Sunday, May 24, 2009

Absinthe and coincidence

A while ago I got a very interesting book from BOS and Dad in Sweden (thanks!), Fru Blomqvists matbok ('Mrs. Blomqvist's food book', not available in translation), and I recently picked it up and started to read it. It starts with the entry Absint ('absinthe'), and this is the first sentence in the whole book:

Den 17 maj år 1896 uppsöker August Strindberg sin vanliga plats på terrassen till Brasserie des Lilas bakom marskalken Neys staty for att inta sin klockan sex-absint.

(appr. "On the 17th of May year 1896, August Strindberg is visiting his usual place on the terrace of Brasserie des Lilas behind marshal Ney's statue to drink his six PM absinthe. ")

In his bok Inferno, Strindberg describes how sad he gets when his usual table and seat is taken on May 17, so he has to visit another cafe. Strindberg is one of the big classic authors in Sweden, on par with Balzac and Tolstoj, but in Swedish. He isn't one of my favorite authors, but someone you hear about a lot in school.

If you have followed the blog last week you know that May 17 is my birthday (happenstance# 1). The night before my birthday our good friend BV brought over some newly released absinte (called Lucid, must be a sarcastic name and do check out the eyes on the bottle) for us to taste (happenstance #2). I have read a lot about absinthe and its herbal origin Artemisia absinthium, but I had never tasted it before. Absinthe has been illegal for decades in the US, but recently has been allowed to be sold again. You are supposed to drink it by holding a holy (with holes) spoon with a sugar cube over a glass - pour on the absinthe (62% alcohol), and then water so the sugar dissolves. We didn't have spoon or sugar cube, so we mixed it with water only. It turns milky, just like ouzo. I have had Swedish akvavit made with Artemisia before (malörtsbrännvin), but this is quite different. Not at all as bitter, more like anise or licorice or fennel, three plant species that have nothing to do with Artemisia. I really liked it, but I question its authenticity - how close is this really to the original sipped in Paris in 1896? With sugar I think it would have turned into a really girly drink, and very easy to drink too much of. Thanks BV for the taste, it was very interesting!


EH said...

Strange, I was under the impression that absinthe was a green liquid. But maybe I think of something else, I wonder if it´s the real thing you tasted.

LS said...

I thought it was green too! I think this needs further investigation. We will have to ask OK, he probably knows.

LS said...

Wikipedia says: "Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color but can also be colorless. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as "la fée verte" (the Green Fairy)."

On Lucid's website they say: "lucid recalls the rich tradition of Absinthe, and is crafted using a full measure of Grande Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), Green Anise, Sweet Fennel, and other fine European herbs traditionally used in making fine Belle Époque absinthe."

Who knows how much is Artemisia in that drink... it certainly tasted more like fennel and anise to me.

EH said...

I actually have a bottle of green absinthe at home, ought it in Tallinn last summer and had forgot about it. Let´s try it together!

EH said...

ops, bought I meant.

LS said...

OK, lets have absinthe in Sweden this summer and see how it tastes! Sounds like a good plan.