January 23, 2007

A Descent Into Absinthe

van-gogh-absinthe.jpgWe had our own little run-in with absinthe last year, and it put our tails between our legs. We didn't include a lot of details of what we went through or how we felt, but we did offer you a few high-level details of that fateful night. Thanks to Urban Monarch we just found a description of an absinthe night that contains a few more details about the actual implosion.

11:50 pm
Sleep seems a million miles away. I am living in a bright light on the top of my skull. I’m going to sit at my white-formica, dramatically-lit kitchen table and read some more Hemingway. Seems a very natural thing to do. Can't go visit the guy. They'd throw leg irons on me and put me in a cage.
Modern Drunkard - Drinking With Van Gogh [via Urban Monarch]

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January 8, 2007

Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon with PapaWe've heard about a drink called the Hemingway cocktail, and we knew it involved a combination of absinthe and champagne. It seemed like a high end way to kill an afternoon, but there were two things we didn't think about (or know). One thing we didn't think about was how champagne's bubbles might distribute the absinthe buzz. Two was the fact that another name for the drink was the Death in the Afternoon (named after a bookby Papa himself).

We haven't touched absinthe in a while, ever since a fateful night last march, but after reading about this drink in the NYT, it made us rethink the drink.You need a free subscription to read the article, but it's interesting, at least if you want to read about why absinthe goes milky when you add another liquid, and are curious about the effect of the bubbles. We're interested in both.

READERS of Ernest Hemingway know “Death in the Afternoon” as a book about bullfighting. But to drinkers with a taste for obscure booze, it is also a cocktail that Hemingway contributed to a 1935 collection of celebrity recipes. His directions: “Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”
New York Times - Trying to Clear Absinthe’s Reputation [subscription]

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June 13, 2006

Absinthe Gift Set for Under $50

Coffret Kubler Gift SetWe're big fans of absinthe, especially now that the hangover from our most recent tangle with the green fairy has worn off. Absinthe can be a tough sell for most people, because even though the buzz is famous, the price (and the spotty legality of getting a bottle) can be prohibitive. We've stumbled across a gift set that includes a 500ml bottle of Coffret Kubler Absinthe, along with two collectible glasses and a spoon, marked down from 59 Euro to 39 Euro, or about $50.

Not too shabby for real Swiss absinthe, and we've heard good stuff about the Kubler brand. Plus, compare the price to those of typical 750ml bottles that round out closer to $100, it's a good starter set to check out the green stuff, even when you factor in the shipping. Buy it for yourself, or pick it up as a gift for the adventurous drunk in your life, at Absinthevertrieb Lion.

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April 27, 2006

Nouvelle Orleans Absinthe Review

Nouvelle Orleans Absinthe
Imported Swiss Absinthe
136 Proof (68% ABV)
Typical Price: 55 UK Pounds (About $96) at AbsintheOnline

Nouvelle Orleans AbsintheJust a couple weeks after our review of Verte Suisse 65, it's time for Project Absinthe Review: Phase 2 to kick in, and we're happy to say we no longer get the shakes when we think about that night. We had an amazing time drinking the Nouvelle Orleans, which is more than we can say for the unfortunate owner of the unfortunate house where we did our testing.

Sorry Liz - there will be a special area set up in heaven for you, after what you put up with.

Note: Once again, we used the Fee Verte Absinthe Evaluation System, for this tasting.

Color Before Water: Still Not Easy Being Green
The Nouvelle Orleans was very clear and extraordinarily bright, a lighter green but with less of the fine sediment we saw in our bottle of Verte Suisse.

Louche Action: We Love Louche-y
The Nouvelle Orleans presented an absolutely beautiful louche, very slow and mesmerizing as we watched the water and the absinthe duke it out and release the essential oils. The two didn't separate, but just roiled around in the glass in a way that was noted by one reviewer as "real purty."

(If you're curious about the louche, learn more at Fee Verte FAQ).

Color After Water: Great Blue Balls of Fire!
During the louche, we added two to three parts water to one part absinthe, and we did not add any sugar or light anything on fire, as some people think you're supposed to do. Nope, just good old ice water, and we were very surprised to see the color turn from bright green to a milky bluish-green. It was a nice little surprise.

