It was a Saturday in late September 2008. I had several people over to watch Florida stomp whoever they were playing as usual, and Nathan and Rachel were two hours late. As usual. I think there was an issue with Rachel’s jeans or something. I can’t really recall.
What I can recall is when Nathan finally arrived, we made our way to Springhill Liquors – My favorite liquor store in the whole world. The reason it’s my favorite, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, is because the owner will mark really expensive bottles of whatever down by as much as 50 percent just to move them or get people to try them. This is how I found jewels like Zaya Gran Reserva Rum and Sonnema Herb Vodka.
As we walked down the isles we discussed the possibilities each bargain-priced bottle of affluence held for the night. We were looking for something unique. Something neither of us had ever tried before. Then we saw it.
Awkwardly nestled on the top shelf of an isle between the Jager and the After Shock was a tillish, slenderish, green box with a brass spoon looking thing attached, and gold and green writing that looked as if it had been scribed by some ancient sect of alcoholic yet artistic monks thousands of years ago.
In large letters it read: “Grande Absente.” Under that the words, “Absinthe Originale – 138 Proof,” glowed like a bug zapper in a trailer park and Nathan and I were the bugs. The coup de gras was the bright yellow sunburst label that had been attached with a liberal helping of scotch tape that read, “Absinthe! Only $69.95!” (It was originally priced at $85.99)
I had two flashbacks almost instantaneously.
The first was of a story I read years ago in the very first issue of Maxim magazine. It was an account of the editor’s experience with some illegal absinthe he had purchased from a guy out of the trunk of his car. I remembered how he described the night and also remembered thinking that one day I absolutely HAD to try absinthe for myself.
The second was of an article I had read a few months earlier talking about how Absinthe had been made legal in the U.S. and how we were actually getting better (and safer) stuff than you could in Europe because of the stricter FDA regulations.
So there it was in front of us. The very spirit that made Van Gough thing cutting off his ear and sending it to a girl was a pretty good idea. After about thirty seconds of deliberation we decided to split the cost to see just how twisted this stuff was.
After making our purchase we went next door to the Publix supermarket and bought sugar cubes along with all the other football-party cookout stuff we were supposed to get. Then we headed home so that everyone else could bask in the glory of our discovery…and to not tell my wife and Nathan’s girlfriend that we just spent more on a bottle of alcohol than we did on either of their birthday presents.
We decided to hold off on the big reveal until after the game was over and we had everyone’s undivided attention. That and we figured it would be easier to get drunk people to drink something that was supposed to make you hallucinate and also tasted like licorice made from dirty socks.
Everyone gathered around the big pub table in my kitchen and took turns smelling and otherwise thoroughly examining the bottle of bright green fairy juice while I gathered everything I needed to make enough traditional absinthe drinks for everyone.
I had everything I needed. Sugar cubes, filtered water, martini glasses and the brass spoon that came with bottle. It was time to get weird.
It’s All In The Mix
If you’ve never made or seen someone make a traditional absinthe drink, it’s actually quite simple:
First, you need a clean glass. I prefer a martini glass just for aesthetic reasons but any type will do. Pour two ounces of Absinthe into the glass. Place the Absinthe spoon over the glass and place a sugar cube on the spoon. Next, SLOWLY drip chilled water over the sugar cube. (If you pour too fast the sugar won’t dissolve properly.) The amount you use depends on how strong you want your drink to be. I prefer a 1 to 1 ratio. Finally stir the mix until it turns milky-white and the sugar has dissolved.
If you don’t have a fancy absinthe spoon or time for tradition, you can combine the Absinthe and water along with granulated sugar and ice in a shaker just like you would a traditional cocktail.
Now as far as I can remember, back in the day if I told my friends eating a horse turd would get them totally whacked out of their gourde, they would have found a way to get past the taste. My how times have changed.
Don’t get me wrong, I HATE licorice. Of all the candies in the world, licorice is the vilest and most disgusting one ever dreamed up by some crazy candy fiend. But for the sake of science, a good post, and the possibility of having a mind-altering experience, I’m willing to put aside my differences towards licorice.
My friends, in the now older, married and wiser states were not ready to concede their palettes’ proclivities toward things that didn’t taste like the sweat from a licorice makers arm pit. . I could see the girls turning their noses up due to the sheer fact that I had given each of them a 4oz drink with 2 of those ounces being 69 percent alcohol. However, I wasn’t going to let the guys off that easy. I made each of them have at lest two and of course I made Nathan have three or four.
Nathan and Rachel would later tell me that after they left they were on a completely different level than everyone else at the birthday party they went to. Oops… I forgot they told me they had to go to a birthday party afterward. My bad. I bet the party was waaayyy more fun though.
Talking In Circles
One by one everyone said their goodbyes and made their ways to whatever other late-night obligations they had. By then it was late and Laura headed off to bed leaving me alone and wide awake with more than 3/4 of a bottle of Grande Absente and a pyramid of sugar cubes.
I made myself another drink and began to look around my kitchen for other liquids that might mix well with Absinthe as to mask the taste of licorice. A taste I had quickly grown tired of but as mentioned earlier was enduring in the name of some half-ass journalistic doctrine I feel the need to adhere to. That and of course, in the name of the science of getting hammered.
I looked everywhere. I sorted through the various jars of pickle juice, jalapenos, and pickled okra and decided it would be a waste of good booze to try any of those. I continued my search and finally came across a bottle of orange juice when I remembered the time I mixed cheap tequila with orange juice and it had completely masked the taste of the tequila.
By this point I had finished my drink I mentioned earlier and made another with equal parts Absinthe and OJ. Heaven. Although there was indeed a licorice aftertaste, the initial taste that once dominated the glass was all but gone.
I continued drinking my new discovery and began coming up with some of the most profound insights and thoughts. I had the foresight to write them down but when I finally came across the notepad several days later, even I couldn’t make much sense of the alcoholic shorthand i had scribbled all over the pages. I had even drawn diagrams of what looked like a hammock similar in design to those chairs that fold up and fit into bags.
There was also a rudimentary drawing of a computer with a mouse plugged into it that looked like a CB radio mic with the words “Trucker Mouse” scrawled across the top. (I actually still think that one was a good idea)
I was definitely playing a different sport than usual when my wife came out of the room and said, “How much longer are you going to be walking around the house talking to yourself?”
I remember being confused. According to her I had been walking in a circle from the kitchen to the living room to the dining room and back to the kitchen while talking to myself for more than 2 hours about all the ideas that were flooding my brain. I can’t say for certain what I was talking about, but I’m pretty sure I solved one or two of the world’s problems. I just wish I could remember any of it.
After that I decided to slam as much Gatorade as I could and then call it a night.
So did I see green fairies and have an out of body experience? No. But I will tell you this; not ever before, nor ever since, have I had such an inspiring drunken experience as I did that night or have as good of a time as I did that night all by myself. That night, my thoughts were all the entertainment I needed. I could have worked out problems and thought up cool shit until the sun came up if I had been left to my own devices.
So would I recommend trying Absinthe? Absolutely. If not for the strange and entertaining drunk, go in with your buddies and buy a good bottle just to say you’ve done it. Because no matter how much the bottle costs, the story about the time you drank Absinthe will be priceless.