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ABC Radio Segment on Absinthe

Australia’s Radio National show “Blueprint for Living” has done a suitably sympathetic piece on the absinthe revival in Australia.

Presenter Michael Williams  gets an education from Ben Luz at Bar Ampere in Melbourne over the history, markers of quality and proper ways of drinking absinthe – all over a nice glass of La Clandestine.

It’s worth checking out their Absinthe aperitif list – it is quite an impressive offering worth investigating should you find yourself in the area.

You can down the episode through this link.



Posted by Jonathan on Jan 6th 2016 | Filed in Bars,Cocktails,Culture,Interviews,News | Comments (0)

Old Rye & Absinthe @ Zu Zu Mamou


High on anticipation, I ascended the stairs alongside well known cafe East Terrace Continental in Adelaide to investigate something of a pop-up bar & bistro that has made an appearance in the lead up to the Adelaide Fringe, and alas will disappear along with the merry band of carny’s upon the completion of Mad March. The distinctive logo in the stairwell confirmed I was heading in the right direction to find a worthy blender of one of the most famous absinthe cocktails.


Zu Zu Mamou has been teasing on Facebook with the promise of fine New Orleans-style Creole cooking and cocktails to match.  One of my first questions to them was whether they could make a mean Sazerac with French absinthe?  That they could was the promise, and challenge accepted I eagerly awaiting for their formal opening this week.

Upon reaching the upstairs dining room & balcony – that might I say, is a prime position to take in the sights and sounds of the Garden of Unearthly Delights and Adelaide Fringe frivolities – I was greeted by the most enchanting femme elegante hostess, Shoshannah, who upon hearing my desire for the liquid soma of the Deep South ushered me to the bar.


Zu Zu Mamou’s touring Melburnian mixologist Murphy, eager flex his fingers into the precision processes of creating this marvellous drink, left the option to take it up a notch and  suggested the Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey 100 Proof, rather than the standard workhorse of Beam Rye. I sometimes believe it is better to listen to the experts at important times such as these, and acceded to his suggestion. For this undertaking he used the La Fee Bohemian, which while not an absinthe I would choose for fountain consumption, for the important glass wash is an entirely suitable cocktail absinthe.


Making a decent Sazerac to me is almost a bit more like surgery than cocktail making – left in the hands of the inexperienced the outcome can be the equivalence of malpractice. No such fears here, as Murphy’s swirls & stirs produced a Sazerac that was worth sipping slow and contemplating. Smokey and smooth, with a perfectly pitched citrus tang and appropriately integrated bitter notes, I happily let this one drain over half an hour of good conversation.

I think this bar may be an important staging ground for my Adelaide Fringe explorations this year and will need to be revisited to immerse myself in the extensive Cajun cuisine on offer. See you on the balcony!

Posted by Jonathan on Feb 3rd 2015 | Filed in Bars,Cocktails,Reviews | Comments (0)

An Absinthe Abomination in New York


Recently I was fortunate to visit the fair city of New York. Ah, what a city. I found a lovely little apartment in the West Village where I could fall into the remaining Bohemian chic of a community rapidly undergoing gentrification.  But true treasures remain, like Bonnie Slotnicks Cook Book Store for instance. I picked up a nice little volume of recipes for the starving artist & poet. How cool is that?

Naturally, I was curious as to how the absinthe revival had taken root in the Big Apple. Consulting the Google Oracle, it provided me a list of bars that were making themselves known for serving absinthe – the closest to me was the Dove Parlour. It certainly looked a refined setting for absinthe imbibing amongst gentile local company, as I think you will agree from the promo photos.  So after an evening of Caribbean beats and jerked chicken to die for at Miss Lily’s  , I descended the stairs into the parlour to get an insight as to how NYC takes its absinthe.

Perusing the menu I spy “Absinthe – Traditional Style” on the menu. Aha!

Upon giving my order to the bar-mistress I enquire as to what range of absinthe they have.

“We have Lucid”


“Just Lucid.”  Ok.  We’ll go with Lucid then I guess. Eyebrow now arched in concern.

I then watched her perform what can only be described as unholy desecration.