Aroma: Licorice 'n Herbs
Once again, we smelled the enticing herbs-and-licorice aroma that reminded us of Jagermeister, but a Jager much higher on the food chain. the smell was complex and light, with different reviewers reporting a floral tinge, a whiff of anise, sweetness, woodiness. Everyone reported a strong smell of licorice, and everyone noted it smelled more alcoholic than did the Verte Suisse at first sniff.

Mouth-Feel: Tingly Goodness
One reviewer summed up the mouth-feel with a single word - tingly. The others reported it had a full feel, a smooth roundness, an astringent quality and a stunning complexity.

Taste: Show Me the Money!
And that's what this stuff was - money. We loved the taste, which was complex and herbal with slightly less of a licorice taste than the other absinthe we tried. It offered a very smooth drink with only a slight bit of bitterness at the back of the tongue, and overall it was less sweet.

Overall Impression: Pretty Damned Good
By the time we were done with our multiple reviewing glasses, no one on our staff seemed inclined to fill out their reviewing sheets. We did find one sheet with a smudged scrawl that said "Pretty Damned Good," and we think that sums it up.

Once again, we recommend the highly that you give absinthe a try if you're curious about it, and we know 100 bucks is a lot to spend. But hey, what the Hell? You'll be paying that much for a gallon of gas soon, so why not enjoy yourself with the money instead?

Learn more about Nouvelle Orleans at BestAbsinthe.com, and chip in to buy a bottle at Absinthe Online.

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April 4, 2006

Verte Suisse 65 Absinthe Review

Jade Liqueurs Verte Suisse 65
Imported Swiss Absinthe
130 Proof (65% ABV)
Typical Price: 55 UK Pounds (About $96) at AbsintheOnline

Verte Suisse 65Here we go - after weeks of intense therapy and detox, we've finally put enough space between ourselves and our absinthe tasting to actually go ahead and review the stuff. It should be said that we loved the taste of both absinthes we tried, which was what partially led to our downfall. After we each had multiple glasses, we all reverted to our lizard brains, and suddenly we were treating the stuff like it was Bacardi Breezers instead of a high-alcohol controlled substance.

You'll notice we used a slightly different format for the review below - in order to make everything official, we used the Fee Verte Absinthe Evaluation System, which included multiple categories and guidelines for tasting. You'll also find that we didn't use the number system associated with it, after our diatribe last week about the booze review numbers game. And so, enough with the pre-game - let's get on with the show.

Color Before Water:It's Not Easy Being Green
The guidelines say the absinthe should be clear, bright and natural looking, and we found the Verte Suisse to be all three. There was a very slight, extra-fine sediment when we held it to the light, which gave it the slightest haze. One reviewer said the color reminded him of cholorophyll, and that was even before he started drinking.

Louche Action: Lord and Lady Louche Bag
Since we reviewed the Verte Suisse first, it was the first louche we've ever seen (and if you need a definition like we did, we found it in the Fee Verte FAQ). It was beautiful, watching the natural oils separate from the alcohol and swirl their way into bloom. The beauty of the louche was one factor that inspired us to pour far too many glasses.

Color After Water:The Forecast is Cloudy and Drunk
During the louche, we added two to three parts water to one part absinthe. This changed and color immensely, from a bright, clear green to a translucent, almost milky color with a green tinge. According to our reading, the desired effect is complexity and nuance, and our reviewers agreed that if a liquid could look complex, this did.

Aroma: Good...and Plenty?
We checked the nose before and after the addition of water, and we were surprised at the change after the addition of such a neutral liquid. Before water, it smelled like anise and licorice, almost like Sambuca mixed with Good N Plenty, but in an amazingly appetizing way. The smell was herbal, almost like a long-lost royal cousin of our good friend Jagermeister. After the addition of water the aroma mellowed quite a bit and seemed to sweeten, and the general feeling was that the smell was complex and pleasant.

Mouth-Feel: THAT'S What We're Talking About
After the anticipation of the louching and the sniffing, we were finally ready to taste it. We took our first sips and swirled them around in our mouths, and were pleasantly surprised with a complex and tingly feeling, not the burn we expected from a drink that contains so much alcohol. The verdict was that it was thick and rich, and oily in a good way, and one reviewer noted that it was "like God's cough syrup," whatever that means.

