Absinthe

absinthe – (aka la fée verte – the green fairy), a highly alcoholic (50– 75% abv), foul-tasting grape-spirit-based liqueur originating from Switzerland, flavoured with wormwood (artemisia absinthium), anise, fennel, etc. Its notoriety among the demi-monde of fin-desiècle Paris, a consequence of its highly alcoholic nature rather than the hallucinogenic properties that continue to be erroneously attributed to it, nonetheless led to a ban in Europe and the USA in 1915. (After a decent interval, replacements appeared in the guise of what we know as anis and pastis – including that of the original absinthe producer, Pernod – minus the wormwood, in the 1920s.) Nerdism seems to accompany consumption of the modern versions from producers such as La Fée, François Guy, Pontarlier and Trenet, produced first in the Czech Republic in the early 1990s but now widespread, and the contemporary absinthe bore is more likely to be found in the suburbs banging on about the superiority of his method of preparation than baying at the moon in the Place Pigalle. (Poured over a cube of sugar held by a perforated spoon resting across the rim of a small, stemmed glass; ignited and, when the sugar has melted, topped up with water to taste). If you must, try using the Jade brand made by the obsessive American Ted Breaux, who creates his absinthe to original specifications using nineteenth-century equipment at the Combier distillery in Saumur.

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The Knowledge: Red Wine.


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