The Drink: some people are so Absinthe Minded

absintheIt was the decadence that attracted me.

I had the luxury of attending an absinthe tasting event yesterday in Vancouver, not at a local bar but instead a very rare tea shop – of all places. “OFive Rare Tea Bar + Shop” sets itself apart from all the rest as Pedro, the proprietor, makes personal visits to all the global farms supplying his teas. Aside from this, the place offers made in house tapas & macaroons and exotic spirit tastings on occasion.  This being one of those occasions- an Absinthe tasting of rare vintages (one being white) with pairings of tapas & teas and a fairy truffle to finish (matcha, white chocolate ganache, pixie dust).  For a different experience, why not?

Absinthe was the drink of 19th-century Paris.  At the time, the French wine industry had been decimated, and absinthe, with its otherworldly color and reputation for spurring creativity, matched the decadence and glamour and artistry of the era.

Referred to as “the green fairy“, absinthe was banned for a century for inspiring madness and murder.  In the United States it only became legal again in 2007, the first time since 1912.

So let’s clear up a few misconceptions. Absinthe does not make you hallucinate nor is it wildly addictive.

tea fairy cocktail: gin, cilantro, matcha, sugar syrup, egg white, absinthe, bitters. Gordita: caramelized hibiscus, avocado, goat cheese.

tea fairy cocktail: gin, cilantro, matcha, sugar syrup, egg white, absinthe, bitters. Gordita: caramelized hibiscus, avocado, goat cheese.

It will not cause you to lop off your ear, unless (possibly, on the off-chance) you are a deeply disturbed painter racked by poverty, heartbreak and mental illness.  Rather, absinthe is a good drink. It is reminiscent of Pernod, a kick of licorice with a lingering menthol taste. (The similarity is not coincidental; Henri-Louis Pernod first commercialized absinthe in France in 1805.) Absinthe’s flavor comes from its muscular key components — anise, wormwood and fennel — and though it’s certainly an acquired taste, there’s also something appealing about the ritual and presentation of it. Absinthe has its own special glasses, slotted spoons and drips.  Absinthe even has its own verb, “louche,” to describe the milky cloud kicking up when water hits the drink. Watching this — on the right night, in the right light–you start to understand why artists like Toulouse-Lautrec and Rimbaud and Verlaine found inspiration in the stuff. And you start to understand why people might think it contained a little bit of black magic, too.

wordpress2But what happens to an illicit drink when it is robbed of its illicitness?

Part of what gave absinthe so much power – in the mind, if not the marketplace — was its lore and illegality. Like opium, absinthe conjures exotic images of romantic destruction; unlike opium, absinthe isn’t actually dangerous. A great many people have learned about absinthe through films, where it is a stand-in for lawlnessness and vice. “Moulin Rouge,” “From Hell,” “Murder by Numbers,” and the frat-boy midnight movie “Eurotrip” all featured absinthe as a trippy narrative device–at the very least, an opulent set piece. But the drink’s place in pop culture is perhaps best encapsulated by “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” directed by Francis Ford Coppola (who also happens to be a vintner), where history’s bloodthirsty count sips from a green bottle

Pedro with one of the absinthe bottles

Pedro with one of the absinthe bottles

Granita - in between tastings: hibiscus, tonic, lemongrass, baby grand fir

Granita – in between tastings: hibiscus, tonic, lemongrass, baby grand fir

marked “SIN.” So dangerous. So lavish. So goth.

Have you tried it?

The next moonshine tasting is on Sunday, June 28th with TEA + TEQUILA + MEZCAL!  Mexican spirits, Tea, Tapas, Truffles, Fine Art.

O-FIVE RARE TEA BAR – 2208 W. 4th Ave.

This is what else you can get. Granita with Hibiscus & Orange shaved ice & lovely Matcha Macaroons.

Granita with Hibiscus & Orange shaved ice & lovely Matcha Macaroons.

Taken from Salon.com