absinthe spoon. As it dissolves into the absinthe, it causes the 'louche': the milky opalescence that appears as the insoluble oils in the absinthe emulsify and give it its classic appearance.


As an aperitif, the combination of flavours and ritual make it ideal. Imagine sitting outside a restaurant in the south of France, watching the louche form as you contemplate the rustic menu. Heaven!

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