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07 July 2016

What You Should Know About Absinthe

New age brains don't read articles unless they are in some form of a list, right?

Well then, since I'm at your brain's mercy - here is a listicle on 5 things about Absinthe you might not already know:

1. Drinking absinthe can make you go crazy or kill you.

No entirely true. Absinthe once upon a time gained a bad rep when it was banned internationally (from misinformation and mass hysteria) after a man allegedly killed his entire family from drinking absinthe. But people always leave out the part about 1) him being an alcoholic 2) how much alcohol he was actually drinking (it was evidently, ALL DAY for a FEW DAYS in a row).

But you CAN die from it if you :
1) drink cheap imitation stuff (from methanol)
2) drink too much of it (from alcohol poisoning)

Now is probably the time to tell you that absinthe's ABV can range from 45% to over 80%. FYI - cask strength whisky can NEVER get that high.

2. Drinking absinthe makes you hallucinate.

So you think after drinking copious amounts of absinthe you'll hallucinate & see the green fairy like this infamous scene from Moulin Rouge (in the form of Kylie Minogue no less)? :

Sorry to burst your bubble, but no.

Frankly, drinking a lot of anything that has a high percentage of alcohol (45% and above) gets you high and drunk. It didn't help that absinthe was so popular with the Bohemians (who were usually the creative & artistic sort) who can't help but took creative licenses when explaining their drunken state upon consuming one too many glasses of the stuff.

3. It's made with herbs - so it must be healthy for you.

Image: Huffington

Among other herbs, what gives absinthe its distinct medicinally flavours are essentially:
  • Wormwood - The oiliness that coats your tongue and mouth is caused by this. Supposedly good for digestion.
  • Anise - The liquorice (think Hacks sweets) flavour comes from this. Both wormwood and anise is supposed to help stimulate the appetite
  • Fennel - Lends some sweetness to the mix, balancing out the bitter flavours. Also known in ancient times for its medicinal properties.
Absinthe is still quite popular aperitif in Europe - but is it really healthy for you? I guess the only way to find out is try... in moderate amounts.

4. The only right way to drink absinthe is with a sugar cube on fire.

Absinthe Tasting

Nah, it's just ONE of 3 ways - also this burning sugar cube thing is not the traditional method. This method became popular mainly because of its cool (hot) flashy factor.

Traditionally, absinthe is drank 2 ways:
1. Just with water, with sugar added to taste (aka the Swiss way).
2. Dripping water over a lump of sugar into a glass of absinthe (aka the French way).

However you drink it - with fire, water or sugar - perhaps best NOT to drink it neat, or as shots.

5. It's related to Pastis.

Pernod Ricard pastis Image: Telegraph

Kinda. Absinthe is popularly known to be the granddaddy of a pastis, a type of anise-flavoured liqueur.

At locations where absinthe was banned (eg, France..), pastis became an acceptable herbal-ly alternative over a decade later because of its familiar anise flavour.

You might think you've never heard of pastis before.. but have you heard of Pernod? Or Ricard? Well, Pernod was originally an absinthe producer, before switching over to pastis when absinthe got banned, AFTER Ricard made it popular in France. Both Pernod and Ricard merged into 1 company - and are now known as this huge monster which owns umpteen spirit labels under its umbrella.

Sources for items 1-5 : The internet

So where can you get them in Malaysia? Well, it's quite a standard stock to have at the back of any reputable cocktail bar - especially the ones specialised in classic cocktails.

Absinthe Tasting

But if you're interested to get a full bottle, it is available at selected supermarkets like Jaya Grocer, Tong Woh Retail @ PJ State & Eau De Vie @ Nexus (which is both a bar and a retail shop). The specific brands I'm familiar with are the ones distributed by Tong Woh and they are priced as follows:

Angelique Verte Suisse @ 68% ABV, 70cl (RM300 RM330), 20cl (RM100 to RM130)
La Clandestine @ 53% ABV, 70cl (RM255 - RM285), 20cl (RM88 to RM110)
Butterfly “Boston 1902” @ 65% ABV, 20cl (RM105 to RM135)

Should you get a bottle? It's probably a good idea to keep 1 at home if you're a fan of the Sazarec or a Corpse Reviver... or just simply want to transport yourself to Europe by having a swig of it (with water!) to whet your appetite before a meal.

This post was inpsired by Tong Woh Enterprise x PS150KL's 
"The Secret Door Fairyland" Absinthe Event held on 5 May 2016.