The “Green Fairy” as she is known, has quite a reputation among those who bravely enjoy the centuries old spirit known as Absinthe.
There, sitting on the shelf was a stack of sweet little bistro-ware dishes with French franc prices printed on them. I have a soft spot for price cards and signs in francs so of course I brought these little dishes home. It was then that I began my research to see what it was I had found.
This opened a door of information about Absinthe and its history. Apparently, these dishes were how your Absinthe cocktail would have been served in a bistro or café. Depending on the brand and/or volume of alcohol the appropriately marked dish would hold your glass and subtly announced the price of your drink.
I have come to learn probably more than I need to know about Absinthe and the deep history it has in Europe and later in the U.S. but I found it all so interesting.
The fascinating thing about absinthe is that it’s not just a drink, it’s a ritual. There are many components to the proper creation and presentation of an olde school absinthe cocktail and my little dishes are just the beginning.
Ice cold flat water, never tap, was often placed upon the bar in beautiful glass fountains. Your order would arrive with what could be a daunting array of accessories for a novice.
The presentation… A certain style of glass with what is called a “dose line” determines the amount of the straight, bright green spirit to be served. The glass placed on the price dish was also served with a carafe of ice-cold water, an absinthe spoon and a large cube of sugar.
With the absinthe in the glass, the pierced absinthe spoon is placed across the opening, a cube of sugar is set upon the spoon and the ice cold water is poured from the carafe through the sugar and into the glass thus creating your cocktail.
This spirit has such a high alcohol content that it was known to make those who consumed it actually hallucinate. This incredibly strong, potentially psychedelic, bright green spirit contains wormwood, anise, and fennel.
The Green Fairy was the mischievous muse of Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Verlaine. “She” heavily influenced their art and writings. “Elle vous fait aimer la vie,” wrote Arthur Rimbaud, perhaps her most famous poet-consort—“she makes you love life.”
This ultra-potent alcohol has enjoyed a resurgence recently, after a nearly 100 year ban was lifted in 2007. Although I have not tried it myself, in speaking to those who have, the Green Fairy retains her wild reputation. So, if you are brave, give it a try. I may try it, just as research of course, and let you know how it was! Well, maybe.
Happy Treasure Hunting!
*Some photos thanks to “the virtual absinthe museum”