I don't know if I've mentioned it here or not, but I like to brew my own beer. I've also been known to make homemade wine, and I've even dabbled here and there with distilled spirits. I thought that made me pretty cool, but I must now forever take a back seat to my friend Doug, who successfully distilled his very own absinthe, made with wormwood that he grew in his own garden, as well as calamus root, which he got from... somewhere. I didn't ask too many questions.
I'd known for some time that Doug was working on this, so when the time came to finally sample the wares I was prepared, and I figured it would be fun to photodocument the occasion (plus if anything went wrong, the pictures might be useful to the coroner.)
So anyway, here's the stuff being poured. Note the nice, authentic, jade green coloring.
Due to a lack of advance planning on my part, we didn't have one of those cool, specialized absinthe spoons for pouring it over the sugar cube, so we had to make do with a fork. (We also decided to forego the "Czech method," which apparently involves burning the sugar cube with a match. Next time, maybe.)
So here is the final product. I have to admit, I was quite impressed. I've tried a number of anise-based liquors over the years, including Ouzo, Pastis and others. They were a natural for me, because at Easter time I was always the weird kid who wanted the Easter Bunny to bring me a basket full of nothing but black jelly beans. Well when I moved to France in 1991, I quickly discovered that drinking Pastis was very much like drinking black jelly beans, but in booze form! Hooray!! Sadly, an experience in June of that year, in which I was partying with a bunch of Americans and drank an entire bottle of Pastis in a single evening, has moderated my ability to enjoy the stuff in years since.
But I still like it. And although I'd never tried "real" absinthe (Switzerland and a few other brave countries are only beginning to re-legalize the stuff with actual wormwood in it), this stuff tasted exactly like I'd always imagined absinth to taste. It was like Pastis with a very bitter (wormwoody) undertaste, and just enough of a psychic twinge to let the drinker know something a bit unusual was afoot.
Here is the final product, properly diluted.
Love the color. Loved the taste. Doug pulled it off, and I spent a euphoric evening with my friends, and then went home to dream me some "tremulous dreams," as Lord Buckley might say. But I never got quite so fucked up as this woman from the Degas painting L'absinthe.
Heh, it looks like her shoes are on the wrong feet. But no, I had none of that. I awoke the next morning still in possession of my eyesight (such as it is) as well as full renal function. I didn't even have a hangover. In short, absinthe rules. Now, of course, I am faced with the challenge of one-upping my friend Doug. If anyone out there knows how I might go about distilling my own laudanum, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.