Saturday, January 03, 2009

Absinthe

I've had the homemade stuff. Pretty decent, if not an exact copy. I think the appeal is more the high alcohol content which should be cut with water. I also think that the real reason that people like Van Gogh had problems with absinthe is because he was a drunk who didn't cut the alcohol with water. Absinthe is typically 120+ proof. Not 151 firewater, but potent in any case.

I have not tried any of the newly permissible products (the U.S. government recently ruled that they were never illegal). We carry them in the store, of course. I carry Lucid and the original Pernod. Licorice is not my favorite flavor so I tend to avoid alcohols flavored that way.

Absinthe is still riding the wave of the curiosity seekers. We get customers in who are intrigued by it simply from it's mysterious history. They are seeking a different high. Of course, there isn't anything psychoactive in the potion other than the alcohol, but that doesn't deter the interest. As such, absinthe commands some hefty prices in the marketplace. Lucid runs $55 and Pernod runs $64 and there are no mini bottles to be had.

Eventually I expect the allure to wear off. At that time prices will fall and minis will be offered. Consider current buyers to be early adopters. As in television sets, they are paying the big bucks to get the newest and best while those with patience will reap the rewards of their efforts down the line with lower prices and better quality. I can certainly wait.

The NY Times had an article today on the topic. It had this funny passage:
If absinthe were a band, it would be Interpol, third-hand piffle masquerading as transgressive pop culture. If absinthe were sneakers, it would be a pair of laceless Chuck Taylors designed by John Varvatos for Converse. If it were facial hair, it would be the soul patch. If absinthe were a finish on kitchen and bath fixtures, it would be brushed nickel.

The absinthe available over the counter nowadays is neither dangerous — in fact, it’s debatable whether it ever was — nor illegal (and whether it ever was is also unclear, but that, apparently, is a really long story).

In 2007, 95 years of prohibition ended, but instead of giving us Rimbaud and Baudrillard, modern-day absinthe has given newspaper editors the opportunity to assign articles on the drink’s mysterious, romantic history — drawn, perhaps to the opportunity it presented headline and caption writers for J.V.-level wordplay (“Absinthe of Malice,” “The Greening of America,” “Going Verte-ical”).

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