Taste: Hemingwonderful!
We've long heard that Old Papa Hemingway was a fan of absinthe, and after our first sip we understood why. It was exciting, like only a 130 proof illicit liqueur can be. It reminded us of smoky cafe's on the French Riviera, and beautiful girls dancing the Can Can on our tongues...but not in a dirty way. The taste was mellow and smooth, with a licorice complexity and just enough sweetness - and as odd as may sound, it was refreshing and invigorating as well.

Overall Impression: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!
According to our score sheet, the drink should be refreshing, subtle, complex and harmonious. We found it to be all that and more. In the words of one of our reviewers, "My tongue is numb, but it's a damn good numb," and we think that about sums it up.

If you want to try absinthe, we recommend the Verte Suisse 65 highly, and while 100 bones might seem like a lot to shell out for a bottle of liquor, we can say from experience that you don't need very much to feel its effects, and if you can get a few of your friends to go in on it with you, we think you'll have a damn good time...as long as you're more careful than we were.

Learn more about Verte Suisse 65 at BestAbsinthe.com, and chip in to buy a bottle at Absinthe Online.

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March 21, 2006

Absinthe 1, Liquor Snobs 0

We Surrender!We are beaten, broken men. On Friday evening, St. Patrick's Day, we introduced ourselves to the green fairy Absinthe, and it tied us up, made us its bitch, and never even called the next morning. We don't blame the liquor itself - and to be honest, we were extremely impressed with the flavor and quality of the two Jade Liqueurs brands we tried. That was part of the problem.

The main problem was that we overserved ourselves in our reviewing, and treated it like a normal liquor tasting. Mistake. On no normal liquor tasting have we flooded a bathroom, broken multiple glasses, watched one of our stalwart reviewers blind tackle a television, or taken a three-day hiatus from the site because none of us could even think about drinking. Other problematic events took place as well, but we will leave them aside to protect the innocent, at least until we can send out the apology notes.

We can see why the stuff has caused so much heartache in the past, and maybe even why it was banned - but we can also definitely understand why people love it so much. Oh, and for the record, we don't think the effects were due to wormwood or thujone, or anything like that - we blame the fact that the lowest alcohol content of anything we drank that night was 130 proof.

All we can say is that absinthe is a harsh mistress, and if you respect her, she'll treat you well. If not - well, the words of one of our reviewers sums up the feelings of the next morning quite well. "I feel hollowed out like a tauntaun, and I'm pretty sure Luke Skywalker slept inside me last night." We couldn't agree more. That said, we highly recommend trying good absinthe if you get a chance...but for your own sake, be more responsible than we were.

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March 6, 2006

Blanchette Absinthe From Jade Liqueurs

Blanchette Absinthe from Jade LiqueursA couple months ago we told you about the arrival of a couple Jade Absinthe bottles for review, and guess what...we haven't reviewed them yet. Sorry about that - we didn't have access to the bottles for a while, we wanted to get a real honest-to-goodness absinthe spoon, we couldn't find out Hannibal Lecter restraints, etc. This is our FYI that we will be reviewing them this month...over St. Patrick's Day, in fact. Yes, we know absinthe isn't Irish, but it's green, and there's no better day to manufacture an excuse to drink. Expect those reviews St. Patty's weekend - and expect the reviews to be written whilst we're in our cups.

To tide you over until that auspicious day, we have discovered a new absinthe created by Jade Liqueurs and the absinthe man Ted Breaux. It seems a bit less spendy than the others offered on the site (running 25 Pounds, or about $45, as compared to the others that are 55 Pounds, or closer to $95, according to our favorite currency converter) and though it's not cheap, it might be a good "training wheels" way to have your first meeting with the green fairy. They bottle it at 120 proof (60% ABV), which is nothing to sneeze at.

"Blanchette", the original absinthe produced by Distillerie Combier (Saumur, France) circa 1900. Blanchette is a Swiss-style, clear absinthe that yields a distinct aroma and flavor of anise and grande wormwood, with a background of alpine herbs. Like our other Jade absinthes, Blanchette is crafted entirely by hand in the antique copper absinthe stills in the Combier distillery.
Learn more and buy your own at Absinthe Online.

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January 3, 2006

Jade Liqueurs Absinthe Arrives For Review

Back in October, we told you about Ted Breaux, the mad scientist absinthe man who has reverse engineered pre-ban absinthe in an attempt to bring it back to its former glory. Today, we found that some little green fairies had dropped of a package for us, containing bottles of Breaux's Verte Suisse 65 and Nouvelle Orleans absinthe products. So far, we love 2006. We'll be reviewing both bottles as soon as we can, and we'll try to abstain from cutting off our ear like Van Gogh or dying in a gutter like Poe, but we can't make any promises. See below for snippets about each product from the Jade Liqueur site, BestAbsinthe.com.

