The Truth About Absinthe
By Jeremy Azevedo
|So a few friends and I thought it would be fun to go to an absinthe tasting party Friday night at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.|
If you don’t already know the story behind absinthe, it’s liquor that has been illegal in the United States for almost 100 years because of a chemical contained within it, thujone (from the wormwood plant), largely thought to be a dangerous and addictive psychoactive compound. This is partly due to the fact that famous weirdos like Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway and Aleister Crowley went about saying that they were seeing green fairies and shit whenever they drank the stuff. I’m sure that the absinthe itself had less to do with these hallucinations than the fact that all these men were batshit crazy and probably would’ve seen green fairies regardless of what they drank.
Some fairies that, sadly, we did not see.
Anyway, the reasons why going to this event seemed like a good idea were twofold:
1. Absinthe has been largely illegal in the our part of the world for so long that it has achieved legendary status as sort of the holy grail of alcoholism. Any drinker worth a goddamn knows this to be true.
2. Every drinker worth a goddamn also knows that the psychoactive properties of wormwood (an essential additive of authentic absinthe) are largely exaggerated.
Question: Who doesn’t know this?
Answer: All the noobs that are sure to be falling all over the place, imagining that they are having hallucinations and stuff, providing endless lulz to those of us that can hold our liquor.
So the flier told us to dress semi-formal, which we all did. But what it failed to mention was that the dress code was actually semi-formal 1920s. This place was a freak show. Not since the early 90s, when the first Hot Topics started appearing in the suburbs, have I ever seen so much velvet, so many inventive piercings, smelled so much patchouli and mothball. Further exacerbating this horrible realization was the discovery that A.) There are no restrooms in a mausoleum (I had to go to the bathroom like a motherf**ker) and B.) There are four seemingly inexperienced bartenders serving an army of dorks in this place. We’re talking about one bartender per fifty nerds here, people.
A long-ass, sweaty line of freaks waiting on one lousy bartender.
Somehow we managed to wade through a sea of clove smoke and hats with peacock feathers and got ourselves a drink. We got a few, actually, so that I could review them for you here. This way you will not have to endure an exploration into faux-Victorian trust fund extreme-vintage fashion necro-culture as we had to. You’re welcome.
The first absinthe we tried was the Mata Hari, which the bartender said was the strongest and smoothest. What this means is that it has the most wormwood in it and tastes the blandest. It was a little minty, maybe even tasting a little bit like it could power a vehicle. Not like gasoline though, maybe ethanol. A minty ethanol flavor. Most authentic absinthe has a taste similar to Yeager, so drinking this, I felt like something was missing. Also, the color was a little milky. Overall, it was a middle of the road absinthe. Just ok. But we saw Mila Kunis while we were drinking it! Sadly, no Culkins were there to accompany her.
Leopold Bros. was most definitely the most traditional tasting of all the absinthe we tried that night. It was glow-in-the-dark neon green in color, had a licorice-y taste and mixed well with the sugar and water. While in line to receive this drink, I took a picture with two large women and saw a tomb that just had the word “funk” on it. I imagined that Bootsy Collins or maybe George Clinton bought it the day Maroon 5 was first referred to as “funky”.
Me getting accosted by two robust ladies dressed at the height of oldgoth fashion.
I am told that Lucid is one of the first and also one of the most popular absinthe products available in the US. I found this surprising, such that it’s smell was like dirty cat butt and it’s taste was like sweet and sour Tabasco with a twist of lime. Total bullcrap. I kept sniffing it, even though it smelled disgusting, just to see if I was imagining it or not. I was not imagining it. A weird John Malkovich looking dude walked by and mad dogged me like a motherf**ker. Later, that same dude was on stage howling and doing interpretive dances or something while telling a long-winded boring story about Son Ra (the Egyptian god, not the avant-garde rapper). We were told that there would be a magic show, but I didn’t see what was so magical about it, truth be told.
Kubler is another absinthe that we were told was very popular in the states. I kind of like this one, but my friend Andy said it tasted like a citrus penny dropped in mouthwash, or maybe like licking a nine-volt battery. Our friend Skwerl pointed out that Scott Thompson from Kids in the Hall was wandering around the party, seemingly alone and without aim. We all watched him intently in the hopes that he might do something funny or entertaining, before being distracted by a gentleman with a giant white furry hat like Jamiroqui that lives in a house filled with dozens, maybe even close to a hundred dead, taxidermied animals but almost no furniture. I know this because I have a friend that lives across the street from him. Another interesting note about his home is that there is no carpet anywhere but in the kitchen, which is covered with animal fur and cat litter.
Homedude’s house looks kinda like this.
This absinthe is what’s known as Blanche, or la Bleue absinthe, popular in Switzerland. It was kinda blue and tasted a lot like NyQuil. Like, if you had given me a blind taste test and I had to guess which one was which, I might not be able to do so. No joke. Frustrated that it was taking so long to get a drink, out of cash and barely buzzed at all, we decided to call it quits. A note to future absinthe party promoters: four bartenders making drinks that require as much maintenance as absinthe does is not nearly enough. Also, having an alternative for people that aren’t digging it, like maybe a pumpkin beer or some Dead Guy Ale or some other thematically related beverage would have been a good idea. Although I must say, the fact that there was no “Mansinthe” (Marilyn Manson’s own brand of absinthe) being served there was a nice surprise. I would imagine that it’s like the buttrock equivalent of “Crunk Juice” or something, and probably nasty as all hell.
I suppose the point of all this that I am telling you is that there is nothing particularly special about absinthe, other than the fact that it is sorta new to us here. Also, if you are the kind of person that likes to tell long boring stories about the origins of things to your friends, absinthe is totally your bag. If you own a top hat, tailcoat or Type O Negative album, you may also be quite pleased with yourself by having acquired a bottle of the stuff. But for the rest of you, just stick with Yeager for your licorice-tasting licorice needs, it’s cheaper. And if you wanna trip balls and see green fairies, drop some acid or eat a few shrooms like everybody else.