Into a glass slightly smaller than a wine glass, but larger than a shot glass, she poured in water (sugared water?) – room temperature.

My stomach is now dropping.

She then pours a shot of Lucid into a measuring cups and dumps it straight into the water.

My jaw is now hitting the counter.

Then, she gets the piped soda water tap and gives it a good shot just to circulate the louche.

I am now close to tears.

She hands it over with a smile, with all the elegance being reserved for the paper doily.  And I am sitting there staring, trying to decide whether I start a scene or just drink it and walk away. I decided on the latter.

If that was Traditional, I nearly would have preferred the burning sugar routine. Nearly.

I stuck to wine from that evening forward.


Posted by Jonathan on Dec 8th 2013 | Filed in Absinthe Reviews,Bars,Cocktails,Culture,Reviews | Comments (0)

Green Hour @ The Absinthesalon

It must be said that the location of Sydney’s Absinthesalon, halfway along a steep hilly Albion Street, is well placed – given that the natural effects of gravity can only but assist the imbiber down the hill towards Central train station and other responsible forms of public transport. Let this be ample encouragement to leave the car at home dear absintheur, and enjoy the full experience.

Bad timing, pregnancy and the global financial crisis have all plotted against me in my efforts to be able to fly into Sydney to get along to the new Absinthesalon premises before now, but now I am here outside the dark grey toned establishment.  You may sometimes read this in other reviews of the Salon, but I can myself verify that as you linger outside the door you may detect the tell tale aromatic signature of aniseed in the air.

Proprietors Joop van Heusden and Gaye Valttila are most welcoming and usher me inside into the front room of the salon – exposed rustic brickwork, displays of the extensive range of quality absinthe products and water fountains, a giant antique cash register adorning a counter serve as a prelude to the inner sanctum behind the draped curtain adorned doorway.

Behind the curtain is a most intimate and inviting environment that captures the feeling of a proper absinthe salon. Now, don’t get me wrong, Belle Époque in Brisbane is an excellent representation of retro-French dining, all gold leaf edging and fleur-de-ly’s, but Gaye and Joop have utilised the limited space typical of a period Surry Hills terrace to manifest a very different type of neo-Gallic experience.  The interior is illuminated with a ‘petite’ version of wrought iron street lamp posts, tasteful minimalism to the interior decoration, round mirrors and sparing use of stylistic wallpaper. The far wall is adorned with a graceful mural of La Fée Verte, the Green Fairy herself, a fine rendition of one of the most famous representations of her from the original heyday.

With room for at most 30-odd patrons, all seating is set around a pleasingly non-crowded arrangement of small café tables adorned with 4 tap water fountains for the absinthe ritual. And let’s be clear, the experience and discussion of absinthe is not unlike that of wine, it should be shared amongst convivial company. The spacial design suitably encourages this.

Friday and Saturday nights are generally booked out in advance so don’t be surprised if you rock up on a whim and unable to satisfy your curiosity.  Another aspect to be aware of is that there is a three drink limit per person. Some may find this as profoundly odd that a drinking establishment would be seeking to limit their own sales, but as any absintheur worth their salt will tell you, the consumption of each glass of absinthe should be prolonged, savoured, and well considered. When approached in this fashion most will be satisfied after two glasses, some even after one.

So as Joop himself may tell you, “Slow Down!”.
(I know this is counter-intuitive to most Sydney-siders, but advice well worth heeding. Hey, you got a booking, stay around and enjoy the ambience for a while.)

Also, don’t be surprised if your hosts take on the role of Sommelier, and in fact steer you away from initially diving head-first into the high-proof absinthe brands. They are there to help you enjoy the absinthe experience as much as possible, and as such they will guide you through appropriate entry level absinthes until you have a better appreciation for the flavours, the nuances and styles. There are many absinthes to try in a range of price brackets (from around $12 a glass upwards), many styles and regions to explore.

You’ll just have to keep coming back won’t you?

I know I will.

Stay tuned for review of Jade PF 1901 absinthe conducted in situ

Posted by Jonathan on Jun 11th 2010 | Filed in Absinthiana,Bars,Cocktails,Culture,Food,News,People,Style | Comments (0)

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