Nouvelle Orleans Absinthe
Nouvelle Orleans AbsintheAbsinthe Nouvelle-Orléans represents the inspired work of native New Orleanian T. A. Breaux, and its heritage is rooted in the original New Orleans absinthes that made the Sazerac cocktail and absinthe frappe famous. Its unique distillation of stimulating herbes toniques is just what the Belle Époque apothecaries prescribed for various subtropical ailments. With its light, refreshing mouthfeel to its delectable floral finish, who would believe it was a "medicine"? Absinthe Nouvelle-Orléans presents the connoisseur with a unique perfume and texture that disappeared along with the artisanal marques almost a century ago. We invite you to see why we truly consider Absinthe Nouvelle-Orléans to be "l'Esprit du Vieux Carre".
MORE

Verte Suisse 65 Absinthe
Verte Suisse AbsintheJade Verte Suisse 65 is an absolutely accurate recreation of the original C. F. Berger 65 absinthe verte, and is identical to the fine original down to incredibly minute details. Our Verte Suisse 65 is crafted entirely by hand using select botanicals from original sources, and is carefully distilled in absinthe alembics that were obtained directly from Pernod Fils in the early 20th century. This absinthe delivers an experience characteristic of the best Swiss style absinthes. Upon tasting our Verte Suisse 65, the connoisseur will be pleasantly stimulated with the way it quickly asserts its refined fortitude with a bold fragrant scent, full-bodied, rounded mouthfeel, and distinct herbal notes that linger on the palate.
MORE

New Orleans is rebuilding itself right now, and we're glad to hear that Mr. Breaux is doing his part to rebuild little parts of its history. Plus, considering the fact that we used to drink absinthe mixed with Red Bull and vodka (sorry, Ted), we're excited to do a real, honest-to-goodness tasting. We'll start working on them as soon as our New Year's hangover subsides.

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November 26, 2005

Absinthe for the Holidays

Nouvelle-Orleans AbsintheBack in October we told you about Ted Breaux, the absinthe man. We had been skeptical about absinthe and its much-rumored psychotropic properties, and the absinthe we tried didn't really do much to change our opinion. Then we heard about Mr. Breaux and his reverse-engineering of the absinthe that was created before it was banned in the 19th century, and we were interested again. Not that we think absinthe will make you trip or anything, but this gentleman was making the same type of absinthe that may have caused van Gogh to cut off his ear, and sent Edgar Allen Poe into the "enchanted spaces of the unreal." Now that's something we'd like to try.

We learned today that the three varieties of absinthe made by Mr. Breaux's company, Jade Liqueurs, will be available for order starting Monday, November 28. Just think about the excited glow in your loved ones' eyes when they unwrap their bottle of the Green Fairy brought to them by Saint Nick. You can buy the three varieties, Jade Verte Suisse 65, Absinthe Edouard 72 and Nouvelle-Orleans from the Vintage Absinthe catalog.

Or if you're looking for something a little extra-special, Jade Liqueurs will be offering special signature pieces for the holidays. They're shrouded in mystery right now but they will be available soon at the Vintage Absinthe online boutique.

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November 3, 2005

Absinthe on the Brain

Absinthe!For a while there, we'd given up on the green fairy known as absinthe. Yeah, we got incredibly drunk when we tried it but that was probably because we were mixing it with Red Bull and vodka (known as a Bull Rush, if we remember correctly). But after covering Ted Breaux, who we call the absinthe man, and his efforts on behalf of the misunderstood liqueur, we're starting to come around. We know the thujone in the wormwood doesn't make you trip like the college kids want to believe, but it does do something to make for an interesting experience.

We found some more absinthe coverage this morning over at The Sporting Life, so we figured we'd share it.

Re: the qualities of absinthe. A buddy and I finished an entire bottle one night and we saw very few “green fairies.” However, my friend did fall asleep screaming about going to some dance club that didn’t exist. So there’s that.
We're pretty sure the brand they're talking about is Absinthe Schulz, a Czech brand that weighs in at a whopping 120 proof. Head on over to The Sporting Life and you'll find a link to where you can order it.

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