Absinthe is a spirit made from herbs, the main one being Artemisia Absinthium, a plant with healing properties. The prevailing flavour is anise ( the basic ingredient in ouzo) which distinguishes itself like the first violin in a quintet, as it coexists harmoniously with the other milder-flavoured herbs, masterfully divided into the relative double bass, cello, viola and second violin roles (this link is for a musical mood that suits it perfectly).
Although the taste is familiar, it is very different to the far more one-dimensional, aggressive and acidic flavour of ouzo – absinthe has a more rounded and herbal taste.
Its bright green colour, which becomes milky and opaque once water is added (as also happens with ouzo), its multi-dimensional completeness and most of all, the rituals of its preparation form the basis on which its legend rests.
The classic way to drink Absinthe needs a small liqueur glass, a special small convex straining spoon, cold water and a sugar cube. A measure of the green drink is poured into the glass, then the sugar cube is placed on the spoon, which is in turn balanced across the rim of the glass. The cold water is then gently and gradually poured over the sugar cube. As the sugar dissolves and is swept into the glass by the water, a bright green nebula forms which lightens and clouds the liquid simultaneously, making mysterious shapes all the while. The spoon is then removed and the Absinthe is ready to be tasted.
Surprise, surprise, this drink was first thought up by the taciturn Swiss, presumably before they’d decided that the meaning of life lies in financial riches and not in wealth of experience and enjoyment ( a little social comment there…).
However, a little later, absinthe was discovered by the bohemian circles of Paris (the opinion leaders of the time) and soon became the fashionable drink in the period from the middle of the 19th Century to the beginning of the 20th. Such was its popularity, that the drink escaped the narrow confines of its sophisticated artistic vanguard, and found its way into the humble bars, bistros and cabarets of the day, becoming a favourite of every social class, to the point that in Paris in the 1860’s, five o’clock in the afternoon was known as “l’ heur verte” – the green hour.
The cult legend of Absinthe is due to the disastrous effects that overconsumption caused in artists who regularly drank it – from Degas and Lautrec to Picasso – as well as various scandalous stories concerning famous and anonymous absinthe drinkers, and of course its bad name comes from its addictive character. The lifestyle media of the time would have reported on the notorious drug of the rich and famous. The reason for this is a byproduct of its distillation, thujone, an addictive mind-altering drug, which was blamed for provoking suicides, deaths and perverted behaviour. The drink was therefore banned for many years until its recent resurrection using distillation after which the aforementioned thujone is removed in the presence of government authorities…
The legend of Absinthe has been portrayed in both poetry and painting as the green fairy which appears to the drinker and lures him into her magical world.
We decided to invite the fairy here to Pandespani, and, after telling us the secret to preparing Absinthe, she’s ready to show us how it will now catch fire, making us hot under the collar at the same time…
The ritual continues….and we are ready to become part of the historic cult.
So, to make the Flaming Green Fairy , the lights around the dining table should be dimmed., so as to get the full benefit of the ritual, and the ingredients and utensils should be close at hand.
You will need a bottle of Absinthe, 2 sugar cubes on a small plate, a jug of cold water, 2 liqueur glasses, 2 regular teaspoons and a lighter or matches.
While keeping the same ingredients as the regular preparation method, we just make a small change to the original process, making the ritual more magical but reducing the alcohol strength, being responsible adults as we are, ahem.…
The ritual begins by soaking the sugar cubes on the plate in the Absinthe. Next, pour one measure of Absinthe into each glass. Now, balance a teaspoon containing a soaked sugar cube across the rim of each glass. The big moment that we light the sugar cubes has arrived! Leave to burn for about one minute until the sugar starts to melt.
Now, very carefully lower the teaspoon towards the surface of the Absinthe in the glass until that also catches fire. Dunk the sugar gently into the drink and remove the empty spoon, leaving the drink alight. Allow to burn for one minute, so reducing the alcohol level.
Gradually add the cold water to the glass, without dousing the flame, until the mixture is about a centimetre from the brim. Allow the drink to burn and watch the nebula in the liquid form mysterious green patterns for another minute before blowing the flame out. Let the rim of the glass cool before surrendering to the taste of the green fairy who blazed for you.
With this theatrical climax we conclude our suggestions for an evening of taste rituals, high emotions and kinky seductions…whether we’ve managed to create an atmosphere for you, or you don’t do any of the things we’ve suggested, we feel we’ve contributed just a small injection of passion and desire for new experiences in each of us – something that we feel is the secret to life’s hedonistic pleasures. Have a wonderful time – do whatever you feel like, and don’t worry….we won’t tell anyone… (Translated by Sophie Athanasiadis).