Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The banned elixir of poets and painters — in Minneapolis!

Absinthe has been illegal in the U.S. since 1915—until now.

The legendary elixir of poets, novelists, expressionists, and Parisian lovers was made illegal in most parts of the world due to a widespread rumor that it caused insanity. Call it an early 20th-century attack of hype, not unlike the villainization of marijuana in the 50s or LSD in the 60s. For every hipster druggie action there is an equal and opposite law enforcement reaction.

As it happens, the tide is turning. England and France have lifted the ban, and several manufacturers have revived traditional recipes and stills, including one—M.P. Roux—which makes Absente, the only legal version of absinthe available in the U.S. Its makers claim the pale green, anise-flavored liquor is made with a botanical variation of Wormwood, the controversial herb at the heart of the absinthe recipe.

Now you can buy this historic curiosity for about $40 at Surdyk's in the cordials department. We secured a bottle and mixed according to the easy-to-follow instructions right there on the label. (You pour a shot, then strain cold water over a sugar cube into the absinthe. The result should look like six ounces of green skim milk, and taste like nothing you've ever had before. Cool!)

While we have a policy that runs in the opposite direction of William Blake's—"the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom"—we can say that the first few steps toward that castle are pretty darn intriguing.

Absente, Absinthe Refined, http://www.crillonimporters.com
Syrdyk's, 303 N. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, http://www.surdyks.com/


Alan said...

Absente as sold in the USA is not real absinthe. An absinthe expert once said that to call this an absinthe is the same as calling a completely still white wine a champagne! Or to call standard Nescafé real coffee.

And as if to prove the point, Absente do sell a different blend of it as a real absinthe in Europe. If their US blend is so good, why do they change it for Europe?

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