An Absinthe-Minded Journal Begins

We at would like to introduce an ongoing series of contributions from one our dear friends and readers, who will chronicle his discoveries and thoughts on absinthe as a relative newcomer to the drink.  Much like coming to appreciate wine, absinthe is a journey of many roads, with no particular destination sought nor required. Join with us in following Daniel’s particular individual journey into the world of absinthe…. 

Welcome, dear absinthe-minded readers, drinkers and lovers, to the first entry in this journal, a documentation of my travels from absinthe inductee to connoisseur, assuming this lofty goal will ever be achieved. Here we shall learn of my first eager and tentative sips of this magical green elixir, as well as my introduction to the rituals and varieties of absinthe, all tied up in a gift box of personal observations of absinthe as it relates to art and life.

But let me first introduce myself. My name is Daniel Hatadi. By day, a computer programmer in the shady field of gambling. By night, a writer in the shadiest genre of them all, crime fiction. At other times I have been a musician and — like any hard drinking, hard living rock and roll type — it was through music that I had my first experience with absinthe.

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Around seven years ago, a good friend who played the oud came to my house with a strange bottle that he proclaimed as ‘absinthe’. I’d never heard of the drink before but was pleased to discover its illegal status. So even though he played a girly Turkish instrument that looked like strings on a watermelon, I did my best to conjure the spirit of Keith Richards as my friend popped the bottle open.

After pouring a shot worth of pale green liquid into the glass, he rested a sugar cube on a slotted spoon and poured water over it, turning the drink a milky white as the level rose. What the hell? Water wasn’t a mixer, it was something you drank with cordial. And sugar?

My manly reputation was quickly leaving me, so I had to remind myself that the drink was illegal, to push through my misgivings. After a couple of glasses I felt light headed, a feeling of having the curtains drawn open, of lifting the unnoticed cloudiness that had always been there. And I never forgot that feeling.

Back to the present day, I learned that this fabled drink known as absinthe had become legal again. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and Absinthe Salon, two days later, a package was delivered to my work place containing two replica glasses, a slotted spoon and a bottle of Mansinthe. Well packed and finely presented in silver gift paper, I eagerly unwrapped the contents during my lunch break. A few colleagues couldn’t help coming over and teasing me about my package of ‘man juice’ that they assured me must have come from the rock star himself, Marilyn Manson.

Truth be told, I’ve been known to rock out on a dance floor or two to the music of the band. I’ve seen them play live and once even shook hands with Twiggy, the original bass player. For a bass player he had the grip of a dead fish. But I never considered myself a huge fan of Marilyn Manson, so I was dubious about purchasing a gimmicky product. However, with a solid recommendation and my own research Mansinthe seemed the ideal re-introduction to the re-legalised drink.

It was a Friday at work, and like many offices, the time of 4pm is known as “beer o’clock”. I decided to do my own version of the Green Hour instead and, with the help of someone who’d rushed to their nearby home to bring back a handful of sugar cubes, I prepared my first drink with water I’d cooled in an iced tea jug earlier in the day.

Pouring a drink worth almost three times a bottle of decent scotch was something of a nerve wracking experience. Constantly referring to instructions for the ritual, I poured my absinthe, rested the spoon on the glass, and let the water slowly drip through a sugar cube on top, much like I’d seen seven years before.

It was very satisfying to watch the colour change from a clear yet washed-out green to an opaque milky green as the water level rose. Holding the iced tea jug to control the speed of the dripping was harder than I thought, but it wasn’t long until my first glass of absinthe was poured and ready to drink. Needless to say, a crowd had gathered to watch this experiment. I was something of a work place celebrity.

I stirred the drink and swirled it under my nose, breathing in the aromas. Liquorice or aniseed, but more complex, deeper, unfamiliar. Then, my first sip. The liquid latched onto the inside of my mouth, caressing my teeth and tongue, finding a hard time letting go on the way down my throat. Sweetness, bitterness and a light sharpness of alcohol gave the drink a depth that I wasn’t expecting and I wasn’t sure I liked. The only way to discover if I’d wasted all that money was to have another glass. Yes, this was working better, and only an hour away from dinner I was enjoying the light headed feeling.

To take the experiment further, a colleague brought forth a small bottle of shining green liquid, an absinthe sampler, purchased from a gift shop that sold essential oils. It didn’t change colour and it tasted like a combination of green dishwashing liquid and methylated spirits. Passing the two drinks around to the small crowd, those brave enough to sip noticed the same difference of quality. Now I felt much more comfortable with my purchase.

After a wobbly bicycle ride home, feeling the comforting weight of the bottle and glasses in my backpack, I settled in for a night of experimentation.

But you’ll have to wait to read about that. The next article will also include a night out on the town, Pernod as a substitute absinthe, and my experiences with a couple of the mixed (not distilled) absinthes.

Daniel Hatadi Mar 19th 2008 09:59 am Absinthe-Minded Journal No Comments yet Trackback URI

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